By 2015, more than 50% of all employees worldwide will be born after 1980. By 2025, this number is set to grow to 75%. The millennial generation has been the subject of both criticism and praise, with the same personality traits observed in different lights to paint two very different pictures. Where some see “entitlement”, others see “healthy self-confidence”, among other traits with opposing interpretations. What is undeniable is that millennials are the future of the workforce.
Why do millennials need to be trained differently?
Millennials demonstrate significantly different professional values than senior generations. This makes it all the more important to train them differently. For instance, when asked about workplace priorities, Millennials say they value learning opportunities just as much as salary.
According to Deloitte’s January 24 survey “Big Demands and High Expectations”, Millennials, who are already emerging as leaders in technology and other industries, want to work for organizations that foster innovative thinking, develop their skills, and make a positive contribution to society. Millennials also don’t expect to spend a long time in one job. They take life as it comes and doesn’t see a need to stay in one job forever.
The study also reveals that millennials believe businesses are not currently doing as much as they could to develop their leadership skills and that they need to nurture their future leaders, especially as they cannot count on them biding their time until senior positions arise.
This means that there are big organizational shifts coming as the millennial workforce grows. Everything from engagement, motivation, recruiting, and retention efforts will need to be rethought.
Developing a strong millennial training program can make a world of difference for organizations that want to attract and retain Millennial employees. Forward-thinking organizations will have a sub-strategy to reach millennials, different than boomer or generation X strategies. Six things to do to launch a millennial-friendly training program:
1) Set and communicate the purpose of your training content
You should be able to answer these two questions with every program that you develop: Why should they do this training?
Context is critical for millennials. They need to understand the purpose of each training module, in terms of how the skills learned will help them progress in their career and contribute to the company’s goals. In training, for example, explaining the context (answering the “why question”) is really important for millennial engagement. Don’t just throw a course in an online learning platform and say: “you need to take this.” Providing context is very critical. If millennials can find a purpose, they are willing to invest in it. If they are interested in engaging and contributing, they will give feedback proactively.
What will they get out of it?
Millennials want to know exactly what they will be learning, how the training will be delivered, how they will be assessed on this knowledge, and how this relates to their job or helping them do better in their respective roles. Provide clarity on these expectations up front and allow them to ask questions throughout the training program.
2) Draw your millennial audience in with an effective pull
What do we mean by “pull”? We mean that you should think and design content like a content marketer. Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract or “pull” a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action. In this case, your customers are your millennial trainees.
“Because of their consumption patterns and willingness to share content regardless of its origins, content marketing is an especially effective way to reach millennials, but it has to be done right.” – Lauren Weinberg, VP of Insights at Yahoo
Incorporating a strong content marketing focus for your training program will foster millennial engagement. This graphic from a 2013 Yahoo Entertainment study shows four key desires for what millennials expect out of content to immerse in content.
This graphic from a 2013 Yahoo Entertainment study shows four key desires for what millennials expect out of content to immerse in content.
Use the driving principles behind these statistics to guide your course content plan. Try to bring in elements from all four desire points. The bottom line here is that your content must command attention. Think about what you would provide to a perpetually distracted individual down to the last detail.
Next, it pays to describe your course details in a compelling way to position your program in the best possible light from the very start. Here are a few elements you should consider investing in to WOW your Millennial trainees:
- Invitation Email: Learners first come to know about a course through an invitation email. The invitation email consists of course name, description, and thumbnail. If these (explained below) are done properly, you will have a great invitation email.
- Course name: Course name alone can have a significant impact on participation. It should be short, clear, self-explanatory, and if possible exciting.
- Description: The description should clearly state the purpose and the benefits of the course. It may also give a fair idea of what to expect in the course. Write the description keeping the target learners in mind.
- Thumbnail: A relevant and expressive thumbnail could communicate the purpose of the course and make it appear more alive and easier to relate to.
3) Invest in delivering flexible and well-structured training content
Millennials have never known an educational environment that was not subject to constant and consistently changing technology. Using technology is like breathing air to Millennials – it just comes naturally. Technology brings flexibility to learning programs. The ability to be flexible with when and where they do their work allows Millennials to make more room for family and personal pursuits, aspects which they hold in high regard. For this reason, 45% of Millennials will choose a workplace with more flexibility over one with higher pay.
It is a no-brainer to use technology to offer flexibility and structure in your Millennial training program. The good news? Applying these tips and delivering with technology will make your training program more effective for everyone — not just Millennials:
- Harness technology to drive engagement. Weave in opportunities for technology throughout your training. For instance, use social media to have groups share the results of a small-group discussion.
- Structure the course into meaningful topics. The topics should communicate the scope of the course and also make progressing through the course intuitive and meaningful.
- Use an appropriate theme to create a learning environment which will make it more engaging for the learner
- Break down content into bite-sized information. Videos and screencasts must not exceed 3 minutes. PPTs and PDFs must not exceed 9 slides.
- Do not make a single course longer than 60 mins. If there is a lot of content, make multiple courses. Videos work great for explaining concepts and processes. PPTs can be very effective for stating principles and facts. Consider providing links and additional online resources that learners can access during training if they want to learn more.
4) Use periodic quizzes to evaluate progress – “Test to teach”
80% of Millennials said they want to receive regular feedback from their managers. They don’t want to have to wait for their mid-year review, preferring to receive bite-size feedback more often. They want to have clarity on how they’re doing day-by-day, seeing performance management as an ongoing journey, vs. a one-off event.
Deliver on this by using a “test to teach” methodology for more effective learning. Test to teach is all about using periodic quizzes during the program to enhance student learning and adjust instruction during the program.
With quizzes to furnish learners with immediate feedback, you can quickly determine the status of each learner in relation to organizational goals, and learners can get more out of the discussions that follow the quizzes. You can also use the results of the quizzes to adjust the training program! You can see how periodic quizzes make learning more active, engaging, and purposeful – very important factors in keeping Millennials motivated.
5) Use gamification to encourage progress
Research shows that Millennials want to feel like they’ve used their smarts and resources to “level up”, hack the system, or find cheat codes, trap doors, and back stairs to the next level. Part of the “intrinsic” reward of gaming (the pleasure of playing versus the end reward) is a sense of efficacy and smartness. It makes sense to leverage this mentality into your training program.
To begin, spread earning rewards and badges so that they are quick to achieve early in your course but become more challenging later. In addition, certificates prove to be very compelling. You can incentivize performance in courses by giving real rewards to top performers. Finally, seek learner feedback in the form of short surveys at regular intervals.
6) Send automated reminder messages to facilitate course completion
According to the Harvard Business Review, a virtual addiction to constant feedback is a quintessential Millennial trait, as they love to know where they stand on the figurative leaderboard of life. Millennials are accustomed to feedback from parent and teachers, as well as public kudos in video games and Facebook posts. Tap into this feedback mindset with automated reminder emails. Automated reminder emails are a great way to remind trainees to start and complete your course. For example, you can communicate leaderboard status through weekly announcements. Vary your messages and communication event triggers to create excitement among Millennial employees and encourage non-starters to complete the course. These weekly announcements can also summarize the participation and completion levels as a social proof to further encourage your non-starters to complete the course.
A training program that incorporates the items outlined above will go far in educating and retaining your Millennial workforce. Know the 10 Millennial personality traits that you can’t ignore and apply these practices to your training programs and transform your organization into a place where millennial workers thrive! If you deliver lessons in a way that resonates with how they learn – you just might find they’re not “unretainable” after all!
If you have a Millennial workforce, let us know! We’d love to understand what practices have you found to be most successful?