• Active Learning

Engaging Your Multi-Generational Workforce Through Video

Ideas from Sam Crumley, VP of Employee Experience at Panopto

Many organizations today are facing an unprecedented mix in their workforce demographics, with HR and L&D professionals tasked to support employees spanning four generations. Many experienced employees are delaying retirement at the same time that a wave of new employees comes on board, resulting in a generational blend that presents both new challenges and new opportunities for teams responsible for organizational learning and development.

Over my career, I’ve worked in a number of companies facing exactly this situation. Now with my experience here at Panopto, I can see the many benefits video would’ve offered those companies — especially in terms of the important role video can play in employee engagement and satisfaction across the entire span of a person’s career. The opportunity to utilize video as part of enhancing employee engagement can begin right at the start of someone’s working life during their onboarding phase, run through to aiding career advancement for mid-career team members, and end with the capturing of subject matter expertise from the most experienced employees when they decide to retire.

Challenging Assumptions Around Generational Learning Behaviours

To start unpacking the possibilities, I think it’s important to first challenge some assumptions. While no one is denying that there is a more diverse generational mix than ever before in many workplaces, it doesn’t follow that each generation follows entirely different patterns of learning behaviour or adoption of technology-enhanced learning tools.

In a number of recent studies, it has been revealed that different generations are much more similar in their learning needs and preferences than they are divergent. While much has been written in the media about the specific traits of millennials, the reality is that, whatever our generation, there is a bit of a millennial in all of us. One of my main takeaways from some of the research I’ve read recently is this:

Regardless of generational grouping, almost everyone actively wants to learn and almost everyone wants feedback on how they’re doing. Video can be a great enabler in both of these cases.

Furthermore, there’s no need to hesitate when it comes to introducing video technology across demographic groups — video use is already widespread across all generations in the workplace. In fact, 75% of all employees now say they interact with video more than three times a day.

This ubiquity of video has already had significant impact on learning possibilities, helping to enhance concepts such as:

  • Micro learning (the need to know now)
  • Macro learning (the need to develop a skill)
  • Continuous learning (the need to learn and get straight back to work)
  • Active learning (the need to involve the learner more deeply in their learning process)


Video at Each Stage of the Employee Learning Journey

Given how mainstream video has become, rather than splitting employees into generational categories, a more effective way of considering how staff engagement could be enhanced by video is actually to consider interventions at key moments along someone’s career path. These can be broken down into four core areas:

  • New entrant onboarding
  • Experienced hire onboarding
  • Career growth and development
  • Knowledge capture and transfer


Video for New Entrant Onboarding

For new entrant onboarding to function at its most effective, it should be collaborative and tech-driven. Collaborative, so that a new cohort of colleagues can form important bonds that will support learning and career growth. Tech-driven because of the sheer amount of new content a first-time employee has to absorb in the initial weeks and months at a company. Without appropriate technology-enhanced resources to allow staff to revisit new concepts or consolidate their knowledge after, say, a training session, retention will be limited.

For learning and development professionals seeking to enhance engagement at this stage, the key is to try and meet learners where they are. Three ways to do this are to:

  • Focus on social learning for enhanced staff interaction and visibility
  • Meet or exceed expectations for search capability, so that resources can be accessed at the time of need
  • Create options for self-directed learning to empower and motivate new staff

How can video help here? Well, when you recall that 75% of staff are accessing video content at least three times a day, one way to engage learners is to accelerate video creation and consumption options for individuals. Giving new entrants access to an on-demand video library can help them navigate their way around video content at a time that suits them and fits in with their other training activities. Enabling them to create their own video content simply and quickly, using whatever equipment they have, can be a great boost for social and blended learning and can really help deliver on the collaborative aspect of new entrant onboarding.

We also know from studies that 65-75% of university students are given video lectures and other recorded materials as part of their learning process. Growing numbers of schools are also encouraging students to record video assignments and presentations, meaning your next generation of recruits is likely to have at least some grads who have experienced video creation as well as video viewing. As many new entrant onboarding programs have a significant number of recent graduates in the cohort, understanding the learning tools with which they are already familiar can be really beneficial in creating appropriate onboarding resources.

Video for Experienced New Hire Onboarding

When considering how to engage effectively with experienced hires, there are clearly some important differences compared to new entrants. Due to their prior experiences in the workplace and more senior level of expertise, a combination of instructor-led learning and self-driven learning is often preferred by this group of employees.

