More than any other generation, millennials rate professional development as important to them in a job ― 87%, according to Gallup.
However, today’s young professionals are no longer applying to MBA programs to pursue professional growth and fill social gaps. Business school applications have declined, and some of the top MBA programs have closed their doors. Millennials are hesitant about dropping out of the workforce for two years and taking on additional debt in an uncertain economic environment.
Despite being priced out of the MBA, millennial professionals desire access to a network of smart peers and business leaders, interpersonal skills, and knowledge of business frameworks and new ideas. Instead of the traditional MBA path, millennials are looking to their employers for career development opportunities. In fact, a lack of “career growth opportunities” is the primary reason workers leave their jobs.
To accommodate the growing demand, savvy human resources (HR) professionals are budgeting for co-learning that combines expert knowledge and peer-to-peer mentoring across companies. When implementing co-learning programs, it’s important to understand three essential needs of their millennial workforce.
1. Millennial Professionals Demand Access to a Network of Peers and Business Leaders
Senior managers, whose networks are already established, can grab their phones, and intel is just a call or a text message away. Millennials need support from HR leaders to build their networks via co-learning. As MBA programs become more antiquated, this trend will only accelerate.
An estimated 80% of professionals view networking as important to career success, according to a LinkedIn study. They are right. For one thing, a strong professional network leads directly to new partnerships and clients. A warm introduction goes far when sourcing and closing a deal, as 84% of buyers now kick off their buying process with a referral
A strong professional network also leads to better teams. Employees with large, curated networks are an asset to recruitment, as employee referrals are still the highest-rated way to find and recruit new talent. According to research by Hiring Learning Systems, 85% of open roles are filled through networking. According to a 2006 study, 82% of employers said employee referrals have the highest ROI. In another survey, 66% of companies agreed or strongly agreed that employee referrals are better culture fits, while 59% said referrals stay longer.
2. Millennial Professionals Demand Help Developing Interpersonal Skills
While the technical talent gap in the U.S. is common knowledge, few people realize that there’s a far greater shortage of interpersonal skills. In fact, communication is the No. 1 skill gap in the US, according to LinkedIn.
Interpersonal skills are essential for fields like sales, business development and customer service, and they will become increasingly important for employees who aren’t client-facing. Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies will usher in a new world of work over the next decade. In the age of AI, there will be a greater need for interpersonal skills that only humans can provide. Employees will be especially valued for their creativity and ability to lead and manage others, according to a report from McKinsey & Company.
Today, 63% of millennials believe that employers are not fully developing their leadership skills. This gap is an opportunity for companies to attract and retain talent by turning to co-learning to develop essential interpersonal skills.
3. Millennial Professionals Demand Knowledge of the Latest Business Frameworks and Trends
In a rapidly changing business world, millennials expect their employers to help them stay ahead of the curve.
Continuous learning is a key factor in career decisions. A vast majority of millennials believe employers share responsibility in providing them learning opportunities. Nearly half (42%) of millennial workers view opportunities for learning and development as the most important benefit when considering employers, only second to health care.
MBA programs widely adopt the case study method, a discussion of situations that business executives faced years ago. By its nature, however, the case method is static and rooted in the past. Wallace Donham, the man credited with establishing the case study, even expressed doubt over its efficacy later in life, according to Quartz.
In our complex and ambiguous world, millennials are demanding to learn about the latest trends and frameworks from executives who are in the field today. They anticipate ambiguity every step of their careers and demand opportunities to keep up with the latest trends and thinking.
Co-learning provides access to real-time expert knowledge as well as the opportunity to build a professional network and develop interpersonal skills. Automation and AI will usher in the decline of the MBA and the rise of co-learning. Employers that prioritize co-learning now will attract and retain top talent well into the future.