How Trainers Should Adapt to Generation Changes

While the training market is not that stirred yet, other industries are highly challenged by the different consumption, information management and lifestyle choices of Generation X, Y, and Z. Loads of articles and conferences try to figure out and handle these visibly different approaches. Most probably trainers working in all sectors were confronted with these challenges, yet there is no overall, coherent and homogenous approach to handling such generational questions in training contexts.

There are multiple categorizations, but generally speaking we could have the following notions: the so called ‘Boomers I and II’ born between 1946-1964. Generation X is born in the period of 1965 and 1979, Generation Y (or Millennials) is born between 1980-1995, and Generation Z is born after 1996. According to my experiences, Millennials coming of age to be participants at trainings did bring a great shift to trainings. Yet, I would not define this generation’s birth range so rigidly. I sense a great shift somewhere around people born in 1975ish-1980ish.

I would like to summarize the experiences we have as training professionals during trainings and other educational events. There were significant changes in the expectation setting and attitudes of today’s training participants.


Might not be a problem really. It is still important who you are, yet it is not absolutely necessary to state your experiences, professional background and experiences during the intro section. Participants went through a very tough selection process to work in their respective roles, therefore they assume that you are there to train likewise. Official procurement processes, multi-round selection processes and vendor assessments: they are all parts of everyday business life. Should you happen to be the successful one to be selected, you are the best in your profession.


This question was once part of the ‘fear and loathing’ of attending trainings. Attending a training was once associates with pre-concepts filled with anxiety. Examples were:

  • according to management I’m not fit for the role and they send us to trainings to fix us;
  • they will send some 20-year-old youngster who will then try to tell me how to do my job that I’m doing already for 20 years now;
  • brainwashing;
  • drill;
  • must be big money for someone (I remember a training 10 years ago, where I had to spend hours explaining to participants that the fee of the training will not be deducted from their wages and it costs 1/20th than what they assume);

...and I could list this on and on and on.

Millennials grew up with the buzz words of cost reduction, therefore, they don’t assume any decision-making entity would risk spending money on redundant skill and competence development programmes. They are mostly appreciative of such opportunities, and they see trainings as a place of growth.


We change, there is no problem around that. Continuous adaptation is part of our every life, it’s not about our self-esteem and pride. This attitude requires a completely different training structure. Classic training approach put great emphasis on making people open to change and self-development. This process took time and required special technics. It helped participants define their path of development Once they’ve felt that they are in charge, they could ease in the process of development lead by the trainer.
Millennials expect us to be highly skilled and clever. In their eyes, that is what we are being paid for. For all the above contexts, the structure of trainings became much simpler: knowledge sharing and practice. There is no need to put them through all types of own-experiences necessarily”


Direct feedback is welcomed, since participants are familiar with it at their daily work lives. Constructive criticism is valued and is expected to happen during trainings. Honey-glazing and over politeness is not appreciated any more.


In case of previous generation, intimacy played an important part in the build-up of dynamics. The tensions of the intro part of the trainings were dissolved thanks to processes and games helping with raising intimacy levels. Almost within an hour, a group of tense people turned out to be a cooperating and well-relaxed group. As for Millennials, both physical and verbal intimacy seem to be a taboo pretty much. Touching other colleagues might be so frustrating for participants that trainers really need to carefully assess and plan activities. Sexist humour is totally off the table, participants are very much aware of their values and stand out for them.
There are for sure many other manifestations of the differences between generations. I’m personally really curious about Generation Z and their presence in the training market. What will adult education and training look like for them?

Iván Münnich
Managing Director, trainer, coach, consultant
Sämling Solution Consulting Kft.