Wayne Applehans, president and chief product officer, Jones/NCTIStrife in the workplace. Headlines about generations in the workforce play up the differences among Baby Boomers (born 1946-1965), Generation X (born 1966-1980) and Millennials (born 1981-2000). From communication style to work hours to career goals, each generation brings its own approach and expectations to the job.

What do the different generations want from training and technology? As part of an ongoing, comprehensive research effort to better address the evolving learning and development needs of broadband industry clients, we conducted a national survey of 422 employees representing the three generations currently in the MSO workforce (Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials) in January 2015. We set out to understand generational views of learning and development, and how the different generations want to use technology at work.

Instead of major differences, we found striking similarities across all three generations when it comes to training and technology. Learning and development matters to everyone, regardless of age or life stage.

Our key findings include:

  1. Make it personal.

Three types of training with a personal touch rank the highest for all three generations as both for “preferred learning style” and “most helpful to their current role” – one-on-one mentoring; traditional classroom learning and team collaboration.

  1. Train to retain.

Seven in 10 respondents say job-related training and development opportunities impact their decision to stay with a company.

  1. Improve technology.

70% of employees say corporate technology and training tools fall short when compared to personal technology.

What do these shared views, and the nuances specific to each generation, tell MSOs about how to connect with them?

Make it Personal

All generations surveyed by Jones/NCTI indicate in-person learning makes the most impact.  Millennials, GenXers and Baby Boomers rank training with a personal touch highly, especially both formal and informal one-on-one mentoring.

In order, the types of learning cited by all generations as preferred and most helpful were:

  • One-on-one mentoring – Formal or informal individual training, demonstrations or coaching

  • Traditional classroom learning – Instructor-led in-person sessions

  • Team collaboration – Team training, weekly meetings, group feedback sessions

  • Online courses – Web-based training tools

Millennials, also known as “digital natives” ranked game-based learning as their fourth “preferred style of learning” when the results were viewed by individual generation.

What does this mean for MSOs? Offer a variety of choices when it comes to training - a mix of peer and manager training with ride-alongs, manager and peer mentoring and weekly team meetings, combined with classroom learning and online courses.

Train to retain

There’s no generation gap when it comes to learning and development. In fact, 80% of respondents across generations say it’s important or very important that their company provides training options to fit their learning styles.

Learning and development play a critical role in employee retention. Seven in 10 respondents say job-related training and development opportunities impact their decision to stay with a company. And while training matters to all generations, it’s most important to younger workers who may be eyeing new opportunities as they advance in their careers.

MSOs should be investing in training, including the development of a clearly defined career path, to increase retention. Our 2014 survey of MSO frontline employees also showed strong support for career paths, with 83% indicating a clearly defined career path as the primary reason they wanted to stay with their company.

Improve technology

Trends including Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and Bring Your Own PC (BYOPC), the Internet of Things (IoT) and the proliferation of smartphone apps to track every aspect of life are changing the way we think and work. Employees expect more from corporate technology offerings.

Companies fall short when comparing corporate technology and training tools to personal technology, according to 70% of employees. Interestingly, Baby Boomers, who remember the pre-Internet workplace and are exposed to new technologies by their digital native children, are the most critical of company-provided technology and learning applications.

Only 23% of Baby Boomers say company-provided technology is current and relevant, compared to 30% of GenXers and 32% of Millennials.

It is imperative for MSOs to improve technology for all generations, but also to provide a variety of technology tools that offer tracking, accountability, and flexibility for employees. Furnishing employees with tools that are designed and delivered for the way people learn today would make an impact.

Regardless of what the headlines are touting, and how technology is transforming the world around us, the generations speak in one voice when it comes to workplace learning and technology. They all want more opportunities to learn on the job.