The old guards: L&D for Boomers and Xs

Just because they are experienced, it does not mean that they do not need training. But how do learning and development specialists train those who, in terms of professional insights and experience, are relatively superior than them? What contents should they deliver?

Boomers and Xs

They are the antithesis of the millennials. Born between 1944 to 1980, they saw a virtually connected world in conception. They witnessed the world as we know today take shape on the back of wars, power shifts, and changing trends.

The old guards.

Today, a portion of these generation sits on the top layer of corporate management. Despite the fact that the winds now blow and provide more favors for the younger generation, the classic adage of age before beauty still somewhat applies.

Of course, ideally, this is not because they are older and they automatically secure respect and position. The reason is: with their age comes experience. Just like what the proverb is supposed to mean.

And when it comes to running multi-billion-dollar company, experience is absolute.

How to Train the Dragons

As part of the upper management, these two generations often face arduous challenges. From managing profit and loss, to sustaining business development. Without doubt, boomers and Xs need to sharpen their blades every now and then.

Yes, despite having years of experience, they still need training.

So how do Learning and Development specialists train them?

Remember, these people eat executive decisions for breakfast. Remember, these people manage hundreds of people under their wings. Last but not least, remember, these people usually train others.

Now that is tricky!

If not done carefully, it can (and it will) backfire. Providing incorrect contents can waste their time. Ten minutes for them can be the difference between a successful takeover of USD 100 million rival company or the failure to establish external communication at the right time which can cost the company millions of dollars.

They are, again, the old guards. The veterans.

You do not ask battle hardened soldiers to learn how to shoot. They can (probably) shoot better than most commanding officers. You ask them to learn how to lead. To pass the skill.

To pass the legacy.

Learning from the Past

The first thing Learning and Development specialists should understand upon dealing with boomers and Xs is the fact that they possess a large amount of knowledge and experience due to their years of service. The extensive insights can be an obstacle to the extent that L&D specialists often feel inferior when it comes to training the old guards.

In a way, what can be a real advantage ends up hindering the process of Learning and Development.

Therefore, instead of feeling inferior, L&D specialists should embrace the fact that they are going to utilize boomers and Xs’ vast insights as a way to improve the company going forward. The idea is to train them to leave something for the company, be it for the business aspect or for the L&D aspect.

In the context of L&D, specialists can utilize (refer to) boomers and Xs as their source of information before providing training. Their feedback on L&D plan can lead to a better L&D execution.

Not only do they know more about the company given their year of service, they also have participated in numerous L&D activities in the past. It means that their feedback can ensure that future L&D activities will only get better.

Tech Mastery

Another obstacle that boomers and Xs often find in corporate life is adjusting to technological advancement. It is somewhat understandable given the nature of their generation. Unlike millennials who were born in and molded by (the era of) the internet, Boomers and Xs had to adopt the technology into their life.

Both boomers and Xs had been accustomed to manual technology before the internet became the backbone of modern business. It only makes sense that they had to make a few adjustments to their business approach as tech-mastery became imperative.

In terms of transitioning, some might have it smooth. Some might struggle.

Mastery level differs from one person to another. For example: Generally, generation Xs is deemed to have better tech mastery compared to boomers. But it does not guarantee that a certain boomer cannot have better mastery than a certain X.

On the contrary, millennials are not like boomers and Xs. They are not second language learner. Some of them did not experience working with a typewriter.

Hence comparing boomers and Xs to millennials in tech mastery is not apple to apple.

It validates the notion that boomers and Xs require trainings on tech mastery, especially on the back of global shutdown caused by Covid-19. Learning from how business operate during the difficult time, it is imperative that all corporate functions have adequate level of technological mastery.

At least enough to run the business from afar.

Mimosa and Sunset

Retirement is inevitable. And perhaps, imminent, to boomers and Xs.

The dream of sipping mimosa while watching the sun sets at the Caribbean is dawning. The time to lay back and relax. For some boomers and Xs, that is the dream they are going to realize. For some others, that is the dream they used to want but now too afraid to even think about.

L&D should explore this, before too late. Financial planning is the key. Government-regulated pension plan is not going to buy them that dream. It can, at best, secure them a life absent epic sceneries.

Therefore, L&D specialists should assist them in preparing post-retirement life.

A training in investment can be a good start. It can be beneficial for millennials as it can help them plan the life ahead of them. It can also be beneficial for boomers and Xs because it can help them compartmentalize their finances. Of course the focus is different as the younger generation, based on a survey by Bankrate, tend to save in case, while boomers and Xs are more aggressive with their portfolio.

This is understandable as the older batch has seen and perhaps experienced crises and recessions. Naturally they are a lot wiser when it comes to making an investment. L&D, in this case, needs to step up. To guide them to secure better investment.

Two Sides of Coin

Unlike millennials who can benefit much from basic on-the-job training or career development training, boomers and Xs require a completely different set of trainings. Most of the time, they might be the right source to deliver training for the millennials. They are, after all, battle hardened soldiers. Nevertheless, they still require L&D experience.

The three key take-outs that L&D specialists need to understand are:

  1. Boomers and Xs’ vast insights and experience can be a foundation for future L&D programs.
  2. Boomers and Xs require more extensive tech mastery training, especially on the back of the new normal.
  3. Boomers and Xs will appreciate training on financial planning as it helps them structure their post-retirement life.

At the end, the old guards and the young wolves are two parts of a dynamic cycle. The two complement each other. One brings extensive experience, the other brings undying motivation. Now it is up to L&D specialists to nurture them and bring the company to a greater course.