It’s important to respect these individuals’ existing knowledge and expertise, and to find ways to showcase this when appropriate. However, you’ll also need to be attuned to the gaps in their experience. You may find you’ll need to solve for:

  • Variable skills levels due to the diverse prior experiences these hires bring with them.
  • Custom pacing, where different staff may have developed their own approach to absorbing learning materials.
  • Language and cultural barriers in offices where you are spread across different locations and are recruiting senior staff from different nationalities.
  • The need for new active learning and instructional designs that are flexible enough to engage this varied group of learners.

Video can play a part in this process by allowing you to create consistent training materials to plug knowledge gaps, enable staff to absorb material at their own pace (especially in cases where they may be working in a second language) and open up possibilities for new types of learning that scale across remote teams.

Video for Career Growth And Development

The broadest cohort in your organization will be your established workforce, who will be looking for career advancement and professional development on an ongoing basis. They will often need to access learning on the go, alongside their core job activities.

While we know from research that almost every employee is keen to learn and wants to develop professionally, the reality is that in the US, the average employee has just 24 minutes a week for professional development. This poses significant challenges for your L&D team, but these challenges can be overcome.

A common objection to integrating ongoing learning more actively is a lack of time, so L&D teams need to think about how they position the importance of learning to the wider workforce. I think of this positioning exercise in two ways:


This is the all-important answer to the question “what’s in it for me?” When learning is positioned in terms of gain, you can help people see that on-demand, continuous learning can help them close their knowledge gaps and progress in their career. By adding more active learning elements, you can also place the learner more at the center of the experience, so they feel more in control.


Some social or blended learning programs don’t succeed because staff feel that owning and controlling their professional expertise (rather than sharing it with others) gives them an advantage in an internal promotion scenario. Companies that want to truly embed ongoing social learning to support continuous staff development need to communicate that holding onto knowledge is not an advantage and that staff can differentiate themselves in internal promotional scenarios by being seen building subject matter expertise in others. This gives staff a compelling reason to share their insights with colleagues while at the same time they can deepen their own competency through teaching others.

Why is video important in this segment of the career journey? There are a couple of key considerations for this group.

The first is the ability to access learning content on-demand — anytime, anywhere, using any device. Access to timely, accessible insights and information about new products, procedures, or market changes could significantly elevate employee productivity. Multimedia video recordings are perfect for these staff members. Recordings can be accessed either in their entirety, or in bite-sized chunks using inside-video search. They can be viewed whenever the learner is in the environment that works best for them. And from an L&D professional’s perspective, the ability to see which content is most viewed can provide important insights into the training gaps and knowledge needs of your team.

The second is the elevation of your staff members into subject matter experts in particular topics, using video as the medium to share their knowledge. This will aid engagement and job satisfaction with those staff members and ensure that information is shared more broadly with other team members, benefiting the entire organization.

Knowledge Retention And Transfer

At the final stage of the employee journey, there is the group of longstanding employees who have amassed a wealth of institutional knowledge. With this group there are two essentials to consider:

  • If they are planning to retire, how can you retain as much of their deep knowledge as possible? Some research suggests that companies lose up to 30% of their institutional knowledge each year through their most experienced staff leaving, so this is a critical issue at many organizations.
  • If they are planning to stay, how can you help them to spread their expertise more effectively to other team members?

When thinking about how video can help here, one important way to address both of these issues is to enable staff to create knowledge transfer videos. These facilitate three important ways of deepening employee engagement with learning materials:

  • Observation to gain awareness (“this is what a salesperson does”)
  • Demonstration to gain understanding (“this is how to reset a piece of equipment”)
  • Content expertise to gain specialized knowledge (“the nuances of employment classification”)

Video lends itself perfectly to these uses, as much of an established internal expert’s value is in the nuance of how they do something, not just what they do. A recording allows the expert to capture this nuance much more effectively than a written document.

Video And Career Stages

Thinking about those four career stages holistically and tying together common threads that cut across all of them, I conclude with the following three core pieces of advice regardless of which of the four career stage segments your staff fall into:

  • Always focus on the learning objectives and mould the technology use around that
  • Create re-usable content that cuts across these career stage segments for maximum efficiency
  • Inject as much flexibility as possible in terms of how the learner can both consume and create recorded content

By doing these things, and by making video part of an active learning approach, you will be able to greatly enhance staff engagement with learning resources, regardless of their generational segment or career stage.