The generation gap between baby boomers (including births between 1946 and 1964, according to the team at DevelopIntelligence) and millennials (including births between 1982 and 2000 and also known as Gen-Y) looms large, especially in the workplace. In the first three months of 2015, the Pew Research Center reported that 53.5 million millennials were in the workforce. In 2014, the number of millennials in the labor force passed that of baby boomers, who are beginning to retire. In fact, millions of them have already retired, putting downward pressure on the total labor force participation rate, notes Business Insider’s Matthew Boesler.
One example of the differences between baby boomers and millennials at work is that millennials are used to working on teams in organizations with flat management structures, according to Jay Gilbert of IveyBusinessJournal.com. Work-life balance is very important to them, and they are confident in themselves. They are well-educated, have energy, are up on the latest technology, and like challenges. However, they are also seen as being difficult to have in the office because they like social interaction, working for social justice, getting more regular feedback on their performance than a single evaluation every six months, and they like to be promoted fast.
Training millennial workers requires a new approach to educating them how to do their jobs. The rise of computing and communications technology in recent decades has changed how organizations train their workers. Technology plays a particularly important role in training millennials who have grown up with the Internet from its infancy. They are active daily users of all forms of technology, so it makes sense to employ technology to engage millennial workers in training. A Gen-Yer wrote on eLearningIndustry.com that “we can naturally pick up new facets of technology as quickly as they are developed, we can learn and transmit information at a rapid pace, and we are excellent multitaskers.”
Nilly Essaides, writing for the Association for Financial Professio..., quotes Bob Stark, Vice President of Strategy at Kyriba as saying that millennial workers have “’an expectation that things will change. . .The newcomers. . .expect things not to stay the same. They come up with a lot of questions and are engaged in education and training. They ask not just what we the product does but how it can help them do their jobs better.’” Millennials want to learn the latest in technology to allow them to do their jobs well, so companies that also embrace new technologies, like cloud computing, can provide them with training to use the software, device, app, or other tool, and millennials can apply it to their daily work experience right away.
Shorter Training Sessions
Millennials don’t have the attention span that previous generations might have had (Multi-day trainings in a classroom with fluorescent lights, anyone?). Clint Boulton of CIO.com writes that Purdue Pharma Chief Information Officer Larry Pickett said that an employee of his who worked in IT suggested providing trainings in 10-minute lessons once a month about one of this trainings that lasted two days.
Chelsea Hill of TrainingIndustry.com wrote that “We (Gen-Y) are used to the feeling of instant gratification. Being the children of the Internet, we are accustomed to receiving information quickly. If we do not get those instant results chances are we are not going to bother looking anymore. We want what we want when we want it.” However, she goes on to note that
Gen Yers are quick studies, mostly due to the continuously changing technology in our world, we had to learn quickly or risk being left behind. The ability to sort through information can be a downfall though because if we don't think information is going to apply to us or our job then you are going to lose our attention. In order to avoid this problem, customizing training very specifically for ones [sic] job is exceedingly important.
Bob Stark of Kyriba said, according to Essaides, that
working with both millennials on his team and those on his clients’ teams, he found that this younger generation has a different learning style. . .That learning style has changed the way the software firm has approached its implementation projects. ‘We teach briefly, allow for application, and then teach again. . .We break the project to little pieces.’
Pickett’s employee’s idea is also seen in short online training modules and videos that provide specific information on a training topic that millennials can access quickly to get the information they need rapidly. This satisfies the just-in-time characteristic of millennials. They want to learn, but they don’t want to have their time wasted. These short training modules and videos also speak to the need of people – not just millennials – to digest small amounts of information at a time. This gives them the time they need to try to apply a specific skill on the job instead of feeling overwhelmed by a lot of information presented to them at a training.
Employees don’t just go to the office anymore. Work is something you do, says AJ Agrawal of Forbes.com. Millennials want to be able to work anywhere at any time. The world is increasingly interconnected, and on-demand access to the information we need is important. Training for millennials needs to reflect this trend, and organizations are listening. They are creating training programs that all workers can access on their own terms.
