Generational Learning Styles

Welcome to Generational Learning Styles! Each generation has values, attributes, as well as learning styles, that are shaped by events in their formative years. While each of us has a unique learning style, each generation is motivated by different factors to learn and optimal training environments.  At the end of this course, you should have a brief understanding of each generation’s learning styles, motivators, and how to utilize them to build engaging and sustainable, training and development plans. 

Generations in the Workplace Today

Generations, Learning Styles or Preferences

What is a generation?

  • Group of collective individuals born and living at about the same time 
  • Approximately 20 years; average period between birth of parents and birth of offspring
  • Have similar ideas, attitudes, problems 

Current Generations Today 

  • Traditionalist 
  • Baby Boomer
  • Generation X
  • Millennial or Gen Y
  • 2020 marks the next generation's entry into the workforce 

Learning Styles 

Learning styles refer to a range of theories that account for differences in how individuals learn.  

  • Visual
  • Auditory 
  • Physical 
  • Verbal 

HRD Class Generational Survey


At the end of this module you should be able to identify:

  • How the environment shapes each generation's values and attributes
  • The impact this had on early learning and drives the intrinsic value of learning today
  • Motivators for each generation in a learning environment
  • Various styles and techniques to create blended learning modules

How does this situation resonate at work?


Welcome to the Traditionalist Generation

Who are the Traditionalist?

The Traditionalist Generation

  • Born between 1924 - 1945
  • Traditionalists are also known as...
    • Silent Generation
    • Veterans
    • Seniors
    • Great Depression Babies
    • Greatest Generation

  • Around 55 million people in the United States
  • Makeup 5% of the workforce today (approximately 7 million people)
  • Majority are retirees

Influences from Historic Events

They grew up during...

  • Great Depression 
  • WWII
  • The Cold War 
  • Korean War

Traits and Values


  • Patriotic
  • Conservative
  • Hardworking
  • Loyalty
  • Conformity
  • Discipline

  • Patient
  • Responsible
  • Teamplayers
  • Savers
  • Do not like change
  • Technology adverse


  • Family and community focus
  • Dedication and sacrifice for common good
  • Respect for authority
  • Adhere to rules
  • Duty before pleasure
  • Financial security

Early Learning Styles

Early Learning Styles

  • Formality
  •  Instructor-led lecture
  • Respects authority
  • Loyal to institutions
  • Knowledge gained through observation and experience


  • Writing
  • Reading newspapers, magazines, and books
  •  Listening to the radio and classroom lectures
  • Radio was the technology of this generation

Learning Styles Today

Learning Styles Today

  • Blended and Online Learning
  • Passive learners - likes lecture, reading, and taking notes
  • Straight-forward presentation
  • Knowledge built from life experiences
  • Technology adverse - use library instead of the web, limited phone use


  • Rotary phones
  • Personal One-on-one 
  • Dictates documents and handwritten memos, less email
  • Don't like feedback - No news is good news

How to Keep Them Motivated/Engaged?

Things to Keep in Mind to Motivate and Engage

  • Provide opportunities and time to update skills 
  • To feel needed, important, and relevant to their job or social life
  • Add value with clear, defined achievable goals
  • On the job training - learn through experience and discussion

What was the Traditionalist Generation influenced by?

  • Great Depression, WWII
  • Civil Rights, Vietnam War, Space Travel
  • Watergate, Energy Crisis, Downsizing, Increased divorce rate
  • Digital Media, School shootings, Terrorist Attacks, AIDS

How does the Traditionalist view technology?

  • Acquired
  • Assimilated
  • Integral
  • Adapted

Please watch the video below for a brief review of the Traditionalist Generation

Baby Boomers

At 74.9 million in population, this makes the Baby Boomers the largest living generation in the nation.

  • True
  • False

Who are the Baby Boomers?

Born 1946-1964 (sometimes listed as 1943-1964), Baby Boomers were named for an uptick in the post-WWII birth rate. Up until 2015, the Baby Boomers were the largest living generation.

