Training Millennials will be a challenge, but knowing their unique characteristics can help your organization assimilate the new generation.
In his book “The Next America,” Paul Taylor suggests, “The America of the near future will look nothing like the America of the recent past. America is in the throes of a demographic overhaul. Huge generation gaps have opened up in our political and social values, our economic well-being, our family structure, our racial and ethnic identity, our gender norms, our religious affiliation, and our technology use.”
For most of us involved in training, we are being impacted by the Millennial generation, also known as Generation Y, Echo Boomers, Me generation, or a host of other names. The traditional workplace as we know it is being asked to flex and adjust as this new cohort increases its presence. This generation is most often considered to be those born in 1980 (even as early as 1978) through the late 1990s (even as late as 2000).
Characteristics of Millenials
According to Amy Lynch from the group Generational Edge, Millennials make up around one-third of our current labor force. By 2020, they will comprise almost half of the business employees. The business environment is being impacted by this group. Their generation is characterized as:
- Often reared by child-centric parents
- Raised using technology
- Ready and willing to ask questions with confidence
- Full of energy and adaptable
- Visual and intuitive
- Used to team-based approaches
- Like to contribute and add value
- Environmentally conscious
From our training perspective, how do we approach the process of training, whether it be during orientation or during regular learning and development programs?
Engaged and Non-linear
In training, we need to remember to integrate technology into everything. One of the ways I allow the use of cell phones during a session is to conduct polls and ask questions with an app called Poll Everywhere. My main goal with it is to allow them to take a minute to reflect on what we have been covering and to make sure they are engaged. We talk about the feedback they provide through the poll and adjust the class accordingly.
E-learning can sometimes be a good match with millennials, especially if the training is created in a way that can be done on a device, like a tablet or phone. However, while they want to think they are great multi-taskers, they can get distracted easily. Some sessions are best conducted in person.
In many training sessions, I have needed to adjust my content away from a book. Millennials are not used to learning in a linear, book-based way. They do not need structured flow of information and data. They are continuous learners and are always looking for a better way to do something, especially if it involves technology.
Another adjustment that I have made is to move through the introduction material quickly. Most of the millennial age participants in my sessions are looking for more than just Introduction level. They can usually do a quick search and find what they need. They are looking to the more in-depth parts of the concepts we are covering.
Active and Fun
In his book “Employing Generation Why?” Eric Chester comments, “Although they are better educated, more techno-savvy and quicker to adapt than those who have come before them, they refuse to blindly conform to traditional standards and time-honored institutions. Instead they boldly ask, ‘Why?’”
In most sessions, you will engage the millennials by being active and involved in the training. They expect the same thing from themselves. Working on teams and on projects are a good fit with this group. They like to network and have social time, so make sure and include that in the time allotted for the class.
Flexible and Relevant
A flexible, facilitator style teaching method is often successful at engaging this generation. Help them to see how the training will focus on their own career goals and learning development. The training session content needs to be relevant and immediately useful. Use realistic examples when you can. Millennials also want to look outside their own company for resources. Provide links and tools that are available for them to use to accomplish their tasks.
So, how do you build on the strengths of this generation in your training? How do you use the perspective of this group to adjust your company’s focus and content to reach out to them?
- Keep the sessions relevant, active, and use technology.
- Make sure to support and encourage your millennial aged participants but in a subtle, positive way.
- Ask for their opinions and experiences.
- Allow them to contribute and be ready to answer questions.
- Focus on coaching and collaboration.
For More information visit:
Poll Everywhere – http://www.polleverywhere.com/
Paul Taylor’s “The Next America” – http://www.amazon.com/The-Next-America-Millennials-Generational/dp/1610393503
Amy Lynch, “ROI on Generation Y Employees” – http://www.knoxvillechamber.com/pdf/workforce/ROIonGenYWhitePaper.pdf
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