Training millennials: Tips for engaging the workforce of tomorrow
Has anyone else noticed that millennials are getting discussed a lot these days? A stack of studies and pundits are declaring millennials as truly different.
In countless articles these 14-36 year olds are being called many things in the same breath: lazy, ambitious, self-absorbed, cause-oriented and always connected.
Regardless of what people have decided are the main traits of this generation, for the next 50-75 years, they will be our teachers, doctors, politicians, astronauts and corporate employees. So if the millennials will literally inherit our world(and change it in the process), how do we prepare them to do it?
Victims of the global downturn and a quickly changing workforce
Any conversation about training millennials has to begin with the working world they got thrown into. Millennials didn’t get much say in this matter, they inherited one of the worst economies, the most oppressive cycles of student debt and the greatest likelihood of being underemployed in decades. Not a very good deal for what is being called the most educated generation America has ever seen. But as much as there are many things out of their control there is one thing millennials are beginning to ask for a say in- what work looks like when they get there. Once in the workforce, millennials are demanding more work life balance, meaningful work and jobs that are engaging and filled with opportunities to learn.
Companies across the globe are struggling with questions around how to engage this workforce of digital natives that not only have a long list of expectations for how they will work but also are spending on average only 2.6 years at a given job.
Getting to create solutions to these problems is what I do at my current job as Director of Impact Partnerships at Unleesh, a mobile ready solution for people looking to learn together. We are a team of educators, entrepreneurs and software developers trying to build the most engaging solutions to the challenges and opportunities of educating millennials companies face today.
From our work interviewing industry leaders, building educational solutions for a variety of organizations and spending time talking with millennials all over the world here are some millennial learning trends we think are important.
Millennials value constant feedback
It is not just about appreciation, millennials want it all- they value constant input into how they are doing and what they can do better. To support a millennial workforce you not only need to consider how managers are engaging millennials with feedback around their work. You also need to start building feedback systems that millennials will live and breathe where they can get immediate feedback from their teams and also track goals they have set for themselves-feedback from many directions is important.
A commitment to achievement
Millennials grew up as the first generation totally immersed in playing video games, accustomed to solving problems and taking on epic challenges in ways that were fun and filled with personal choice. We are not the only ones who have noticed this: advertisers, sociologists and even MTV has found that a “game-like metaphor applies to almost every aspect of millennial life.” The same drive that sends millennials on a quest to destroy Bowser also translates to their personal values around developing meaningful skills on the job and achieving throughout their career.
When PricewaterhouseCoopers asked, “Which of the following factors most influenced your decision to accept your current job?” The majority of surveyed millennials (65%) said the opportunity for personal development. Millennials want to achieve, they just need structures (like games) to help them do it.
Workplace culture matters a lot to millennials. They strive to land in working environments that emphasize teamwork and a sense of community even more so than other generations. Companies need better tools to enable this level of collaboration to be productive, engaging and scalable across ever changing companies. Instead of seeing social networking as a distraction, millennials believe that all tools should be truly social allowing on the go collaboration so teams can stay engaged even if they are not in the same room, or even in the same time zone.
Flexibility: Learning on their own time/in their own way
“Everything is much more dynamic and fast-paced these days. If you lose contact with information for one second, you fall behind.”
Male self-employed graduate, Brazil from PWC report millennials at work Reshaping the workplace.
Millennials are aware of many of the ways the world is changing around them, instead of ignoring these inevitabilities, they are jumping right in. millennials have no respect for rigid meeting structures, pointless assignments and most of all are frustrated by tools that don’t follow them wherever they go. This is the generation that is always connected, multitasking and on the move. Companies and organizations need to find ways that they can stay engaged with their millennial employees during these times. We see this as a great opportunity for employers, those who offer meaningful and flexible tools and programs that fit into millennials fluid lives will win big.
Looking for careers tied to deep purpose and constant learning
“How does the work you do today influence who you will become?
The above statement has become one of the most important questions millennials are using when evaluating whether or not to join a company or to jump to another. Companies could decide to see this as a threat to the longevity of their workforce with millennials always looking to the next thing. Or they could see it as an opportunity to create a working environment that allows for constant feedback, paths towards meaningful achievement and tools that encourage greater collaboration between employees.
Companies can stick to business as usual and risk burning out the emerging workforce or they can take simple steps towards becoming a place where all generations will have better opportunities to work, play and learn together.
In another PWC study a full 93% percent of CEO’s acknowledge the need to change their talent strategies - though less than a third have acted on their plans.
Isn’t it time we started finding better ways to engage our millennial workforces with better opportunities to learn and grow?
Cole Hoover Director of Impact Partnerships