Traits and Values


  • Work centric
  • Independent
  • Goal-oriented and process-oriented
  • Competitive
  • Self-actualization


  • Personal growth
  • Team collaboration
  • Work as an anchor to life
  • Equality
  • Challenge Authority
  • Personal fulfillment/gratification

Learning Styles and Preferences

Early Learning

  • Linear and tactile learners
  • Taught by lecture
  • Knowledge gained through reading books

Learning today

  • Interactive training activities
  • Prefers classroom learning
  • Likes well-organized training materials with overview of data 

Motivation in the Workplace

How to keep them engaged

  • Offer them flexibility, authority and respect
  • Challenge them to keep growing (in their own way)
  • Encourage team collaboration

Keeping them engaged

Concluding video - Boomers and Millennials

This video gives a short and humorous synopsis of the generational gap between Boomers, X, and Millennials.  Once you're done viewing the video, let's take a moment to take the following quiz to assess what you've learned.

What motivates a Baby Boomer the most?

  • Family/Community
  • Success
  • Time
  • Individuality

As a Boomer, your loyalty is towards...

That completes the Baby Boomer section. Thank you for participating in this training section.

  • Your individual goals
  • People or projects
  • The organization
  • The importance and meaning of work

Generation X

Welcome to Gen X

Who are Generation X?

Generation X 

This generation was born between 1965 and 1980, and at approximately 50 million, is half of the size of the preceding Boomer generation and the following Millennial Generation.

Home Life 

  • High Divorce Rates
  • Small Families
    • Often Only Children
  • Latch Key

Growing Up

  • Daycare Centers
  • Adult Oriented 
  • Self-reliant 
  • Tribal

Impact of the Outside World

Lack of a Defining Moment

While previous generations had those moments, often historical, that impacted 


  • Corporate downsizing
  • Massive layoffs 
  • Economic Uncertainty 
    • National Debt; bankrupt Social Security
  • Institutional Incompetency
  • Gaming systems

Major Events

  • Watergate
  • Challenger Explosion
  • The Persian Gulf War
  • Rodney King verdict and LA Riots 
  • AIDS

Cultural Traits

Values and Attributes

Born in a time where they were not the top priority, Gen X learned they could only count on one thing – themselves!

  • Independent
  • Practical
  • Self-Reliance
  • Highly educated 
  • Cynical
  • Technologically adept

  • Adaptable 
  • Results Focused 
  • Culturally diverse 
  • Global minded 
  • Unimpressed with Authority
  • Work-Life Balance

Learning Styles and Preferences

Early Learning

  • Taught in modules or pods
  • Research using index
  • Structured environment
  • Some lecture, small group activities
  • Self-directed, independent

Adult Learning 

  • Intrinsic learners
  • Reality driven
  • Relevance
  • Breadth of experiences 
  • On-the-Job Training

Keeping Them Engaged

Things to Keep in Mind 

  • Entrepreneurial 
  • Marketable Skills
  • Be Direct and Clear 
  • Experiential
  • Allow Opportunity to Challenge  

What best describes Generation X's view on building skills in the workplace?

  • Skills should benefit the company, not the individual
  • Not as important as work ethic or “face time”
  • Skills are needed to move the next job, the more they know the better
  • Training is important and want to see immediate results

The best methods for training this group are: (select all that apply)

  • Web-based Learning
  • Lectures
  • Case Studies
  • None of the above

Lessons from Karen McCullough on Gen X


Who are they?

Who are the Millennials?

The millennials are the children of the baby boomers born between the years of 1980-2000. The millennials have grown to over 80 million now which makes them the largest generational group we have. They have been called the Generation Y, The Me Generation and the Now Generation. 

Are they Innovative? 

  • Positive Worldly impact 
  • Sociable
  • Optimistic

Are they  Entitled? 

  • Narcissism
  • Self-centered 
  • Egotistical

Raising this Generation

Raising this Generation

  • They were raised in a sheltered environment to protect them from the evils of the world.
  • Parents believed having high self-esteem would lead to long term success.
  • Led to everyone receiving a trophy and being associated with the word entitled. 

Early Learning

  • Grew up along side of  the increasing technology and watched reality TV.
  • Millennials will challenge grades and question the relevancy of assignments.  
  • Is the most educated generation yet, but came at the cost of high student loans. 

Traits and Values


  • Millennials are heavy consumers and work to spend their money. When they want something, they want it instantly which has given them the nickname the Now Generation.
  • Millennials are optimistic and will bring a positive energy wherever they go. 
  • They like personal attention and sharing their experiences. 


  • Millennials have high morals and want to make a positive change in their communities.
  • They value balance in their lives and want to spend time with family, friends, and doing things they enjoy. 
  • This generation views they are apart of the global community and believes in diversity.

Learning Today


  • Millennials like to communicate through multiple channels like text, email, and social media. Important messages should be communicated in person.
  • They have a participative interactive style. 
  • Millennials want feedback and want it consistently. Managers should tie in goals and aspirations into their feedback messages. 

