Demographics are Shifting
If you’re noticing an increase in the number of younger people in the workforce, it’s not just your imagination. A recent Pew Research Center Article confirms that Millennials are now the nation’s largest living generation. Millennials are sometimes called Gen Y with ages from 20 -36 and number 75.4 million people, surpassing the lagging Baby Boomers (74.9 million). By 2020, Millennials will make up 50 percent of the workforce. What does this mean for you as a learning professional?
Expecting No Less Technology at Work Than in Their Everyday Life
While there are exceptions in all demographic groups, Millennials, who have been digital natives from birth, demonstrate a true and endearing affinity to technology and technology-enabled products and solutions. Unlike many Baby Boomers, Millennials’ efficacy with technology is astounding and enables them to plunge into new technologies fearlessly. They know instinctively you can’t break anything by exploring new software, applications or devices.
Creating Millennial Learning Experiences
As mentioned in an earlier blog post, attention spans are shrinking rapidly, so Millennials expect a variety of learning modalities and experiences to maximize their opportunity to learn. What are some of the ways Millennials like to learn?
- Learning with embedded gaming and game-like attributes. They love to earn experience points and badges and see where they stand on leader boards. Fun competition helps make the learning “sticky.”
- Just-in-time searchable content. “Let me find what I need when I need it.”
- Microlearning bursts for quick “how to” answers while working.
- Learning powered by social networking, sometimes referred to as the “wisdom of the crowds.”
- Instant messaging. “My coworker may have the answer; I’ll ask her.”
- Embedded performance support. “Don’t make me leave one application to get help in the application I’m in now.”
- Reading and writing blog posts.
- Workplace collaboration with trusted peers and especially leaders who can help them gain leadership and other valuable skills.
What’s particularly interesting about Millennials is that almost 60 percent believe that an organization’s use of state-of-the-art technology is important to them when considering a job. So, once hired by a great organization which leverages great technology, Millennials also want to see that integrated into their learning solutions.
For more insights on Millennials, check out the 2017 Millennial Survey from Deloitte
What do Millennials Want to Learn?
Not only do Millennials have different learning preferences, but they also want to gain competence and experiences which will help them grow as employees. They come into organizations expecting to be able to learn in a rich environment, where they can absorb new information. They see learning and development opportunities as a top benefit when working with an employer, according to the 2011 PwC survey, “Millennials at Work – Reshaping the Workplace.” Other competency areas needed by Millennials can include basic workplace culture and leadership development. Mentors who can work closely with these Millennials and share best practices, especially if learning while doing, are highly sought after.
The demographic workplace shift isn’t coming. It’s already here. Millennials are the largest group of employees at work. This large group of employees has only known technology and expect to have access to it, wherever they may be, including the workplace and in learning situations. Is your learning organization Millennial-ready?
Not Everyone Gets a Trophy: How to Manage the Millennials, (Tulgan, 2016)
When Millennials Take Over: Preparing for the Ridiculously Optimistic Future of Business, (Notter, 2015)
Written by Larry Durham, Partner, St. Charles Consulting Group