Show me the way

A while back I wrote about the Myth of Gen Y. In that post, I was mainly making the point that treating Gen Y as a special category to be dealt with in organisations is the wrong way to think. In fact you should go off and read it before carrying on. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Welcome back. The development needs of the workforce are no different for Gen Y to any other generation. At the recent HRD12 held by the CIPD, there was a session I attended on Engaging Gen Y in the workplace. There were two interesting talks given from KPMG and Travelodge. As I said in the post, I think Travelodge have chosen the right approach to developing the new workforce of the future.

I want to take a moment to get us to think about how the L&D world seems to be tackling the Gen Y thing. I don’t think we’re tackling it at all, and this is partly a concern for me, and partly a chance to muse about if we need to. The main thing the Gen Y theory has been focused on, if we don’t engage them, we’ll lose them. Well, yes, I can see that would happen. But what does that engagement look like? Dig a little deeper into that question and what I’m asking is, what does L&D look like for this group?

And let’s dig further still. Am I supposed to train this group differently? Do their expectations of immediacy/feedback/collaboration mean I am behind the times in my delivery style? What about their learning methods? All this about digital being ubiquitous in their lives, what do I do with that? Am I meant to create a host of elearning courses that cater for their ‘when I want it’ attitudes? And social media, sure I’m active on it, but I look around, and half of these Gen Y’ers aren’t using it the same way I am, and many others I know. So am I using it wrong, or are they, or have we just not found a place to meet in the middle?

The nuggets I’m searching for have been few and far between. There certainly seems to be some good recruitment activity by various companies for this group, and that’s a good thing. But when I want to know what specific L&D interventions made a difference to the way this group learn, I am left desperately wanting. Adapting my delivery style and understanding the learning needs of the people I’m with is at the core of what I do.

Two companies come to mind, from recent exposure that tell me, yes, they seem to be doing the right kind of thing. The first is Travelodge and their management training programme. It’s aimed at school leavers, and gives them the opportunity gain real world experience at the same time as a solid career. The programme itself is worth applauding, but I heard nothing about the format of the courses, the facilitators of the event, outputs created, or anything which would suggest that I need to up my game.

The second is from a collaborative initiative with Google, Hyperisland and the IPA. It’s called Google Squared, and is a 12 week programme for young people in the media/advertising industries to gain a certificate in digital marketing. I know of the programme because we’ve sent three graduates from LBi to the pilot programme. They’ve come back raving about it, and how great the experience was, and what excellent learning they had. All great stuff. Yet, from what I gather, the delivery of the programme is no different to a well planned, collaborative effort in making the content highly engaging, relevant and meaningful. Give me the arsenal of the above three, and I could produce the same.

So come on. Tell me I’m missing something here. For all the hoo ha there is about retaining this generation for the success of the future, how do we actually do that? And don’t tell me it’s just about offering better coaching and mentoring programmes to them. Or that elearning has to form part of the mix. Or that line managers need better training. Or that they need better exposure to the senior people in an organisation. Those things are already in play by a lot of companies. Tell me that L&D is completely missing the mark in developing Gen Y, and what we can do to make it better.