The Collision of Remote Work, Generational Differences, and Training

Article main image
Sep 16, 2020
This article is part of a series called Remote Work.

This summer, my team surveyed 1,000 full-time employees to determine what silent issues are permeating our remote workplaces. We discovered that the shift to remote work has impacted different generations differently. In turn, that has affected their training needs.

It’s therefore important for HR to reimagine trainings and recognize that this pandemic demands a whole new way of supporting employees.

The first step in doing so is understanding what different groups of employees need. Before the shift to full-time remote work, some differences may have been obvious in person, like how younger workers may be ultra-familiar with technology but lacking significant management skills. Likewise, the inverse for older, more seasoned employees. But when people work from home, these disparities manifest differently.

Consider this: Our survey found that millennials are significantly more likely than boomers to want training on mental health, discrimination, and having difficult conversations with both colleagues they manage and with superiors.

But boomers face a different challenge. Half of the boomers we surveyed are frustrated by feeling disconnected from colleagues, significantly higher than the 37% of millennials who said the same.

When I think about the younger members of my team, this difference makes sense. They’re used to using technology to communicate with peers, friends, and loved ones, so they feel more comfortable relying on tools like Zoom or Slack to connect with coworkers. Boomers, on the other hand, may feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable with socializing via screen and miss out on that form of connection.

To remedy this difference, consider providing trainings specifically geared toward the senior members of your office (though they can be open for all to join) on how to use communications tools to connect with colleagues. Include points like when to use video for meetings versus only audio, how to make sure all members of the team are engaged and heard, and more technical topics like how to use Zoom to foster collaboration. (I love this helpful video from Harvard on how remote teams can collaborate effectively).

There are also differences based on the physical spaces where generations tend to work from home. Older generations are more likely to work from a desk, whereas younger generations are more likely to work from a bed or couch. Sure enough, for those of us who remember getting our first apartment — a few hundred square feet that we were thrilled to call our first place — the chances we had a designated home office space or even some room for a desk were slim.

Consequently, there is value in meeting these younger generations where they are and providing additional training resources to help with creating a remote workspace that encourages productivity. So, consider hosting something you never could have imagined implementing a year ago — an “interior design” training with tips and tricks for making your space work effectively as both a home and a temporary office, taught by an outside expert.

These are just a couple of examples of new trainings warranted by COVID-19. Looking ahead, I’m not certain remote work will be going away anytime soon. In the meantime, we can make sure that employees feel supported and heard by ensuring that they get the training they need and want.

This article is part of a series called Remote Work.
Get articles like this
in your inbox
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting articles about talent acquisition emailed weekly!