Training Millennials in the Workplace

In an earlier post, I had discussed the emerging trends in corporate learning. The rapid growth of technology and advances in learning methods along with the growing numbers of Millennials in the corporate workplace has been responsible for this.

In this post I will talk about the characteristics of the Millennials which calls for a new age training platform which utilizes digital technology and transformative principles in the training space.

Today, 40% of the workforce and most average companies are millennials, and this can go upto as high as 80% depending on the type of company they work for.

A millennial is one who is born between 1980 and 2000.

They come after the Gen-X and the Baby Boomers. Most Baby Boomers are in the retirement phase and the Gen-X will step in to take their place. The Millennials will be followed by the Gen-Z and so on. The younger workforce is only going to keep growing in number. And the training methods being used yesterday in the corporate workplace need to be thrown out the window – they are just not relevant anymore! And soon the people who trained using those methods will not be relevant anymore.

Millennials spend on an average 6.5 hours a day engaging with electronic media, listening to music, viewing, creating and publishing internet content, playing mobile games, and using community and messaging apps.We need to understand what characterizes Millennials, as this is what forms the basis for designing learning platforms for them.

They like to be in control. They do not want to be bound by traditional schedules, and they do not necessarily want to sit in an office to work or in a classroom for a training session. Instead, they prefer to use technology to work and study at any time of the day or night, and communicate from anywhere in the world and define “balance” in their own individual ways.

They like choice. When they are in a project-based environment, they will use technology to complete tasks in new and creative ways. Their need for alternative methods to complete tasks presents challenges in measurements of productivity using traditional methods.

They are group-oriented and social. Millennials constantly network socially. In person, they travel in packs, shop and play together. Online, they seek opportunities to identify with other individuals on a smaller scale, join communities and associate with peers around the world. They are highly collaborative; sharing what they learn with others and constantly creating and building their own personal identities.

They are the first to be surrounded by digital media which has always been part of their lives, and because of this access, they naturally gravitate to it. They expect it to support their learning and do what they need it to do. They can perform more functions with mobile phones, handheld devices and other wireless equipment than they can with traditional computers.

They think differently. Technology itself is not amazing to Millennials, they do not marvel at it. They simply accept technology, adapt to it and use it. If they need to find some information, they simply “google” it. What Google is and how it works does not concern them, they simply use the tool to find the information they need.

All of the above is very different from the generations that came before them. And that is why the learning methods used earlier are not relevant anymore. The new trainer methods are learner centered, involve collaborative work, provide for active participation vs passive consumption, have different kinds of content which can be easily consumed, encourage critical thinking, and can be delivered anytime, anywhere and on any device.

Mobile learning which is characterized by anytime, anywhere access, has short lesson sizes, provides online collaboration and instant feedback, works very well for the Millennials as they are so engaged in social media. That is also why such platforms can be used to give learning the collaborative aspect that is so important to this generation. The social engagement of receiving feedback, participating in polls, starting discussions is as important as the training itself. This provides a one-stop-shop for social and collaborative learning where individuals can access information, expert advice, and mentorship online, as well as network virtually and share experiences and insights in real-time.

Micro learning is any brief and targeted learning module that spans between 3 to 6 minutes. These modules can be accessed at any time and by anyone who is interested. They have very specific learning outcomes and can on mobile devices. Micro learning works very well for learners who either immediately need some information in order to get a task done or just a refresher on already learned information. Also, the need for instant gratification which millennials have is satisfied by this approach to learning.

Motivating millennials to learn is quite hard if the training is going to test their patience. Although they have a desire to learn and grow at a rapid pace, they need to be motivated to consume the relevant training. Gamification is an excellent motivational tool for participants, as it challenges them to achieve the learning objectives. This is not to say that the learning modules are turned into a game, only that the mechanics of games are employed in order to encourage participation and involvement in the training programs. Competition is an important component and the use of contests, quizzes and leaderboards greatly increase learner engagement and motivates them to achieve the goals set for them.

The millennial professionals want to consume information at their own pace with content delivered in manageable chunks. A learning platform can support this integrated, adaptive learning approach allowing learners to personalize their learning, fill in knowledge gaps as they see fit, access various learning paths and content, and move through course content at their own pace.

In summary, considering the characteristics of the Millennial in the workplace, a relevant training approach is the use of a next-generation learning platform to facilitate mobile learning, social learning, micro learning and just-in-time learning with strategic content creation and curation, with gamification built in. This will ensure that today’s Millennial professionals will accumulate knowledge, stay abreast of industry change, and remain in synch with fast-moving industry best practices.