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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   September 2018

Find the Right Path Through the Training Gantlet

Create effective, engaging learning experiences by developing programs with generational appeal

As an industry, the goal has been to attract younger generations to become mortgage professionals. Recent industry data indicates that the average age of a mortgage originator is 47.r_2018-09_adams_spot 

Just as many mortgage professionals are starting to understand the unique attributes of baby boomers, Generation X, millennials and now Generation Z, companies need to answer the question: How can an organization’s training be prepared to equip each generation?

With four generations now in the workforce, it is becoming increasingly difficult to meet each generation’s training needs and preferences simultaneously. While each generation has its own distinct characteristics, professional values and unique experiences, there are key learning preferences that are universal.

For starters, in today’s hectic, interruption-driven workplace, shorter bite-sized training sessions are the ideal. Not only are professionals favoring more concise training sessions, but they also prefer training that affords flexibility in terms of time, format and platform.

More and more people prefer to watch a recorded video at a time that works best in their schedule, rather than attend a live training. Also, by developing training modules that can be used across multiple platforms, such as YouTube or a video-conferencing system, learners can easily access succinct training content on a number of devices when they are ready.

Understanding how each generational group learns is important for creating engaging and effective training programs. The following is a brief breakdown of each of the generational groups now in the workforce, including a look at some of the qualities that impact their training preferences. Also included is a set of recommendations to satisfy these training preferences.

Understanding is key

The information that follows is general in nature and may not necessarily apply to each individual in a particular age group. It should, however, offer mortgage professionals a snapshot of the type of training that is likely to be most effective with each generational group.

  • Baby Boomers (born between 1946 – 1964): This group prefers face-to-face communication. While the baby boomers are using e-mails and computers, they are less likely to be busy with online social networking. Trainings that are instructor-led and interactive are the way this group prefers to learn. In addition, baby boomers need time to practice skills in a real-life environment. They like books, PowerPoints and handouts. Training should explore ways that they can add value to a client, the business or the industry.
  • Generation X (born between 1965 – 1980): With this group, the trainer may encounter skepticism, but along with that skepticism comes a hunger for knowledge and openness for feedback. They prefer on-the-job learning, but the most effective way to train this group is to put them in the driver’s seat so they are in control and can experience learning firsthand. Learning also should provide them with an opportunity to increase their ability to market themselves as experts.
  • Generation Y/Millennials (born between 1981 – 1996): Similar to Generation X, this group prefers to learn while doing and values regular coaching and feedback. To reach this group, incorporate a variety of training mediums, such as e-books, podcasts and videos. Millennials are aware of and motivated by the fact that increasing their knowledge and skills can increase their earnings.
  • Generation Z (born after 1996): This age group has never known a time without the internet or portable devices and, therefore, never shuts off or disconnects. Growing up with technology has made them natural information seekers. This is a group of realists who want to work for success. Generation Z tends to have a brief attention span, which is why their learning should not only incorporate multiple devices, but should also be heavily image-based, short and to the point. Training will resonate better with them if the trainer can demonstrate how learners can have an impact with their newly acquired knowledge.

Appealing to so many diverse needs is a tall order. If trainers value the importance of each generation, however, and the roles they can play in a mortgage organization, it is imperative to create training resources that resonate well with each age group and their unique natural preferences.

Variety does matter

It’s also important to plan a training session that includes a balance of styles. Use a mix of learning methods and mediums. Incorporate exercises that allow the participants to do just that, participate.

If the trainer can get people up and moving, let them work in teams, cast a vote, and/or share their thoughts. It will help to keep people engaged, even if it is a virtual classroom.

Keep in mind that the particular generation a person belongs to is just
one aspect of that individual’s identity and experience.

During training, it is easy for attendees to become distracted by an e-mail or text message. If during the session, however, it is made clear that there will be teamwork opportunities or that the trainer will be calling on participants for feedback, this will help to encourage the attendees to pay closer attention.

Suggestion: Create video trainings, but also include notes and/or PowerPoint slides. Offer an interactive Q&A session afterward. Also, consider trying something more active and collaborative, like a scavenger hunt that requires teamwork to accomplish a goal.

Technology is essential

Capabilities with technology differ among the generations. With the right technology, however, the trainer can provide scalable, flexible training that meets the needs of every learner.

Webinars are one of the most widely utilized platforms as they are a quick, cost-effective and interactive way of delivering training. Session times should be between 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. because that is statistically the sweet spot for optimal learning, plus it covers Hawaii to the East Coast. Interest dwindles when the webinar is longer than one hour.

PowerPoint is one of the most popular formats for delivering content. Millennials and Generation Z prefer images and short bulleted points. Attendees don’t want to listen to a presenter read slides verbatim. Add comments and examples that are not written on the slides. Baby boomers and Generation X participants will appreciate it if you send the slides in advance so they can print them out and add their own notes during the training. 

Suggestion: Pair those who may be less comfortable with technology (baby boomers), with those who were born into it (millennials). The benefits are twofold: Baby boomers gain additional insight on technology, social media, etc., and millennials can benefit from the baby boomers’ experience and learn about the industry’s tried-and-true best practices.

Collaboration builds bridges

A common trait across all generations is the desire to collaborate and share knowledge for the good of the organization. Encourage interaction during as many training sessions as possible. Group-based projects that emulate the work environment are ideal for all learners.

Trainers need to sometimes take a step back and become facilitators. Employees have a wealth of knowledge and are willing to share it. During a training session, ask the group to share their experiences. These can prove to be more impactful than examples the trainer may have.

Most of these groups are driven by feedback. In an era of reviews and ratings, it is important as a trainer to also encourage feedback on the training itself. Participants are not shy about giving their feedback on how training could be improved — i.e., what they liked, disliked and would like to see in the future.

Suggestion: Ask baby boomers and Gen Xers to share their experience and knowledge, and ask millennials and Generation Z attendees to talk about new trends they are seeing that have or could have an impact on the industry. 

•  •  •

Keep in mind that the particular generation a person belongs to is just one aspect of that individual’s identity and experience. Individuals also have their own personal values, life experiences and personality, all of which contribute to their preferred modes of learning.

The key is to have a variety of learning methods available and be prepared to adapt. This will ensure delivery of the most valuable training that will assist all employees in their personal development and help them achieve success in pursuing their career goals. 


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