An Eye on Gen Y: Designing Effective Training & Development for Millennials

August 10, 2016

Born between 1982 and 2000, Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are inundating the workplace, currently making up nearly half of the workforce and continuing to grow. With Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964) retiring, and Generation X (born early 1960s to 1980) only large enough to fill half the vacancies as they occur, Millennials will be facing promotion opportunities much earlier in their careers. As a result, these employees will also require more focus on training and development to ensure a seamless transition into these new roles.

Larger than both the Baby Boomer and Generation X groups, and highly immersed in the world of technology, this Millennial demographic segment demands a progressive and comprehensive learning landscape. Furthermore, Millennial employees are highly collaborative, maintain relatively short attention spans, and are typically most comfortable learning through online resources.

Today’s young adults in the workplace are prioritizing growth and development opportunities over top salaries and the corner office, and they learn best in significantly different environments from those historically used by even the most successful organizations.

While formal training remains important, traditional methods of training are becoming less and less effective. When flooded with too much information, attention is lost and content is quickly forgotten. Millennials prefer quick access to small bits of information that is easily understood, significantly improving the likelihood of retention. The following are some of the leading trends being leveraged today to drive learning and development of the Millennial workforce:

Collaborative Education

Whether facilitated in person or online, learning in a group environment supports excellent group discussion and helps build strong relationships between peers. Keeping colleagues connected supports the development of communication, problem-solving and negotiation skills while also requiring employees to come together effectively, managing individual parts of a problem to develop one single solution. Further optimize attendee engagement in training sessions through group exercises, such as brainstorming sessions and simulations. In online environments, discussion forums are one of the best ways for individuals to learn through collaboration. Discussion threads can be organized with pre-determined “tags” attached to keep topics well managed while avoiding repetition and ensuring ease of searching.

Online Platforms

Raised in a world dominated by technology, Millennials have spent their entire lives watching the Internet and its capabilities advance rapidly. From the early days of educational computer games to advanced online learning resources and social networks that we rely heavily on today, Millennials have been raised learning with web-based resources. Through the implementation of a Learning Management System (LMS), which are typically far more advanced and much less expensive than they have been historically, companies today can obtain complete visibility around training efforts for their employees. Not only do these LMSs permit employees to conduct training at a time that best suits their schedule, it supports complete mobility for those who travel, or for multi-sited teams. For businesses such as Trindent with consultants on the road up to 80% of the time, opportunities to optimize their time spent in airports, airplanes and taxis is largely appealing. Additionally, these systems often provide instant feedback to both the employee and their managers, and provide the tools required to track completion and performance of the learning modules. As companies grow in size, the ability to provide autonomous learning environments will become increasingly important. As staff sizes become larger, skill levels and learning styles become more diverse, requiring employees to receive training on different topics and in different formats. From short videos and PowerPoint presentations to quizzes and discussion boards, companies can leverage a wide variety of mediums to maintain the typically short attention spans of their Gen Y employees. Through online learning platforms with the support of their manager(s), employees can self-manage their training and development.

Gamification

Gamification can be defined as the use of game design elements in non-game contexts. Less than two months ago, if you asked a Millennial when they last thought of Pokémon, their response likely would have been something to the effect of, “wow, I can’t even remember… forever ago!”. Overnight, Nintendo rose from the dead and Pokémon Go became the latest Internet craze. In under 24 hours, Millennials were graced with perhaps the most significant comeback the generation has ever seen. Today’s young adults in the workforce have grown up attached to video and computer games. For Millennials, gamification in training and development could completely change the way these employees view corporate T&D initiatives, which have traditionally been in a formal setting and somewhat lacking in “fun” factor. Not only do Gen Yers like to be incentivized and rewarded, they have also grown up battling for spots at the top universities, on the best sports teams and in the most exclusive clubs, giving them a strong appreciation for healthy competition. To maximize participation, engagement and retention, training and development initiatives should look to include elements such as points, ranking systems, individual and team challenges, leaderboards and awards.

Mentorship, Coaching & Frequent Feedback

To further intensify the existing Millennial need for both regular praise and constructive criticism, this generation of the workforce will be offered more senior roles earlier on in their careers and with less experience than the past generation, requiring a greater commitment from management to provide ongoing mentorship and coaching to their teams. Additionally, Millennials are prioritizing growth and development opportunities over top salaries and comprehensive benefits packages, making it increasingly important for senior employees to supplement learning initiatives with frequent feedback. When it comes to careers, Millennials are seeking every chance to be challenged, requesting formal training and practical experience paired with mentorship and guidance to heighten success. Furthermore, with infinite amounts of information available today, Millennial employees are accustomed to ongoing communication through various channels, whether it be in person, by email, over the phone or through video conferencing – if two-way communication is encouraged in the workplace, companies will experience a rapid incline in the engagement levels of their Gen Yers.

This blog was written by Mercedes Prevost. She is the Training and Development Consultant at Trindent Consulting. Mercedes develops and oversees organizational onboarding and training programs, creates and delivers ongoing employee career development modules, identifies internal and external training needs and delivers on-site training to close knowledge and/or skills gaps for the firm.

Resources:

http://www.sweetrush.com/tips-for-training-millennials/

https://www.td.org/Publications/Magazines/TD/TD-Archive/2016/06/Designing-Learning-for-Millennials