Training that can happen on a smartphone, laptop, tablet and any other device is critical to today’s incredibly mobile workforce. This doesn’t just mean emailing out a PowerPoint presentation with information supervisors want to convey to employees. It’s completely rethinking how trainings are formulated, structured, and presented, down to the type of training content offered. Videos, interactive games and simulations, and other types of content that can be delivered on a variety of devices are the way trainings are moving. ESPN, the sports network, Hill notes, has a staff that is about 70 percent millennials, and the company created a training model with Adobe Captivate 3 and Quia Web that employees can log in to from their phones to work on their trainings when they have the time. The company also gave employees PDAs to access their trainings as well.
Millennials’ use and embracing of technology is such that they want interactive training content. They don’t want to read through pages of a manual in a Word document. If they wanted to do that or to read 50 slides of a PowerPoint, they would have just picked up the actual manual and read it. Interactive content is essential in the training of millennials in the workplace.
Some of the types of interactive trainings organizations use include activities as simple as simulation exercises or branching scenarios. In the latter, employees can make a decision in a case study-like situation that reflects a situation they would likely face at work. They then have to deal with the consequences of their decisions. There are also role playing systems that not only allow users to learn through realistic problems they might face at work, but they also enable them to work with other users. They learn from making mistakes in a relevant, work-related situation. Additionally, companies are using virtual worlds and 3D experiences to make training more relevant and learner-centered, says Hill of TrainingIndustry.com.
Millennials are heavy users of Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and other similar sites. When a company puts up a training video on Facebook or YouTube, Hill says, “seems less formal and more enjoyable to Generation Y learners.” A 2015 University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth study found that 93 percent of the Inc. 500 companies (privately-owned, US, independent companies that are the fastest-growing in the country) use LinkedIn, and 82 percent have a Facebook account. Seventy-nine percent of these companies used Twitter.
Online training content is essential in training millennial workers. eLearning is what works with this generation because they have used technology since childhood, and they change with it as quickly as it evolves. Millennial employees use online content all the time to learn new skills, perhaps that relate to their hobbies or to do a complex DIY project. They probably have used it at school or work in the past as well. Teachers who post homework online and who expect it to be uploaded to be turned in, links to external resources on a teacher’s website, entire college courses online, distance education via the Internet for homeschoolers. . .The list goes on. Millennials know how to use eLearning tools. It behooves employers to use eLearning as a major component of their overall training program if they want to engage and retain millennial workers.
The benefits of eLearning include being able to access it anywhere and at any time as discussed previously, learning efficiently without having to stop regular work and thus decrease productivity, and millennials are simply just comfortable with the technology. If a company can use the latest technology, it sends a signal to workers that they can change and adapt to the workforce, which makes it a positive place to work. eLearning tells potential and current employees that the company respects millennials and what they have to offer. This, in turn, can make employees feel more loyal and more fulfilled, which can lead to greater productivity.
Video Content Management
Agrawal goes on to note that businesses will continue to increase their use of videos for training. How-to videos and remote diagnostic help for field techs are on the rise, and so are video file sizes and the number of videos. Millennials want to search for just what they need in the moment, and technology has to provide stable streaming of video on any device. As a result, video content management systems are becoming more and more common among an organization’s training tools.
Remember the days when you would have to sit in the training room with a manual and a badly-produced video of how to do your new job on your first day? If you’re a millennial, you probably have never had to watch a video tape on a VCR that describes your new career or read a manual that is a few hundred pages long. If this is you, count your blessings, says the PlayerLync blog. (PlayerLync is a mobile content management company.) Training can now be done on a tablet or iPad. The tablet or iPad can go with you wherever you are. Employees can train while they wait to board a plane at the airport, in the car before they go to a meeting with a prospective client. This form of technology empowers them to learn when and where they want. They don’t have to take a day away from their jobs to do their training. They can avoid traveling for a training, as well. Additionally, since the trainings are available at any time on any day, they can review material or quickly look it up in the moment they need it. It’s a kind of just-in-time training. An added benefit of tablet-based training programs are that they can send a message to their managers directly from the tablet or iPad if they have a question about something in the training.
Millennial employees are a new breed. That much is obvious. Organizations that take the time to understand this generation of workers will reap the benefits of structuring training programs to meet their expectations. They are entering management roles now, and they will eventually be in charge of the organizations they work for now, if they are not already. Technology has shaped their lives, and for an organization to attract and retain top talent, it has to project to millennial applicants and employees that it respects them, their priorities and characteristics, and that it wants them to succeed in their jobs by giving them tools to learn that are relevant and impactful.