Learning Today

  • Millennials like a blended approach when it comes to learning. 
  • Training needs to be interactive and should use a combination of games, art, and music.
  • It's important to explain why the training is relevant and how it can help them with their future.

The Workplace

Going to Work

  • The Millennial generation is ambitious but can lack focus. 
  • They go to the work place for direction and help achieve their goals. 
  • They work well in teams but still are independent and extremely individualistic.

Work Environment 

  • Millennials respect competency in the work place and wont typically respect out of just job title.
  • They prefer work in a collaborative environment that is diverse, positive and allows creativity.
  • Millennials wants challenging assignments to prevent boredom.


  • Managers should pay attention and assist in balance of work and family issues.
  • Repetitive work can turn them off of a project. They will need supervision, structure, and work on discipline. 
  • Work schedules like flex-time, work from home, and job sharing will be requested. 


In Work

  • Millennials are motivated to learn to reduce stress in their working lives while building their employability.
  • They are motivated to see immediate results and will continue to enhance their work skills with more education.
  • Millennials want meaningful work that is innovative. They expect to learn new knowledge and skills in the workplace.

In Life

  • They will seek out careers that are stable to provide more family time.
  • They want to enjoy their lifestyle and keep it in tact, this generations motto is "Work To Live".
  • Millennials expect to be paid well to live this lifestyle and provide for their family. 

What years were Millennials born in?

  • 1965-1979
  • 1980-2000
  • 1900-1945
  • 1946-1964

Feedback should be avoided if possible with the Millennial Generation because they value independent learning.

  • True
  • False


Conclusion: Bringing It All Together and Applying the Training

Considerations for Building Engaging Training

Click on the interactive hotspot icon to view the preferred learning styles for each generation. 

Let's take a few minutes to take the following quiz consisting of matching and multiple choice questions to apply and test what you have learned.

What interactive style best describes each generation?

  • Traditionalist
  • Baby Boomer
    Team Player
  • Generation X
  • Millennials

Traditionalist view money as?

  • Buy now, pay later
  • Save, save, save for the future
  • Earn to Spend
  • Conservative

Millennials preferred work environment is?

  • Creative, positive, and collaborative
  • Functional and efficient
  • Democratic
  • Conservative

How does each generation view education?

  • A dream
  • A birth right
    Baby Boomer
  • A way to get there
    Generation X
  • An incredible expense

What is Generation X's view on work-life balance?

  • Work hard to maintain job security
  • Workaholic, may lose position if not visible
  • Value work-life balance, time is most important
  • Must balance it all with work, life, community involvement, etc.

Why is there such an importance for HRD students to understand the intergenerational dynamics?

  • More generations are working side-by-side
  • Competition for talent is escalating
  • Productivity and results are linked to work environment
  • All of the above


Reference List


Ball, K. (2014, January 6). Learning styles revealed: Babyboomers [Blog post]. Retrieved February 8, 2017 from

Brands, R. (2016, August 23). Millennial And The Future Of Innovation: How To Recruit And Retain Top Millennial Talent. The Huffington Post. Retrieved February 9, 2017 from

Gordon, J. (2016, April 11). Understanding Baby Boomers at Work: Fast Facts for CHROs. Forbes: ADPVoice. Retrieved February 7, 2017 from

Murgado, A. (2011, February 7). Workplace Communication: Closing the Generation Gap. Retrieved February 14, 2017, from

Noe, R.  A. (2013). Employee Training and Development, 6th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Stein, J. (2013, May 20). Millennials: Me ME ME. Time Magazine. Retrieved February 6, 2017 from

Sumner, C. (2015, May 1). Why you need baby boomers in your workplace [Blog post]. Hudson. Retrieved February 7, 2017 from

U.S. Census Bureau. Labor Force Statistics. (2016, July 15). Retrieved February 07, 2017, from

Warren, L. (2012, June 27). Are differences between generations a myth?. Micro Assist. Retrieved February 7, 2017 from

Levonius, D. (2015, February 23). Generational Differences in the Classroom. Association for Talent Development. Retrieved February 10, 2017 from

Meet the Authors

Meet the Authors of the Blue Team

Generational Learning Styles

Designed By:

Trang Pham


Tammy Anderson

(Baby Boomer)

Priscilla Ortiz

(Generation X)

Joshua Dahl


Please take a moment and take this post training survey: