According to a Pew Research Center study of U.S. Census Bureau data, “More than one-in-three American labor force participants (35%) are millennials, making them the largest generation in the U.S. labor force.”
Millennials, born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, have several unique traits as a generation. They are known for being digital natives, early adopters of new technology, and more educated than previous generations. Their career development may be slower than that of predecessors, partly caused by the fact that previous generations are now staying in the workforce longer.
Learning and development professionals must meet millennials’ expectations in order to recruit and retain them in the workforce, as another millennial tendency is to change jobs more frequently than other generations. The following five strategies will help you effectively engage and train millennials by appealing to their generational wishes and sensibilities.
1. Provide real opportunities to learn and grow
Millennials in the workforce tend to be highly motivated and are hungry for opportunity. Their education has helped them learn to research and to find answers quickly, but their age correlates to a lack of the first-hand knowledge that comes with a lengthy career.
Seek out opportunities for your millennial employees to get involved in large projects, to make consequential decisions, and yes, even opportunities for them to fail. Encourage them to shift their mindsets to embrace failure, and to reflect on what John C. Maxwell refers to as “failing forward,” the idea that setbacks can offer tremendous personal and professional growth that easy tasks can’t match.
As a learning and development practitioner, create opportunities for real on-the-job learning for your employees, in addition to traditional offerings. Consider implementing job shadowing and stretch assignments to give your millennial employees the hands-on experiences they crave.
2. Give meaningful and frequent feedback
Millennials are social creatures, but their general inexperience means they don’t have large networks to help them navigate job searches, workplace politics, or to serve as a sounding board for their ideas. Create opportunities for your more inexperienced workers to learn from their more seasoned colleagues, which may also improve relationships and productivity across the organization.
In addition to workplace coaching and mentoring programs, seek out opportunities to provide feedback to your employees. Helpful feedback guides employees in replaying, retrying, and rethinking their approaches when they aren’t successful. Feedback can be provided in person, during formal learning exercises, and may even be provided virtually during eLearning courses and online assessments.
3. Provide opportunities for social learning
In addition to learning from their seniors, millennials also enjoy learning from each other. This generation is accustomed to group projects in school, which was excellent preparation for the teamwork that is now expected of them on the job. Incorporate role-play in your training programs, because millennials love to learn by doing and learning alongside their peers.
Create opportunities for millennials to work and learn together, whether in person or virtually, such as with discussion boards, chat rooms, peer coaching, and more, to encourage teamwork and relationship building. Encourage each person to reflect on their experiences and examine how both their individual strengths and that of the team contributed to the final outcome.
4. Allow for work-life balance
We’ve already mentioned how millennials tend to job hop more than prior generations. Outside of work, they are often preoccupied with dating, raising children, caring for their aging parents, purchasing their first homes, and even working second jobs to help pay down debt. Millennials’ attention spans are sometimes short because they have to juggle so much at any given time!
When they can’t see what’s in it for them, chances are they’ll disengage and seek opportunities elsewhere. Help them prioritize their learning and development by implementing strategies that work for them. Whether you create online courses that they can complete asynchronously at their leisure, microlearning that satisfies their moments of need, or even training programs they can test out of when they already meet the competencies, giving millennials engaging and effective training is critical to maintaining their attention and meeting their needs as workers.
5. Use online, self-paced eLearning
We mentioned this above, but it’s worth mentioning again: online, self-paced training speaks to millennials in a way that traditional lectures and textbooks simply don’t. Effective online course design incorporates engaging interactions, multimedia, quizzes, and assessments that provide constructive feedback and are fun and safe-to-fail ways for learners to gain and practice new skills.
With today’s learning technologies, you can create courses in minutes using prebuilt interactions and templates, with no special training or knowledge of coding required. Creating an online course to meet your employees’ needs is as simple as creating a PowerPoint slide deck, but so much more effective when you consider the opportunities an online course presents to allow your learners to explore and experience the content when it suits them.
To Sum Up
The sheer number of millennials in the workplace today is impacting modern business practices, right down to how we recruit, train, and retain employees. Millennials arrive at work with their personal devices in hand and seek opportunities to learn and grow alongside their peers. They may struggle with competing demands at home and outside of work and thus appreciate being able to tap into learning opportunities in formats and at times that are most convenient for them. Blended approaches utilizing multimedia, online learning, and experiential learning allow millennials to develop new skills while receiving constructive feedback.
Create an empowering learning and development culture in your organization by meeting the needs of your millennials!