As Baby Boomers continue to retire at an accelerating rate, their immediate successors within Generation X will only be able to fill half of their positions, leaving the remainder open to less-experienced Millennials.
Born between 1981 and 2000, the generation known for its short attention span, demanding character, and technological dependency comprises 41 percent of the US population, making the accommodation of this fast-changing dynamic a business imperative. While the idea of having to accommodate for unseemly qualities leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth, the truth is that Millennials bring with them their own unique assets and are in fact no different from any other generation; Adapting to the culture-specific needs and proficiencies of employees is not just the economical thing to do, but a natural step in a very natural process.
Millennials are the product of their time, and accommodating for them is really accommodating for changes in the larger business and technological environment. As they rush to fill major roles earlier in their careers, Millennials will need all the mentoring they can get to support the transition. Here is a brief overview of some approaches you can take to revolutionize training and attract and retain Millennial talent.
Expand your training
According to mindflash.com, Millennials report that "lack of company support for training and development" is the number one most surprising aspect of real-world work, and only 20 percent agree that their employers provide the opportunities required to keep up with needed job skills. Given that this generation is so unsatisfied with the current breadth of its training, the natural and logical response is to start by giving them better and giving them more—preferably in that order. Work to improve the quality of your training based on the standard pillars of organizing information and job relevancy, career development and advancement, and enabling transformational change, coupled with more specific features that appeal to Millennial sensibilities; as you do this, you can then increase the quantity of the training to everyone’s mutual benefit. Even growing up in a world saturated with easily-retrievable information, Millennials are still overwhelmingly interested in formal corporate training. Improving the design and delivery of training with them in mind makes it stronger and more effective for everyone.
Prioritize communication and feedback
Often criticized for needing too much handholding, the Millennial thrives on continual feedback and advice. These employees will want to know as precisely as possible just what is expected of them and how their performance will be assessed. When providing them with information, clearly indicate how it ties back to their evaluation, and outline required knowledge up front. Millennials appreciate opportunities for coaching during new experiences, so try to engage mentors and senior associates directly with trainees during portions of training; digital platforms can employ equivalent "ask the expert" functions. Back-and-forth communications with your employees will promote comfort and competency with minimal cost to you or your organization. It is far more important that feedback be frequent and regular than for it to show any level of depth. Praise and positive feedback have always been universal agents for increasing engagement and knowledge retention.
Appeal to Millennial sensibilities
Millennials come from an educational environment that was always changing and experimenting with new technology, and are used to solving most of life’s problems with computer applications. They are so inclined to toy with diverse technologies anyway, that it would do your organization well to follow them in this proficiency. By weaving in varied and cutting-edge technologies as much as possible into training and other business pursuits, you are not just creating an environment that is friendly to Millennials, but one that is naturally innovative and productive by its own design, and can use Millennial talent to that end; here lies the value in accommodation. Try experimenting with social media in the classroom, and design content so that it can be accessed on different devices. Presentational trappings such as effective visuals and the use of a casual, blog-like vibe can contribute to success in the same way by simulating the conditions under which your employee-base originally learned to be successful; expecting it to adapt to an outdated system is just wasting potentially valuable background experience. Even the Milliennial's trademark "short attention span" is hardwired specifically because it works in certain situations. Delivering information to trainees in a smaller, easier-to-chew format more suited to the nonlinear learners of today can produce efficiency worthy of any generation. The ability to jump around between information can potentially be a major strength; the trick is getting the system calibrated just right.
Systematize your appeal
If modernization of training seems to be working to engage Millennials without compromising efficiency, why not employ the same strategy at a more holistic level? At present, a variety of experimental models exist to provide young people with the ideal working environments needed to focus and direct their latent potential. One such movement is the idea of gamifying training and other areas of work to incorporate "game" features such as points, badges, and team dimensions. One can easily imagine how a properly designed game system would benefit Millennials, as well as the myriad of ways in which such strategies might be expanded. A key concept in nearly any Millennial-targeted training program is that of "micro-learning," wherein the education is dissolved into short, 2–10-minute learning bursts said to match brain processing activities and increase knowledge retention (see the results of Annalect's smart chaos system). By generating a training environment suited to the particular learned proficiencies of today’s youth, you can successfully attract and retain Millennial talent. By doing it just right, you can capitalize on those talents endemic to Millennials and avoid ever having to see them as a liability.