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3 min read

Baby Boomers to Zoomers: How Each Generation Prefers to Learn

(+ How this Information can Improve your Training Programs)


In today’s workforce, as many as 60+ years or 3+ generations may separate the youngest employee from the oldest in any given company. Each new generation experiences unique changes to societal norms, historical events, and technological advancements.

ewn-custom-computer-based-trainingIt’s no wonder, then, that each generation has specific learning preferences.

You might be wondering, “Am I using training methods that are effective for my audience?” Certainly, being aware of a generation’s preferences will help you reach or engage large audiences that include multiple age groups. But while this blog post highlights the learning preferences of each generation, you should still keep one thing in mind: Everyone is unique and may have preferences outside their generation’s norm. For example, factors like culture and access to technology affect how an individual prefers to learn.



For these reasons, it’s always best to review the needs of each person to ensure your training meets their preferences.

What are the generations?

Generally speaking, a generation is a collective group of people born and living through a specific span of time. Research and analysis of generations has revealed how unique events, attitudes, or technologies in history have shaped the people of that time. This is how the generations we know today, like the Baby Boomers or Millennials, are determined.

Today’s workforce primarily consists of the following generations:

  • Baby Boomers or “Boomers” (born 1946-1964)
  • Generation X (born 1965-1980)
  • Generation Y or “Millennials” (born 1981-1996)
  • Generation Z or “Zoomers” (born 1997-2012)


Baby Boomers (1946-1964)

Baby Boomers were born in the postwar era following World War II. During this time, the birth rate notably increased, which is often called a “baby boom.” Because of the sharp increase in births that defined this period, this generation would eventually become known as the “Baby Boomers.”

Baby Boomers typically embrace organizational hierarchy and structure and are thought to be very loyal to their employers. In general, this generation did not have access to new technologies or the internet. However, they have experienced these innovations and how these technologies have shaped life today.

While some within this generation embraced these changes, others avoided them, leading to a limited understanding of the modern digital world.

For your Baby Boomer learners, consider including more of the following in your training program:

  • Verbal and face-to-face instruction and communication
  • Interactive social learning opportunities
  • Formal, structured learning environments with clear, well-defined learning objectives


Generation X (1965-1980)

Generation X (or Gen X) grew up in a time where dual-income households were increasing, and both parents worked outside the home. This meant that, as children, many came home after school to empty homes and used a key (or latchkey) to unlock the door. This generation is sometimes called “latchkey kids” for that reason. This generation also typically values work-life balance, likely because of their parents’ work habits.

Because of their independence at a young age, it’s believed many Gen Xers are self-reliant and value autonomy.

For this reason, consider including these in your program:

  • Online training options
  • Hands-on learning and self-paced exploration
  • Specific learning objectives and progress tracking


Generation Y or Millennials (1981-1996)

Generation Y individuals are most often referred to as Millennials and are believed to make up the majority of today’s workforce. Millennials are considered “digital natives” since things like the internet, cell phones, and social media gained popularity during their lifetime.

Millennials are typically comfortable with technology and often prefer blended learning experiences that combine e-learning modules, interactive digital content, and opportunities for collaborative, social learning. In general, they value learning opportunities, desire growth and career planning, and appreciate feedback.

For your Millennial learners, consider adding these to your program:

  • More group activities and social learning opportunities

  • Regular feedback and recognition for efforts
  • Technology and digital platforms


Generation Z or Zoomers (1997-2012)

Generation Z (or Gen Z) includes some of the youngest individuals in today’s workforce. Gen Z individuals are also sometimes called “Zoomers” as a play on words to the “Baby Boomer” generation. Gen Z is defined as being the first generation to grow up with both the internet and portable technology. Like Millennials, they are considered “digital natives” and are very comfortable with technology. However, Gen Zers are generally thought to have shorter attention spans because of their early exposure to technology and digital lifestyle.

Gen Zers are typically highly adaptive to online and digital learning. They also favor bite-sized, visually engaging content, including gamified or interactive learning.

For your Gen Z learners, consider these for your program:

  • Individualized and personal learning experiences
  • Hands-on learning opportunities
  • Peer-to-peer learning through internet forums, social media, and online communities
  • Adaptive learning platforms and customizable training options
  • Interactive or gamified training elements


Want to learn more?

Energy Worldnet strives to be the most trusted provider of Operator Qualification (OQ) training and helps Operators meet their OQ and OSHA compliance needs.

We have an extensive library of pre-written OQ courses and offer custom training content to fit the specific needs of each Operator’s OQ program. Generational differences in learning preference is one of many things covered in our Master Trainer Development Program (MTDP).

While geared to trainers in the oil and gas industry, MTDP is for any trainer.

Besides generational learning preferences, MTDP covers:

  • Different learning theories and training styles
  • How to create a positive learning environment
  • How to develop effective learning objectives
  • Needs assessments and data collection


New to EWN? Interested in our Master Trainer Development Program?

Contact us today!


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Michaela Causey, EWN Technical Writer