Millennials, they say, grew up on gadgets, PCs, wireless, and Smartphones. Millennials are said to believe that “smaller is better”, multi-tasking is a basic survival skill, collaboration reigns over individualism, and are advocates and activists in favor of positive social good and social change.
The Millenial generation, now aged 18-33 (more or less), has always lived in a world where information is ubiquitous and easily attained. This generation has been finding the information that they need to succeed on their own for years, even decades. However, it would be a mistake to assume that having easy access to information translates into disinterest in formal corporate training.
Millennials do want to have access to corporate training to support their development. Unfortunately, according to the national “Millennial Mindset Study” of 1,200 employed Millennials, this generation of workers is not receiving the breadth of corporate training they are seeking. Worse, they say that the “lack of company support for training and development” is the number one most surprising aspect of work in the “real world.” In this survey, only 20% of respondents say that their employers adequately provide the training opportunities required to keep up with needed job skills.
So, Millennials feel that the quantity of training they need and expect from their employers is woefully inadequate.
Should We Be Talking About Quantity, or Quality Here?
It’s likely no big surprise that Millennials expect a different format for training than L&D departments have provided when previous generations entered the work force. New technologies, such as the LMS and mobile learning are providing new capabilities in learning delivery. New ways of transferring information are being explored and implemented, such as microlearning, gamification and other digitally-enabled learning techniques. And these are all sound techniques and movements, as people of all generations crave and benefit from these advances in learning. So, the issue is not that corporate training departments are stuck in the past—it is clear that L&D departments are, or need to start, moving toward modernization.
Millennials want more training. Corporate L&D departments are working to provide it, and provide it with a modern flair through multiple channels. Online training usage is at an all time high and will continue to grow. So where is the disconnect?
The disconnect is that while quantity of training is an issue, the more pressing issue is to first address quality of training. Create a great product first. Then look to scalability and other production questions. It's a given that technology and modern ways of thinking need to be included in training for a high quality training program, or "product". There are time-tested ways to include quality in training programs, and these technology-independent methods will help Millennials—and everyone else, too.
Quality First, Then Quantity
With training, quality trumps quantity. What’s the point of rolling out massive quantities of low quality training? Once you have a successful working formula for quality training—a formula that includes business needs, learner needs, and motivation, all interconnected—you can focus on quantity and scalability.
So here’s the question: How do you focus on creating training with quality information when there’s already a surplus of information out there that people (particularly Millennials) are mining on their own for personal learning purposes?
Yes, information may be a cheap commodity these days. However, that fact does not make the need for disseminating information through quality training any less important. In a world where information is ubiquitous and the successful person is not necessarily “book smart”, but knows how to efficiently track down and qualify information, how do you create quality training?
Building Quality into Training
Here are three ways to ensure that your training is of high quality (i.e., helps the learner). Training should aim to:
- Help Organize Relevant Information
Having access to information is one thing. Having that information organized in your mind and being able to apply it at the point of need is an entirely different matter. Think of a Time Management course: Some people would consider the information taught in such a course as logical, obvious and self-evident. But knowing “what” to do and “why” to do it is not the same as knowing “how” to do it. In your training modules, make sure to provide a clearly organized overview of why you need to learn something (i.e., the relevancy to the job). Then dive into the how and what. You’ll likely win over those who “already know it all” right from the start.
- Help Forge a Path for Career Development
Everyone wants to advance their career, whether through building and refining skills as an individual contributor or taking on manager-, V- and C-level roles. Millennials, as compared to previous generations, do not see the need to earn titles through steady career progression, feeling confident in their abilities to execute at any level (à la Mark Zuckerberg). Make sure that the learning illuminates the path to the next level—or how to skip several levels and get to the “top” faster.
- Help Enable Transformational Change
Transformative learning is an evolving educational concept which helps the learner to transform his perspective, leading to behavioral change. It is touted as a basic tenet of adult education. Transformative learning has three sequential parts: self-awareness, a challenge to beliefs or assumptions, and behavioral transformation through critical reflection. Learning is catalyzed by a “disorienting dilemma”—a situation that forces the learner to see that his current preference, or frame of reference, is not working effectively. Does your training include a disorienting dilemma or two?
You May Counter These Arguments With…
Sometimes, you may say, people just need to quit complaining and just finish the training. They need training in order to be compliant to some regulation or another, or to learn the “organizational way”. Just need to “do it”, you may say. Just learn, apply the learning, and they’ll be grateful later.
And, that may all be true. But, I argue, there’s more to it. Even if employees need to “just learn it”, you can still craft your training so that it fits into one of the three categories of quality above. Even sexual harassment training, the poster child for compliance training, can be raised to the next level if the training is tied to:
- Information organization and relevancy to the job (perhaps by clarifying the legality of certain behaviors and the impact on continued employment without risk)
- Clearing the path for career development and advancement (perhaps by describing situations that may arise in manager-employee relationships that need to be taken under considerations as you get promoted)
- Enabling transformational change (perhaps by elucidating situations that could be construed as harassment that many people incorrectly think is “Okay”)
In fact, these three tenets of creating quality training—organization and relevancy of information, enabling career development, and encouraging transformation change—make for quality training, no matter your generational affiliation.
Gauri Reyes is a talent developer and learning leader with extensive experience in roles ranging from software management to managing the learning function in organizations. She is Principal Learning Strategist and CEO at Triple Point Advisors and Founder of the YOUth LEAD program. Follow her on Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+.