Customising training sessions in technologies for digital natives (those who have grown up around technology) and digital immigrants (those who adapted to its evolution) is crucial when building a work environment that embraces the capabilities of all employees. Read our survey results to see how different generations prefer to learn about digital tools in the workplace for insights on training a multigenerational workforce.
In this article
- Millennials show the most interest in new digital tools at work
- Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z prefer digital communication and meetings over non-digital
- Millennials are the generation to find digital tools easiest to use
- Some respondents feel their companies should make more efforts to train them
- How can businesses train a multigenerational workforce?
In recent years, the rapid evolution of technology has led to a surge in investment in digital tool adoption by companies in Australia. A diverse and multigenerational workplace with digital natives and digital immigrants, however, can lead to differing technological fluency among employees. Regular training using software such as learning management systems can help to build a technologically literate workforce and enhance job satisfaction for employees of all ages.
The pace and extent of training employees in digital tools can significantly vary among workers as younger generations, such as Generation Z or millennials (or digital natives) grew up with technology. In contrast, older generations, such as baby boomers or Generation X (or digital immigrants) adapted to it later in life. Regardless of age or digital proficiency, companies should bridge the digital skills gap by regularly offering workers customised training that appeals to their preferred learning styles.
What are the generational differences in the workplace regarding the use of digital tools? Capterra surveyed over 1,000 full- and part-time employees who always use a computer to perform their daily work tasks. We also broke down responses according to generation to better understand their needs. Do employees receive sufficient training and support to adapt to the latest digital tools from their company? How can companies best facilitate this?
The generations participating in this study were:
- Baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964)
- Generation X (born between 1965 and 1979)
- Millennials (born between 1980 and 1994)
- Generation Z (born in 1995 or later)
The full survey methodology is at the end of the article.
Millennials show the most interest in new digital tools at work
Understanding employees' perceptions about using technologies in the workplace is essential for companies to optimise adoption and engagement. But do workers warm up to the idea of using the latest in digital tools? Capterra found that a combined total of 85% of survey takers are interested in using new technologies to do their job (51% are ‘somewhat interested’ and 34% are ‘strongly interested’).
When broken down by generation, there wasn’t much of an overall difference. One of the younger generations led the way, with 40% of millennials ‘strongly interested’ in new technologies in the workplace compared to 28% of baby boomers. Technology is likely deeply rooted in millennials' upbringing as they are the first generation to grow up in a digital era, surrounded by digital services and social media. This natural level of digital literacy can perhaps make it easier for millennials to grasp new business tools much quicker than more senior colleagues.
When asked how they stay updated with the latest digital tools (e.g., social media platforms or payment applications, etc.) in general, ‘social networks’ was the most selected answer for both Generation Z (56%) and millennials (53%). ‘Company trainings’ was most selected by baby boomers and Gen X (at 47% each), suggesting that a significant proportion of older generations keep their technology learnings confined to the workplace. The younger generations, born into a technology-driven world, most likely use social media by default, following tech trends and enhancing their digital fluency.
Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z prefer digital communication and meetings over non-digital
Capterra asked respondents whether they prefer to carry out certain actions —communication with coworkers, task management or training sessions, for example— either digitally or non-digitally in the workplace. It is worth noting that a 'combination of both’ was an option and, in many cases, was chosen as the most popular response for employees and their work tasks.
When focusing on the digital vs non-digital aspect, Capterra found that all generations prefer to manage their work tasks digitally to some extent (baby boomers (32%), Gen X (35%), millennials (31%) and Gen Z (25%), respectively). This could be because they prefer using digital means instead of paper-based systems like handwritten to-do lists or physical trays to organise documents.
The difference between generational preferences is more apparent when it comes to other aspects of work life. For instance, baby boomers prefer ‘communication with coworkers' (17%) and 'team meetings' (28%) in person (non-digitally). On the other hand, more Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z respondents prefer to carry out these tasks virtually (digitally), perhaps via video conferencing tools such as Teams or Google Meet.
Baby boomers and Gen X were more likely to select ‘I don’t do this action’ with tasks such as 'meetings with clients', 'brainstorming sessions' or 'team building' than millennials and Gen Z. Older generations, with greater years of professional experience, are more likely to be in higher positions with heavy responsibilities. This may limit their availability to participate in regular team building or brainstorming sessions.
Millennials and Gen Z have very similar preferences in how they prefer to carry out tasks. Since the results were alike, only the figures for Gen Z are shown in the graph above. Gen Z is the only generation who said they most prefer to have their performance reviews online rather than in person (28%). Given their constant exposure to communication platforms such as social media, they are likely drawn to or are more familiar with conversations via video chat. Gen Z is also growing up in an age of remote work arrangements, and online performance reviews align with flexible work models.
