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Training Today’s Generation for the Future

You don’t have to look very far to find unflattering stereotypes of Millennials .  As someone born right on the outer edge of that generation I used to find myself as a bit of a Self-Loathing Millennial.  As companies all across America, and the company I work for in particular, have begun to address how to effectively train the millennial workforce, I’ve begun to realize that many of the negative assessments were unfair. 

My company has been thinking seriously about how to effectively reach the millennial generation.  Millenials are now the majority of the current workforce.  Generation Z is also beginning to enter the workforce.  There are some ideas that constantly arise in my research.  Many of these can be twisted to fit a negative stereotype.  Looked at positively, they paint a picture of a generation that has grown accustomed to the changing world of work faster than the older leadership around them.  Companies that wish to succeed will need to change with them.

When addressing the needs of younger workers, companies should consider these three factors:

1.) Use technology as a means to increase collaboration and teamwork.  That your company is doing internet based training should be a given. What will set it apart is how much you can incorporate interactivity into that training.  Millennials have always been immersed in technology.  Employees under 35 do not really remember a time before “Google” was a verb.  Their whole lives they’ve been working on computers, using cellular phones and doing research on the internet. They have gone to social media to share what they learn and discuss and debate those lessons with each other.   Your online instruction needs to be more than a PowerPoint presentation with a recorded voiceover.  It is vital that you give opportunity for hands on practice and collaborative activity.  This meets Millennials’ needs to work together to solve problems and keeps them engaged while creating repetition of the needed skills in the activity.

2.) Provide constant feedback and communication.  Some recent trends in training and development towards Gamification and Micro-learning give employees the ability to tackle a manageable chunk of their roles and master it while gaining instant feedback on their progress.  The need for constant feedback is often treated as a negative, however, it is an excellent example of how Millennials have better adapted to the changing world of work.  Things happen much faster and changes are often implemented in the snap of a finger.  By providing constant feedback, Millenials are able to adapt their skills and adjust course based on the needs of the business.  When a new initiative is implemented, bite sized chunks can be given and Millennials will be out front showing the rest of your company how that change is helpful.

3.) Let Millennials know what they do matters.  All their lives, Millennials have been taught that they can impact the world.  Oftentimes, the work that your company does may not seem world altering, but chances are you’re serving some segment of the public.  The more you can show your new employees that the work they do can affect real people’s lives in a positive way, the more likely you are to have fully committed, Millennial employees.

It’s often said that Millennials are spoiled, or entitled and don’t want to work hard.  This is flat-out untrue.  What Millennials seek in their work is an ability to feel that they are making a difference in the world.  They desire continuous feedback to help them re-calibrate their goals for the needs of the business.  Finally, they want the ability to interact and collaborate through technology to share their experiences and work as a team.  If you can develop a framework to address these desires, you will find yourself the successful company of the future.

Alex Fordney is a Training Consultant with Unum in Chattanooga.  He lives in North Georgia with his wife and son.

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