Designing learning for millennials

millennials“Millennials” is the corporate training buzzword we’ve been hearing a lot lately. According to PwC, by 2016, 80 percent of the workforce will be made up of millennials – the generation of people born between 1981 and 1999. As with any major culture shift, some companies are a little nervous, and understandably so – trainers know it could be significant but aren’t quite sure what to do about it.

What are some characteristics of workplace Millennials? Millennials rely more on email and social platforms rather than the phone and face-to-face communications to get work done. They also often like to use multiple mediums, for example switching between text, email or phone for a single topic as well.1 They are incredibly comfortable with technology, but let’s not forget that many industries employ older generations that have become just as comfortable with it. In fact, millennials are not unlike other audiences that training professionals have strived to engage.

So, how are millennial learners different?

According to a Pew Research study, they are motivated self-learners that can be self-directed employees. “Millennials seek transparency and real time feedback in their work environment. They have been accustomed to using innovative technologies for learning in their studies from K-12 to University education. It is a natural progression for them to use similar technologies for training in their work environments.”2

Investing in training that meets the requirements necessary to engage millennials does not necessarily exclude current and future generations and can easily meet their needs.

Delivering content to millennials

Allen communication recommends three strategies that can be tremendously successful when used to deliver content to a millennial audience:

  •        Mobile learning
  •        Gamification
  •        Video Based Learning

Mobile learning

With the millennial’s preference for multiple platforms they can be reached via desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile – with mobile driving much of their communication.

Learning initiatives for mobile need to build on current mobile habits to maximize the efficacy of training (rather than asking users to change their habits).3  So, for example, users would normally use mobile devices for quick information, simple interaction, and one-click answers to problems and instructional designs needs to incorporate that.

Gamification

Karl Kapp, author of The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-Based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education, defines gamification as the use of game-based mechanics, aesthetics and game thinking to engage people, motivate action, promote learning and solve problems. Gamification takes elements of gaming and adds them to traditional instruction with interactivity and engagement as first consideration.

Like other training strategies, learning games must directly align with business goals in order to be a valuable – for example building desired skills in managers through realistic scenarios.

Video-based Learning

Millennials have grown up in a social, video culture in which media becomes a conversation and not a passive review.

There are endless ways to exploit video in order to create motivating and engaging learning experiences. Learners can be engaged as viewers or content creators. Teaching methods must turn it into a springboard for engagement.

Conclusion

Every generation in the workplace will gain from innovation in instructional strategies and tools that cater to millennial’s needs for new corporate training methods.
The ultimate cross-generational goal is training that will help employees adapt to the work environment and reach business goals effectively.

References:

  1. How Millennials Can Become Better Managers http://blog.clomedia.com/2013/07/how-millennials-can-become-better-managers/
  2. Millennial Whitepaper http://www.allencomm.com/3-strategies-to-engage-millennials-get-results/millennial-whitepaper/
  3. The Millennials Are Coming! Proven Engagement Strategies http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/1188/

Telecommuting vs ‘Telepresence’

There are countless articles all over the internet describing telecommuting and how that compares to “traditional” working in an office. However, most of them deal with the matter under the assumption that the employee is either self-employed, or has a flexible working schedule. That means, when comparing the two types of employment, one of the key advantages of telecommuting is presented to be the freedom in making use of your time in your own way.

This is not necessarily an advantage though. Under the light of recent developments, where Yahoo and now Best Buy are cancelling their flexible work programs, it would be interesting to present a third option: working from home, but in an office at the same time (for the sake of this post, let’s call this “telepresence”). This means that you get to work from the location of your choice but under the 40-hour schedule and availability obligations you would have if you were to work in an office (I have been working this way in our company for several years).

So, how does “telepresence” relationship compare to the other two extremes (and why is it better)?

You can find telecommuting vs office work comparisons all over the internet, so I’ll only present a list of “telepresence” advantages compared with telecommuting:

  • Communication amongst your team members is easy, as everyone is online at the same time.
  • Meetings don’t need to be scheduled beforehand; they can take place immediately, as if everyone was in the same office (in fact, even faster than that)
  • Your clients can reach any member of your team during work hours, which is especially important for the company’s reputation.
  • Supervising is easier as you can ask and see work in progress, discuss issues or changes and delegate tasks at any time of day – just as you would in an office.
  • In case of an emergency situation you know that every member of your team will be online and available to assist you immediately (during working hours, at least)

I would say that this kind of employment combines the best of both worlds. Obviously, telecommuting in general is not the Holy Grail, nor suitable for every kind of working relationship (or people). But if companies were to employ stricter policies rather than providing full flexibility to employees (such as the ones described above) there would be far more people willing to try it!