Online brainstorming sessions can be made easier for employees, as cloud-based collaboration tools enable team members to edit and share documents in real time. Virtual whiteboard platforms allow groups to plan projects together and better visualise ideas, which can aid team creativity and ideation, whether remotely or in person.
Millennials are the generation to find digital tools easiest to use
Capterra provided a list of 13 different types of digital tools to survey takers, asking them to rate how easy or difficult they are to use at work. We combined employees' responses ‘somewhat interested’ and ‘strongly interested’ for the following results. ‘Word processor’ tools, such as Microsoft Word, was selected as the easiest digital tool for all generations to use:
- Baby boomers (90%)
- Gen X (93%)
- Millennials (92%)
- Gen Z (85%)
Next, it was ‘spreadsheet’ tools for baby boomers (85%) and Gen X (87%) and ‘video conferencing’ tools for both millennials (90%) and Gen Z (87%).
Millennials were the age group to find virtually all digital tools the easiest to use, except for two: word processor tools that were slightly easier for Gen X, and HR-related tools for Gen Z (71%) compared to 67% of millennials.
Baby boomers are the generation to use a variety of digital tools the least
Survey takers could also choose 'I don't use the digital tool’ as an option. Baby boomers were the generation that most said they did not use the digital tools on the list we provided. The tools baby boomers use the least include:
Those who did not grow up with technology may perceive AI tools to be complex and intimidating, which could deter them from attempting to integrate them into their workflow. But, regardless of employee age, training workers of all levels and knowledge of digital literacy can potentially yield a significant return on investment (ROI) regarding improved efficiency and innovation for businesses.
Some respondents feel their companies should make more efforts to train them
Regular training in digital tools is important as it ensures employees are up-to-date with the latest technologies and instils a culture of adaptability. According to survey takers, a combined total of 64% have received training or support from their company on digital tools at work.
Nearly one in five respondents (22%) said they ‘haven't had any digital training but would like to’, whilst only 14% said ‘they don't need it’. Of the respondents who have had training and those who would like to, 83% think their company should make more efforts to train staff. But what are the preferred learning methods for this group of survey takers?
‘On-site training’, such as workshops in the office, was the most selected choice across all generations when asked how they would like to be supported in using digital tools. The generational breakdown of results is as follows:
- Baby boomers (50%)
- Gen X (58%)
- Millennials (61%)
- Gen Z (57%)
‘Online courses’ conducted by the company were next for Gen Z (48%), millennials (56%), and baby boomers (46%), whereas Gen X selected ‘self-paced online training’ more (52%). It is crucial to consider generational preferences when training workers on digital tools, as different age groups may have distinct learning styles based on their life experiences.
As a significant number of respondents from all generations prefer on-site training, it might be beneficial for companies to consider in person training whenever possible. This is an opportunity to bring employees together for team building and networking, but can also demonstrate the company's investment in employee development.
How can businesses train a multigenerational workforce?
Training a multigenerational workforce with the latest technologies requires programs that accommodate the different learning needs and preferences of digital natives and digital immigrants. The following are points for companies to consider to train both groups effectively:
1. Assess digital proficiency levels:Conduct assessments to understand employees' comfort levels and familiarity with different tools. Managers can observe how workers navigate and use productivity tools like Trello, Asana or Slack as they perform their daily tasks.
2. Customise training content: Tailor materials to accommodate different learning styles with a mix of written guides, video tutorials, one-on-one sessions, and online workshops.
3. Start with the basics: Begin training by addressing basic digital literacy skills for those less familiar with tools and gradually progress to more advanced features.
4. Utilise multiple communication channels: Leverage the company intranet and other communication tools to share materials and updates, ensuring accessibility for everyone.
5. Gather feedback: Regularly send survey forms to collect participant feedback regarding such training programs. Use the feedback gathered to adapt and modify training approaches to better suit worker needs.
6. Provide flexibility: Offer flexible training schedules and allow employees to choose the training method that aligns best with their preferences.
7. Celebrate progress: Recognise and celebrate employees' achievement in mastering digital tools by setting up milestones and awarding certifications.
Generational differences in the workplace can significantly impact communication, collaboration, and employee engagement. Preparing employees of all ages for the digital future ensures companies remain competitive and adaptable in a rapidly evolving technological landscape. Moreover, it supports a culture of ongoing learning across generations within the workplace.
In the next article in this two-part series, Capterra further explores the benefits and challenges employees may face when using digital tools at work.
Data for Capterra's Digital Natives survey was collected in August 2023. Results comprise responses from 1,029 participants. The criteria to be selected for this study are as follows:
- Australian resident
- Between 18 and 65 years old
- Use a computer to perform daily work tasks
- The generations who participated in this study are:
Baby boomers: born between 1946 and 1964
Generation X: born between 1965 and 1979
Generation Y/Millennials: born between 1980 and 1994
Generation Z: born in 1995 or later