We’re often asked, “Is there an approach that will work to drive development for people in all generations?”
Recognize that all people are motivated to mastery
In our experience, using competency models to drive intrinsic motivation for professional development works for everyone. If you look at Dan Pink’s research in DRIVE, it is a human characteristic to be motivated to mastery. It’s why we work on our golf game or learn musical instruments for fun. It’s why open source software and Wikipedia exist.
Use a competency assessment to drive awareness and action about skill gaps
Once someone sees what they “should” be able to do (a role-based competency model), and they assess themselves against it and become aware of any skill gaps (a competency assessment/skills assessment), then young or old, they want to fix it. It is a totally different dynamic when YOU want to fix something yourself, versus when SOMEONE ELSE wants you to do it. Intrinsic motivation is the most effective driver of action and therefore creates the best environment for learning transfer to occur. You know you need it and you’re open to learning it. So the self-assessment benefits are huge!
Support generational nuances with self-directed learning (SDL)
The difference related to generations is about the patience they have in when that “fix” will occur. Older generations accepted experience as one way to develop over time. Spend 3-5 years in a role and you’ll learn how to be great and what you need to get to the next role. Younger generations want gaps to be closed immediately, and are driven to do whatever it takes to do it quickly. Especially for career development. If you have an influx of millennials or Gen Z in or coming into your organization, be ready to support letting people learn and gain experience at their own pace if you want to keep them. If they can’t do that with you, especially in this market, they’ll go somewhere they can.
That means, provide self-directed learning activities, especially informal activities that they can use to learn while working. Nothing supports both self-development and organizational capability development better.
Provide them with a way to create and maintain both a career development plan and an in-role professional development plan.
Most importantly, create a culture of lifelong learning that communicates the importance your organization places on perpetual skill development for employees of all generations.