About the author: Periklis Venakis is a software engineer at Epignosis, working as a web developer and elearning specialist. He has been actively participating in the development of the eFront and TalentLMS platforms for the past several years.

Are you ready for the future workplace & the iWorker?

With globalization, the emergence of social technologies that democratize information and change the role of leadership, and the fact that by 2020 the workplace will include 5 generations – the life of a worker by that time will look quite different to now.

Increasingly, people want to have their work life look a lot like their home life – they want to use the same productivity tools (Wikipedia, Facebook, Google, etc.) and their own equipment (also referred to as “BYOT” or “bring your own technology”: Mac, iPhone, etc.). The “training department” is becoming obsolete as training becomes part of the job and learning just part of work – a given. Work is becoming part of life and the “work/life balance” is an outdated concept at a time where “work/life flexibility” and integration is more of an issue.

The workplace will become more mobile with the increasing power of mobile phones that are replacing laptops as the main work device so that workers will be able to access the “desk” anywhere and at any time (i.e. the “third place”: if the office is the first place of work and the home office the second, the “third place” is anywhere your mobile phone is). Web commuting and third place working will replace the regular 9-to-5 workday and working on a project basis with “goal accomplishment” (meeting daily goals regardless time) will be the norm. Companies will thereby boost the job satisfaction and productivity of their employees.

The workplace will become democratic as information is democratized and digital record keeping makes company information accessible to all. The democratic workplace environment thrives on accountability, transparency, choice and the decentralization of power and employees will help shape company policy, project management and solve problems. This will also have implications for workplace learning as discussed in this post.

These changes are happening incredibly quickly as “revolutions” that once took hundreds of years to generate change now take just a few years in this high-tech age. The consumer experience will have a huge impact on learning as changing attitudes and behaviors will dictate. How so? – The mass consumerization of IT will mean that workers will bring their needs/new uses to IT departments  – they will want their LMS’, Intranet etc. to work like the productivity tools they already integrate into their day-to-day experience – to work for example more like Google Search.

According to UNISYS, to harness the full power of this new wave of productivity, organizations need to modernize their IT environments in order to:

  • Manage and support these popular consumer technologies;
  • Secure critical data and assets against hackers, viruses, identity thieves, and other widespread consumer IT threats;
  • Offer the interactive “app” experiences that consumers are looking for when transacting with their suppliers;
  • Handle the expected increase in transaction load that these new interactive experiences will impose on the IT infrastructure;
  • Attract and retain the new generation of workers entering the workforce.

The 3 most prevalent trends to affect the future workplace are:

  1. Globalization:  global access to markets and talent, how that is going to reshape business, and the importance of building a “global mindset”. A global mindset is the ability to work with individuals, teams and organizations that are different (culture, language, location). Millennials (those born between 1977-1997) are experiencing global opportunities earlier in their careers, and by 2020 experts forecast that there will be a migration of talent to BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) that will be leading the world economically. For implications on workplace learning please check this post.
  2. The emergence of social media tools and technologies inside the workplace are really changing how works get done. Companies are using social networks to source and attract employees while community platforms and closed corporate social networks are actively engaging both employees and customers to help solve problems faster, and improve products, services and business.
  3. Multiple generations in the workplace: by 2020 “Millenials” will make up 50% of the workforce. Millenials will work alongside older workers, traditionalists and boomers which will affect how companies are recruiting, developing and communicating.

With these trends will come growing interest in informal and social learning, team based learning and peer-to-peer or anonymous mentoring. Social media literacy will be a requirement for all, and leaders will need to display “digital confidence.”

How to keep up with these changes…

  • Adopt a global mindset
  • Familiarize yourself with social networks/ platforms and actively adopt them in the workplace
  • Always have your online reputation in mind and build your personal brand (social technologies track personal ratings, referrals and reputations)

By @rgogos – you’re welcome to connect with me on LinkedIn!