Regardless of the stereotypes surrounding Millennials, by 2020 they will make up nearly 50% of the workforce, which means employers will have to learn how to accommodate them one way or another.
But what’s so bad about them, anyway? The biggest point of contention for the group born between the late ‘70’s and early ‘90s is the element of change. Because they were born in what many consider to be a technology boom, they are adaptable to the evolution of technology (and the doors it opens) in a way that older generations simply are not.
This also makes them eager to create change, to buck the status quo, and to carve unique paths for themselves in the workplace, which may not sit well with managers or coworkers wanting to maintain a healthy balance.
Of course, if utilized properly, Millennials can add a much-needed dynamic to any work environment. But in terms of training, development, and management, they will require different efforts to help them fit into the corporate world, especially if they’re integrating with Gen X or Baby Boomer employees.
Challenges of the Millennial Workforce
If you find yourself working with Millennials, here are a few of the challenges you might come across in terms of training and managing them.
The biggest and perhaps most obvious difference between the younger generation and the established workforce is the use of technology. More than 85% of Millennials own smartphones and they use them up to 45 times a day.
In fact, Millennials and technology is almost a cliché, and that’s certainly true when it comes to communication styles. Millennials often prefer to send text messages, tweets and instant messages while Baby Boomers and older Gen Xers prefer phone calls and emails.
The divide is also there when it comes to the use of technology for training, particularly with eLearning. Millennials have an “always on” mentality and they don’t want to sit still to learn. They want access to training materials (as well as regular work) on their mobile devices so they can access things on the go.
Because Millennials are more reliant on technology, they also want to work at their own pace. They often believe that spending hours in the office isn’t a productive use of time and would rather work remotely.
They also don’t see work as a separate entity, but rather as an integral part of their daily lives. While older generations may be content with a “9-to-5” job, Millennials want a more blended work/life balance, and often use technology to get it.
This may conflict with more traditional employers who measure job performance by how many hours are spent in the office. This could also interfere with training, if the company’s current training methods require a certain amount of time spent in the classroom or at a desk learning.
Millennials often find themselves in highly competitive job environments. Between the fact that fewer Baby Boomers are retiring, leaving less industry jobs open, and the mounting economic pressures of paying off their own debt, many Millennials develop a “perform or perish” mentality.
They will look to move up the career ladder quickly in order to stay afloat, which means they’ll seek out relevant content and training that helps them move toward their goals. It also means that they’ll want to learn materials that advance their career, improve skills, or otherwise help them move up in the world.
This can cause problems if training materials aren’t engaging or don’t directly relate to the duties of their job. If you cannot hook them with meaningful content or convince them of the relevance of your eLearning course, you may lose them.
They also tend to crave more feedback than older generations. Millennials are more accustomed to having their questions answers immediately (thanks in part to the Internet), and through the use of technology are often able to receive instantaneous feedback from those around them.
But according to Gallup, only 19% of Millennials say they receive routine feedback at work, and only 17% say that the feedback that they receive is meaningful. That makes it essential for employers looking to engage Millennials workers to provide feedback on a regular basis.
This may also require the use of micro-learning and gamification in training materials that provide instant feedback for younger learners.
How to Overcome These Challenges
Of course, these challenges don’t have to be roadblocks to training. There are a few ways that employers can embrace Millennials and take advantage of all that they have to offer. Here are a few things to keep in mind when working with the younger generation.
While studies do show that Millennials tend to think and behave in certain predictable patterns, that doesn’t mean every stereotype about them is true. It’s easy to lump them all into the same category, or call them as lazy, entitled, or tech obsessed, but the fact remains that they still have a lot to offer, especially to Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.
“In a multi-generational workforce, there is potential for negative stereotyping,” says Seb O’Connell, executive VP at Cielo. “Older workers may perceive Millennials as entitled, tech-obsessed or too eager to challenge norms while Millennial employees could see previous generations as being ‘stuck in their ways’ and difficult to train. Organizations need to take steps to ensure managers overcome their unconscious bias.”
It’s important that companies embrace the positives of Millennial workers and help them integrate with older generations instead of fighting against them. This is especially true when it comes to eLearning, as Millennials have an advantage and can train older generations to accomplish tasks quicker.
Reinforce Company Culture
Because Millennials crave change, they tend to become frustrated with, what they consider, to be stale or outdated business practices. They also want to feel involved in something bigger than themselves.
In his viral video interview on Millennials, Simon Sinek argues that Millennials crave purpose in the workplace, and want to feel that they have something to contribute to the company culture more than just adding to the bottom line. “Give [them] a reason to come to work, not just a place to go to work,” he adds.
It will be important for employers looking to engage Millennials to reinforce the company culture in a way that makes them feel like a part of the team. This will help keep them from jumping ship when things get tough, and to listen to older (and wiser) team members during difficult moments.
Take Advantage of Technology
Technology is designed to make our lives easier, and Millennials almost instinctively know it. Companies should use the rise of Millennial workers as an opportunity to embrace new technology as a means to improve otherwise tedious tasks.
This is where the use of eLearning in training and other learning courses in the workplace shines. Taking advantage of online training tools, video courses, and on-the-go learning can help employees refine old skills, learn new ones, and keep up-to-date on industry policies and best practices.
This can also help bridge the gap between the generations, as Millennials have the opportunity to explain and teach technology to Baby Boomers and the chance to work together in a cohesive environment.
Offer More Training and Advancement
Millennials are considered to be one of the most highly educated generations, and because they crave advancement and tend to move up the corporate ladder more quickly, they also want access to more training and educational resources.
This is good news for employers that want to implement better training programs in the workplace, as the combination of technology with a love of lifelong learning makes Millennials the perfect guinea pigs for eLearning.
Employers that strive to develop engaging learning materials that improve job performance will experience the many benefits of the younger generation’s desire to learn. Just be sure to include plenty of feedback in the process.
Over the next several decades, the Millennial generation will become the dominant workforce in the corporate world, but they will also be unlike any other previous generation of workers.
It will be important for employers to both understand the unique challenges faced by Millennials as well as how to leverage those challenges to create lasting results. They can do this by engaging Millennial workers in more learning and training opportunities – eLearning in particular – and by helping them advance in the workplace.
Employers should also strive to help Millennials bridge the gap with older generations by reinforcing company culture and by using technology as a starting point to create a more efficient working environment.
And don’t forget to leave any negative stereotypes out of it.