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“I'm always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.”
Winston Churchill’s quote could serve well to define the millennial generation of today. Born between 1980 and 2000, the millennials have grown up in a time of rapid change. With this generation now filling up the rosters of most organisations, it’s evident that the old tried-and-tested methods won’t work for them. So what are the learning and development (L&D) systems required to cultivate this generation? These digital natives have great expectations of everything they are associated with, especially their workplace and the training programs available to them. It’s therefore important for organisations to take the millennials’ traits into consideration when developing any L&D modules that target these young adults.
Identifying and understanding the most impactful methods to teach the millennial generation effectively, helps instructional designers to create effective training programs for a knowledgeable and productive workforce. It is important to understand this issue across three dimensions: What are the learning characteristics of the millennial generation? What are the preferred L&D programs for them? And what are the implications of such programs on the overall organisation?
Learning characteristics of the millennial generation Millennials are characterised by their ability to multitask and focus on achievement. It’s a tech-savvy generation that seeks attention and feedback, and any L&D program therefore should be framed keeping this in mind.
a) Identification with holistic and targeted programs
Millennials enjoy teamwork. They prefer to learn on their own terms and at a pace that best suits them. This generation is very comfortable with technology and are known to prefer activities that allow for creativity. Their high confidence level motivates them to look for new ways to approach work-related issues. Their workplace training preferences are focused on collaboration, motivation, and feedback. Their short attention span but tech-savvy nature calls for training modules that measurably develops their talent.
b) Detachment from traditional training methods
Being active learners, millennials prefer their learning activity to reduce lecture-style formats. They do not identify with old training and teaching methods, and are less willing to internalise material of the traditional classroom. This generation likes new L&D styles that include externship, role play, and empirical modules. Alternate learning programs that test their multi-tasking skills and innovation contribute to the millennial generation’s learning.
c) Preference to self-involvement in learning
The new L&D framework should get millennials involved through choices, by providing cooperative opportunities that would allow them to create their own learning methods and modules. This is similar to a form of active involvement and self-tailoring of course curriculum or activities. Millennials are said to have the most ingenuity in creating short chunks of information that they love to share and learn from. These techniques are entirely different from the passive learning methods that are now ineffective and incompatible with this generation.
Learning & Development programs for millennials
Digitally well-informed, millennials find traditional training methods like classroom learning uninteresting. They identify with and relate to focused, targeted, and practical programs that impart the best of technology and skill development.
a) Microlearning against detailed programs
Microlearning is a method of imparting coaching through small, effective units, with learners knowing what and when they're learning. It requires very less time, averaging about 1-10 minutes per lesson. This form of training is done through digital devices like mobile phones and tablets, with the format focusing on gamification techniques as well as podcasts, quizzes, simulations, or slideshows. It’s the best method for millennials to develop professional skills and stay up-to-date with the latest technology. Since it’s usually digital, one can learn anytime, anywhere.
b) Technology-based learning
Organisations should develop technology-based L&D activities that include computer-based activities, presentations, course websites, Web exchanges, games, etc. Such learning techniques align well with the millennial mindset of multi-tasking and teamwork. Such activities also seek attention and feedback. Being a generation that has barely known a world without digital devices, it’s difficult to wean them off technology. Digital devices are most helpful to trainers and instructors who assign technology-related tasks or those who are comfortable with it themselves.
c) Workplace support and on-job training
Millennials value teamwork and collaboration for effective results. They want feedback and attention, for which many organisations have created a mentor-trainee relationship as part of L&D to help millennials receive feedback and learn. On-the-job training allows millennials to learn from experienced employees and fits in with their active learning style for effective knowledge transfer. Activity-based learning with technical orientation is very important. Training should also include variety and flexibility, such as special projects or responsibilities that assign millennials with a sense of autonomy and empowerment.
Implications of effective L&D Program for organisational climate
Organisations know that not having effective L&D programs that address millennial requirements will result in huge loss in terms of skill or attrition. Without effective knowledge transfer, training modules don’t progress well from classroom to workplace. Let’s go into the detail of how modernized L&D programs help.
a) Helps reduce attrition
Companies that wish to reduce attrition and employee churn should consider training from the perspective of the millennial generation. If millennial training characteristics are ignored, organisations run the risk of failing to effectively transfer knowledge to trainees. Like it or not, this is a generation short on loyalty. Understanding their learning needs is paramount to the successful completion of organisational objectives. This is especially important because when millennials feel valued and appreciated, companies receive loyal and enthusiastic workers.
b) Improves organisational culture
Today’s organisations have four generations of workers – the silent generation, baby boomers, the Gen X, and the millennials. This provides a sense of balance to workplaces. The loss of any one group can impact organisational climate, as well as future growth and development of organisations. Given millennials’ finicky nature, not having a millennial-preferred training design may result in them giving you the boot. A robust L&D framework effectively reframes the way an organisation’s human resource strategy is conducted because it means adopting a holistic approach for development of all employees.
c) Modernises company structure
Effective L&D programs are best achieved by harnessing of technology, especially digital devices. This is known to have resulted in a general overhaul of organisational structure, with technology infusion ranking very high in tasks unrelated to training programs. In fact, the millennial presence has changed the way the organisation interacts with them. For example, with millennials forming a major part of the workforce, organisations focus on employee development rather than performance assessment. In short, the conceptual model for developing a differentiated HR approach is now based on millennial preferences.
Creating the right L&D programs for the best workplace
Any L&D strategy should aim to develop the capabilities and skills of the workforce to create a sustainable and successful organisation. It is important for a company’s overall business strategy. Businesses spend hundreds of billions of dollars on employee learning and training. It’s imperative that they derive the best cost to dollar returns from their investments. Understanding the millennial tendencies and preferences is paramount to their successful integration into an organisation.
Successful L&D programs are those that train and develop millennials not only in course curriculum but also effectively letting them know that their contributions, and what they do at the workplace, really matters. Framing an L&D program should also be a learning for course formulators. Because today’s millennials look for engagement, explaining why you are asking them to do something, or constantly rewarding them or praising them will help to make the workplace fun and happening. It will keep them engaged, focused, and establish the best organic relationship with the organization.
By Ravinder Singh Rana, Country General Manager- India, Concentrix