Delivering learning and development to young people in the workplace can be challenge – especially if those in charge pre-date the internet generation. Millennials will make up half the workforce by 20201and they will expect social and mobile learning platforms as a matter of course. As organisations become increasingly international, learning and development professionals have a key role to play in providing the language and communication skills to underpin that. In a competitive global recruitment marketplace, giving young employees the skills they need to build their experience in many countries can only contribute to recruitment and retention.
Training professionals have a delicate balancing act to perform when it comes to supporting learning and development within the Millennial employee base. On the one hand, these employees will respond well to engaging, technology-enabled delivery and are the digital natives who will deliver the future of your organisation. At the same time these are young people at the beginning of their career from a generation that is widely defined as anything from entitled to empowered and that looks set to rewrite the rulebook of employment. Many are entering the workplace at a time when they are still heavily supported by parents and may need more handholding than younger employees have needed in the past.
- Put learners at the heart of learning design and delivery. Learning delivery is shifting from something that is done to learners, towards making available resources to learners to access in their own way at the point of need, integrating learning into workflow. Online social platforms and communities of practice can also now provide a learning environment where people can support each other in developing their skills. Over 600 learning professionals took part in a detailed review of their learning strategy during 2015 for the Towards Maturity 2015 ‘Embracing Change’ report2.
The report found that the vast majority (88%) of learners learn more by finding things out for themselves than through face-to-face classroom training and that three quarters (75%) of learners are willing to use technology to share their knowledge in order to help others learn. It seems likely that this percentage would be even higher for the millennial generation. There is some progress toward the goal of putting learners at the heart of learning design and delivery in the learning community – over a third (35%) of learning and development leaders are already involving involve users in design of the most appropriate learning approach3.
- Tap into Millennials’ preferred ways of communication, from social media-style platforms to gaming style delivery. Young people are hardwired with content sharing habits. Provide platforms for sharing, social learning and peer-to-peer communities, rather than one-way learning content delivery. Encourage this generation of employees in particular to contribute their own content from videos podcasts, to blog articles and graphics such as appropriate memes for example.
Among the training professional community, the CIPD has identified an urgent need for skills in facilitating social and collaborative learning. Yet only 20% of organisations have these skills in house – 46% say they are planning to recruit new L&D staff with these skills and 50% recognise that they need to develop these skills now3. However, this is also the skillset with the greatest proportion postponing development for the time being.
- Align learning with lines of business. If learning content and delivery closely matches workflow in particular lines of business, it will not only match business needs better but it will also resonate more closely with the real-world experience of junior employees. Learning and development professionals who report directly to individual lines of business rather than centralised HR department report a number of benefits3: 41% feel they are contributing to drive business innovation, compared with 29% for those reporting to HR.
Other reported benefits include: 37% improvement in on-the-job productivity (compared with 28% for those reporting to HR); 40% improvement in customer satisfaction (33%); 27% improvement in ability to personalise learning (16%); 23% faster application of learning back into the workplace (16%); 23% [better integrated] learning into the workflow (10%).
- Aim for transformation. Do not simply digitise traditional methods of learning delivery. It is no longer enough to offer conventional static e-learning modules, particularly when it comes to developing skills such as communications competencies and language proficiency. In this case, learners can benefit from dynamic and responsive learning support using Millennials’ favoured means of communication such as instant messaging and chat facilities.
- Be continually responsive to learner needs. Provide a mechanism for feedback and give learners a voice. The Millennial generation moves on quickly from one technology to another – tap into employees in this age group to find out what people are using and what they are interested in and reflect that in your learning delivery.
Learning as a capability has to evolve and it has to be accessible, agile and flexible, according to the CIPD and Towards Maturity report ‘Preparing for the Future of Learning a Changing Perspective for L&D Leaders’3. It points out that many interventions are now best delivered in the flow of work activity, not in a classroom: “Digital technologies enable learning to be available anytime and anywhere with many also choosing to learn in their own time and often from their own sources of learning and knowledge . . . This new learning landscape creates many new opportunities but also raises a number of challenges.” Learning and development professionals who rise to the challenges have a vital role in helping shape an agile organisation that is well prepared to compete in the global marketplace.