Training that Works for Millennials

As we begin 2017, engaging and retaining talent continues to be one of the key challenges confronting American companies. According to a recent Pew summary of the US Census figures, millennials, the generation born between 1981 and 1997, comprise the largest generation in the American labor force. Millennials or Gen Y will comprise a significant chunk of the future workforce as well.

Replacing workers frequently is expensive, hampers day-to-day operations and can slow business growth. In order to retain talent, companies need to know what drives millennials.

What do we know about millennials that can help Learning and Development professionals direct training, engagement and retention strategies ? Having come of age in a rapidly-changing environment replete with computers, video games and mobile gadgets, they are very digitally savvy. They constantly consume and create content and are in on the latest apps and devices. They view rapid technological change as an opportunity to learn and grow. Well aware that change is constant and disruptive, the importance of continuous learning and adaptability is not lost on them.  

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers report that the top perk millennials value when sizing up potential employers is training and development. They’re a generation in a hurry to succeed and understand that relevance and success at work hinges on continual learning.

Making training effective

Millennials want training that they can apply at work and that will further career advancement over the long term.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, John Younger quotes Patty Woolcock, the executive director of California Strategic HR Partnership, who concludes that, “The future of learning is three ‘justs’: just enough, just-in-time, and just-for-me.”

Accordingly, learning programs for millennials need to take the following into account:

Leverage technology

Gen Y and technology seem to be inseparable. Technology just makes everything easier for them. Therefore, companies need to make training available online and provide employees with an up-to-date online library that they can access anytime.

Training must be available on laptops, tablets and smartphones to enable learning wherever they are.

Brief, relevant how-to videos integrated with work processes offer easily accessible training that can be applied simultaneously.

Millennials tend to respond enthusiastically to training content that incorporates gamification because they value interaction and ongoing feedback.

Be administered in small doses

Lectures, lengthy videos and other long training formats are unlikely to excite people who communicate in texts and tweets. Training needs to be delivered in small doses as and when required. This not only enables employees to learn and perform better, it also helps them retain knowledge.  

Be personalized

Unrelated training amounts to a waste of time and resources. Training content should be designed according to the skills employees need in their current functions. Millennials are interested in training that they can apply in their day-to-day work. They’re likely to be more receptive to training that is integrated with work and enables them to learn and work simultaneously.

Incorporate interactive elements

Millennials value interaction with peers because they learn from each other and get to see how they measure up in relation to others. Training interspersed with teamwork enables them to develop productive professional relationships that contribute to business growth while scores, leaderboards, prizes and the like appeal to their desire for career development and keep them engaged.    

Provide mentoring and coaching

Millennials want to progress fast. They value regular feedback about how they’re doing. Being in touch with them during the training program, reviewing their scores and offering guidance when required are important. Incorporating gamification in your training program offers employees the advantage of knowing how they’re doing and which skills they need to work on.

Emphasize your company’s social objectives

Training for millennials works better when they know their company doesn’t exist for profit alone. It’s not that millennials alone are socially conscious; others are too and have been participating in community development projects for years. However, research indicates that millennials value work that furthers a cause, so they prefer working for companies that demonstrate social responsibility. They want to know how their employer’s business contributes to the greater social good.

Include soft and hard skills

Millennials like to be in charge of their development and their careers. They typically value leadership training. Along with technical, customer service and sales training, companies need to help their employees develop leadership, communication and relationship skills.

Ultimately, it’s essential to know your training objectives, your employees, what they do, need and desire, and to make learning interesting and useful. Content and delivery need to match the audience. Given the opportunity to keep learning and growing, millennials are less likely to change jobs often. 

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