In our workplace today we see three primary generations: Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials. Gen X, the generation sandwiched in between the Boomers and the Millennials, is only half as big as the Boomer generation. As Boomers retire, there will only be “experienced” workers to fill half of those positions. This means Millennials will have promotion opportunities much earlier, and will require more training and mentoring to support them through this transition.
Millennials – Who Are They?
- Born between 1981–2000
- Nearly 80 million in population (Baby Boomers = 72 million; Gen X = 41 million)
- 41% of the total U.S. population
- 25% grew up in single-parent households
- 75% grew up with working mothers
- About half are currently in the workforce
Here are a few tips for designing and delivering training to Millennials. The good news? Applying these will make your training stronger and more effective for everyone — not just Millennials.
- Tell me up front what I need to know. Millennials want to know what is expected of them right away. Specifically, how will they be evaluated and what criteria will be used to evaluate them. In the training environment, clearly communicate to Millennials how the information they are acquiring ties back to their performance evaluations on the job. If there are going to be knowledge assessments or evaluations in the training, outline that information up front so the learners know what level of performance is expected of them.
- Keep it tech-savvy. Millennials entering the workplace today have never known an educational environment that was not subject to constant and consistently changing technology. Whether it was PowerPoint® and projectors the size of suitcases early on, or innovative social-networking technologies used in their college classes, in the eyes of the Millennial, education and technology go hand-in-hand. One of the best ways to engage Millennials is to harness their tendency to engage in technology anyway, and weave in opportunities for technology throughout your training. In the classroom, this may mean using Twitter® to have groups share the results of a small-group discussion. Online, it may mean providing links and additional online resources that learners can access while taking their training if they want to learn more. Or, it may mean designing content so learners can access it on their laptop, iPad, or other device.
- Coach and praise along the way. Millennials crave feedback and advice. Sometimes criticized for needing too much “hand-holding,” Millennials appreciate opportunities for coaching throughout a training experience. In the classroom, this may mean engaging mentors or senior associates to participate in portions of the training. Online, it may mean making “ask the expert” features available in the e-learning course, so Millennials can get the guidance and coaching they crave. As with all learners, incorporating praise and positive feedback into learning experiences increases engagement and knowledge retention. At SweetRush, we believe in the power of coaching and praise, woven throughout learning experiences.
- Say it with visuals. Using visuals effectively is important in all training. It’s a delicate balance of using enough, but not too much that you overwhelm the learners. Millennials are used to information constantly being thrown at them through visuals — whether it’s the ads that pop up as they are surfing the web on their iPads, or the information they can quickly access on the phone while waiting at the doctor’s office. A great way to get information across quickly, in an easy-to-understand manner, is through the effective use of infographics.
For more about Millennials in the workplace, see my colleague Andrei Hedstrom’ post, Values-based Culture as a Critical Attractor for Millennials.