Despite what “older” people like to think (and occasionally share memes about), millennials aren’t all that different from other generations.
Do they have their collective quirks? Sure. Do their jokes and pop culture references confuse us? Constantly. Do they sometimes come off as whiny, entitled and spoiled? Absolutely.
But this is true of literally every generation when viewed in the context of the ones that came before. People born to different eras face different circumstances and expectations. The way each generation deals with and overcomes these challenges is what brings about new perspectives, approaches and preferences about life.
This extends to the ways people like to think, communicate and learn. Before the advent of the written word, those fortunate enough to pursue education learned through rote memorization and recitation, no matter how long or how dense the subject matter. Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find a millennial who can recite word-for-word the entirety of Homer’s Odyssey (or even sing it as ancient poets did). But that doesn’t mean they can’t learn how. One would just need to teach them according to their learning preference — for example, by breaking it into smaller pieces and putting it all on TikTok (which apparently some people have already done).
Different generations learn differently. And nowhere is this more apparent or more urgently felt than in learning and development (L&D) organizations.
Millennials now make up the largest generational group in the workforce. And Gen Zers aren’t far behind. If you can’t align with their unique learning needs, you can’t tailor your training programs for maximum impact. And if you can’t do that, your training organization will struggle to achieve the business outcomes leadership expects.
So, buckle up. It’s time to learn.
10 Tips for Training Your Millennial Employees
1. Use Technology
The most important thing to keep in mind about millennials is that they’re the first digital natives in history — meaning they’re the first generation to grow up in a digital world, using digital technology.
That fact has had the most profound effect on how millennials learn, and it affects everything from their attention span to their information retention. To that end, use technology to train millennials. Traditional lectures or training materials aren’t enough to get the best training outcomes from your millennial employees. Think about ways you can incorporate technology into your training.
2. Use Small Content Chunks
In an eLearning environment, keep content chunks small and manageable. Even though millennials are tech-savvy, nobody wants to sit in front of a screen for hour-long lectures or seminars. It’s also very easy for all generations to get distracted answering unread messages and emails or wandering off to less productive websites.
3. Reduce Filler Time
When training in person, keep the classroom time focused on the activities that you can only do in the classroom. Just like long lectures on screen, long lectures in person can be hard for millennials to pay attention to from start to finish. Use the classroom for job-specific and collaborative activities. You don’t want your employees to feel like their time could be better spent elsewhere, so make the most of in-person training.
4. Be Hands-on
A great way to use classroom time productively is to get millennials engaged in hands-on exercises. Get them out of their seats and involved in the learning. For example, instead of explaining how it’s done, show them how it’s done. Have volunteers demonstrate for the class. Break off into collaborative groups. Millennials learn well by doing.
5. Keep the Content Job-specific
Millennials usually don’t want the entire backstory. Provide the specific information that they need to do the job well. If they need any other information, they’re resourceful enough to find it themselves. For training purposes, don’t give millennials a long lecture on all the facets and features of a new software system. Show them exactly what functions they need in that system to complete their job.
6. Grab Their Attention Right Away
It’s easy to lose a millennial’s attention. You have to hook them from the start. Grab their attention with a challenging problem or game to start off each training session. Also, share what they can hope to get out of the lesson. They’ll see what’s in it for them and be more engaged as a result.
7. Be Unpredictable
Once you have a millennial’s attention, you may not have it for long. So be unpredictable!
Break up long lectures with activities and discussion. Add visual appeal to your presentations by using new animations, colors and maybe even sounds. Follow a logical progression of the training topic but get creative with how it’s presented.
8. Let Them Lead Their Learning
Get them involved in the training by adding interactive elements. It can be as simple as a “click to reveal the answer” card or a choose your own adventure game. Give them an introduction to a topic or job-related task and let them complete the modules that interest them the most or that are the most relevant to their job. Millennials want to feel ownership over their experience, so empower them to take control.
9. Provide All the Resources After Training
Technology is great for a variety of reasons, but one of the best things about technology is that you have immediate access to information from your computer or phone. Millennials have grown up knowing exactly where to find the information they need. So, keep your training focused on job-related tasks and give them the location of the training resources (and people) to consult should they need any extra guidance.
10. Allow for Continuous Development
The best part is, if you apply these tips to your training, millennials will want to learn more. Give them a pathway to advancement. Provide more training and mentorship opportunities and watch them flourish.
Applying these 10 tips will help L&D align training with the needs of their workforce, making it easier to improve performance and training outcomes. But don’t leave other generations in the dust just yet. Baby boomers and Generation Xers together still outnumber millennials, so be sure to provide support for them as you transition your training to suit millennial preferences. An organization that can meet the various learning preferences of its workforce will always be better prepared for training success.