Digital Adoption Strategies for Different Generations of Workers

Digital Adoption, Employee Training
digital adoption

The success of your company’s digital transformation initiative is greatly influenced by your employees’ perceptions and fears about adopting new technologies and practices. By effectively training and engaging employees, the corporate learning and development department can encourage your team to enthusiastically support your digital transformation initiatives. This, however, requires a careful approach, particularly when dealing with a highly diverse group of people or a multigenerational workforce.

A quick litmus test: When asked whether they prefer an ‘in-person’ or ‘online’ training method, 70% of respondents from this generation chose in-person training. Which of these generations do you think it was? Gen Z or Gen X?

Well, contrary to what we commonly think about these generations, GenZers (70% of them!) prefer in-person training over GenX who might be more time-strapped due to being in management positions.

The Multi-Generational Workplace

While we cannot generalize how different generations adopt technology, it is very useful to keep in mind that the employees’ comfort with technology and their expectations from it largely depends on how they were exposed to it during their growing years at a workplace.

Baby Boomers are individuals born between 1946 and 1964 and according to eMarketer, they are “not a digitally clueless bunch” but they’re not as digitally active as the younger generations. Generation X consists of individuals born between the mid-1960s and the early-1980s . They are more self-directed than Boomers and are considered tech-savvy. Millennials or Generation Y, born between 1981-1996 “enjoy flexible work environments” that allow the use of various devices and platforms for communication and collaboration.

Generation Z, the youngest, is just entering the workforce albeit at a rapid pace. It is expected that by 2020, the number of employees from Generation Z will increase to nearly 40% of the workforce. Born after 2000, they are the first digital natives since they have never known life without technology. This can be both an opportunity and a challenge for employers and companies. They should position themselves as a technology-driven organization in order to attract and retain Gen Z.

digital adoption

Source: KPMG, 2017

“Different Strokes for Different Folks”

Training a diverse group of people can be tricky and complex because it requires tailoring the program to each generation’s preferences and expectations. A one-size-fits-all training course will not be effective, engaging, and compelling to all. But even though these generations display varying levels of interest and acceptance of modernization, they all think that technological innovations will lead to more flexibility.

According to a study, younger generations are very interested in and accepting of current technological trends. Gen Z, for example, uses digital technologies “as an extension of their own personalities.” Older generations, on the other hand, are very specific about their interest in forms of technological interactions and consumption. Boomers, for one, are “unsurprisingly more cautious in adopting new technologies, particularly those which have a profound impact on traditional approaches to interaction.”

What are the implications for your organization’s modernization and technology adoption process?

Say, for example, you introduce artificial intelligence to your diverse staff. Baby Boomers and Generation X may not show interest in it at first and will be very cautious in adopting it. But the younger generations will be very excited to know how it will help them become a better version of themselves. Therefore, a training plan for Boomers and GenXers will need to focus highly on the “why” and “what’s in it for me” before the actual training on how to use the technology. For younger generations, it’s more practical to jump a bit sooner into the “how to” of the training.

So how can we engage a multi-generational workforce and ensure consistent digital adoption?

Bridging the Generation Gap of Learning

Workers today are already grappling with an app-overload, with decreasing application adoption as one of its effects. One of the biggest reasons employees struggle is due to inadequate training; either due to poor training plans, or due to lack of time and initiative on their own part. Combining some of the strategies mentioned below with a Digital adoption platform (DAP) makes your training more effective, engaging and personalized.

Relook at your Training Plans

Providing the most effective training to a diverse employee base will require corporate training teams to find innovative ways to create and deliver training. A mix of online and in-person training methods is hardly adequate anymore. Offering a variety of learning methods based on each generation’s dominant traits can help engage all generations. However, the cost and the time required to devise, design, and finally carry out these training programs, may not always be easy to justify.

Forward-looking companies invest in a Digital Adoption Platform (DAP) that offers personalized, contextual, and learn-as-you-go training. Digital adoption platforms layer-up as an intelligence layer on your software applications to provide training and onboarding to users in the type, format and pace that works best for them.

  • Type of training: Since training is delivered within the application, employees don’t need to take special time out for training, but instead, they learn in the most effective and natural manner: in the flow of work
  • Format of training: Whatfix, a Digital Adoption Platform allows you to uniquely present training content in various formats thus offering employees flexible ways of consuming information. These multiple formats of content can be generated and updated automatically, at no additional cost
  • Pace of training: For employees that prefer self-directed educational opportunities, DAPs such as Whatfix can be used to run microlearning programs that allow employees to learn independently and at their own pace. According to LinkedIn 2018 Learning Trends Report, 58% of employees prefer to learn at their own pace and 49% prefer to learn at the point of need. This can help employees change their attitude from “I need to do this” to “I want to do this.”


Source: LinkedIn 2018 Learning Trends Report

Understand Individuality, Cater to All

Before creating and implementing a digital adoption strategy, it is important to understand the individuality of each worker and not rely alone on the “stereotypical personality traits that dominate each generation of workers.”

Every business user, regardless of the generation he/she belongs to, has his/her own unique preferences, values, habits, and beliefs, apart from their current role and position in the company. Using a digital adoption platform that contextually caters to the training and adoption needs of individual users is extremely helpful.

  • Level of training: DAPs provide personalized training to users wherever they are. The content and its details can be customized based on how savvy a user is.
  • Learner motivation: DAPs help track learner progress in real-time and hence provide an opportunity to recognize and motivate learners with incentives that work best for them.

Provide Reverse Mentoring

Another practical way to bridge the generation gap is through reverse mentoring. Younger generations with higher acceptance and a better comfort with new technologies can be the best group to guide the entire workforce through learning, embracing, and constantly utilizing the new digital tools.

But this approach is not without its own challenges. One study revealed that each generation faces problems connecting and working with other generations due to their differences.Respondents from across different generations confessed that they often have to deal with behaviors such as older generations not being open to new ideas and, on the other side, younger generations were perceived to feel ‘privileged’.

The problem with these approaches is that they miss one important thing –– the uniqueness of each individual employee and not just of each generation. Constantly gathering employee feedback and tracking progress helps in staying on top of your learners’ needs:

  • Track training: DAPs continually generate insights on learner progress and when looked at in totality, provide insights on what is working best for an individual. These insights gives the corporate training teams a way to improve training effectiveness and user engagement.

Digital Adoption Platforms are designed to flexibly and intuitively cater to the unique needs of every employee, regardless of the generation they belong to.

Learn more about how Digital adoption platforms help ensure consistent digital adoption in an organization comprised of different generations of workers.



Vipul heads the marketing team at Whatfix and spends his days strategizing and implementing demand generation programs. He is a problem-solver and is constantly devising out-of-the-box strategies for reaching our consumers.
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