“What are the most effective ways to train millennials?” is probably the question that consultants hear more often than any other today.
To training professionals who were born before 1980 — the year when the first millennials were born — the question can seem mysterious and complex. We look at millennials and see a group of young people who seem addicted to texting on their phones, who sometimes seem skeptical about the lessons we want to teach them and who are prone to changing jobs frequently.
That’s what we see, or what we think we see. But do those rough observations really reflect who millennials are? Do they offer useful insights on how millennials should be trained?
The answer is: not really. So let’s decode the millennial mindset more strategically and see what we can learn about how to train them effectively.
Meet the millennials
The so-called millennial generation — also called “Generation Y” — includes people born between 1980 and 1998. Many older millennials, some now reaching their late 30s, are already established in their careers. Chances are that a number of them are already working throughout the ranks of your organization. They have already taken part in your training, maybe even designed parts of your training, and chances are very good that you already understand their learning preferences better than you expect. Another factor to consider is that some of the millennials who work for you are currently training your other millennials. So while you think you don’t know or understand them at all, you probably do.
Key traits of younger millennials
Let’s focus on younger working millennials — those born between about 1990 and 1995. Chances are they are the group that is causing you to feel the most uncertainty regarding training.
Millennials born between those years are the younger workers who might be applying for their first “real” post-college jobs with your organization right now. They’re young and fresh-faced. If you’re a generation or two older than they are, it could be that you’ve hit some roadblocks when creating training programs that work well for them.
Although generalizations tend to be flawed, here are some attitudes that training experts have found to be shared by significant members of this cohort:
- An entrepreneurial mindset. They want to stake out a business identity and space for themselves, even in larger companies.
- Risk tolerance. Many are self-confident, able to take risks and willing to help their employers take chances too.
- A love of technology. They tend to be highly mobile and like to access information and training on smartphones and tablets.
- Social consciousness. They tend to be compassionate and respond positively to working for companies that embrace and support social causes and “do good in the world.”
- Openness. Many welcome being part of diverse workforces. Furthermore, they are more welcoming of alternative lifestyles than preceding generations were.
- Career mobility. Your assumptions that millennials are job-hoppers could be correct. Many do not hesitate to change jobs as a way to achieve personal goals and success.
Critical steps to take when training
Here are some ways to make your training more compelling and effective with younger millennial workers:
- Deliver lessons and modules in short, digestible chunks that millennials can absorb quickly. They are generally fast-moving and can tune out as soon as training seems irrelevant.
- Use animations, videos and other moving images to deliver key concepts. They often work better than words or text to convey important take-away concepts to millennials.
- Deliver training on platforms that millennials prefer and already use, including smartphones and tablets. Remember, millennials grew up using mobile devices.
- Ask for their ideas and suggestions before and during training, because millennials think like entrepreneurs, value autonomy and like to shape the content of their jobs.
- Express your company values in your training. You can explain, for example, that your organization is trying not just to generate profits, but to support employees and do good in the world. When younger millennials see that their work supports those objectives, they are more likely to believe in company leaders and initiatives — and more likely to experience levels of satisfaction that make them want to continue working for you in the long term.
Fundamentals still apply
Don’t let the fact that you are training millennials worry you. Even though they may differ in some ways from your other trainees, the fundamental principles of all good training still apply. That means knowing who your trainees are and what they do, understanding the results that you want to achieve, identifying metrics to measure before and after training and delivering it in empowering and interesting ways. No matter who you are training, those principles still apply. So be brave about training your millennial newcomers, go out and get the job done.