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ATD Blog

Through Our Eyes: A Conversation Among Generations


Wed Dec 05 2012


In this blog series from Nandi Shareef, we’ll hear Gen Xers and Baby Boomers talk all things Millennial. They will provide cutting-edge insights and best practices on how to recruit, retain, and rein in (or so they believe) the youngest members of today’s work force.

Meet Alwyn Klein, a senior manager in learning and performance for one of the largest telecommunication firms in South Africa. Alwyn has his CPLP, was a presenter at the 2010 ASTD International Conference & Expo, and is a prolific expert in the field of learning and development (L&D). He offers keen insights from a global perspective on changing demographics in the workplace, as well as advice to fellow Gen Xers on strategies he’s used to be successful.


Alwyn’s Story

In South Africa, the generational divide in the workplace isn’t nearly as pronounced as the cultural one. With 11 official languages, South Africa (and subsequently its workforce) is unbelievably diverse. This fact alone gives Alwyn Klein’s staff of more than 70 employed and contracted instructional designers and trainers a huge impediment to overcome when creating and facilitating organizational learning.

However, Alwyn has never been one to shy away from a challenge. Instead, he challenges his multiple direct reports to find new and innovative ways to engage and teach the organization’s staff. Fortunately, he and his staff have proven to be quite good at it!

Through his transparent working relationships and willingness to think “outside-the-box,” he has provided the L&D community with some thought-provoking challenges of our own.

Are we meeting the needs of Millennials when providing them training? For example, Alwyn’s group is busy successfully integrating informal and mobile learning with e-learning and traditional learning in order to provide just-in-time training for Millennials. In his experience, he has found that Millennials “want to know what they need to know and want to access it when they need to know it,” so his group designs learning into smaller, more manageable chunks.


If organizational change is what we want, aren’t Millennials integral in helping us get there? In Alwyn’s experience, Millennials are flexible and agile. These competencies are needed in organizations if they are to sustain the challenges of the recovering economy.

What should Gen X and Baby Boomer L&D professionals remember? Alwyn reminds us that the organizational landscape is changing. The Millennials who work with us crave more short-term projects in which they feel like they may make a profound organizational impact. They also enjoy “corridor chats” where they can receive on the spot feedback and feel empowered to move forward on a project.

As a Millennial, I agree with many of the points that Alwyn made during our discussion. More important, I enjoy the fact that Alwyn is interested in delving deeper into this topic. Together, we are working to test some of these theories and open the dialogue to additional stakeholders in the L&D community. If you are interested in joining the conversation and being featured on this blog, we invite you to become a part of the journey.

A huge thanks to Trish Uhl, former president of the ASTD Chicagoland chapter, for connecting us!

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