In thinking about leadership and learning in the era of the four-generation workplace, no shortage of frustrations exists. Technology changes, “cool” workspaces, and operational processes are constantly evolving.
Everything feels more complicated, and learning faces the unique challenge of equipping and empowering our colleagues for success in this new environment. It’s quite simple to chalk up learner disengagement – especially that of the millennial employee – to a “person” problem.
But what if it’s a “perspective” problem?
Simon Sinek, in speaking about the professionalism of Millennials asserts that,
“Taking care of people means ‘I want to see you grow. I want to see you build your self-confidence. I want to see you learn accountability, responsibility. I’m gonna give you opportunities to fall and try again, and fall and try again.’"
Training, fundamentally, strives to “take care of people” by giving them the tools they need for success on the job. And when we consider the youngest group of employees, L&D has an especially important responsibility to teach them not only performance-critical content, but also the skills to learn in a corporate setting.
Now the responsibility of training feels even bigger than before.
Why Aren’t Millennials Loving Our Training?
To understand why a key group of learners seemed disengaged from training, we asked experienced trainers for their ideas. Many shared ideas like:
- “The training is not social enough.”
- “Millennials don’t like being tied to a computer.”
- “They’re used to working and collaborating in teams.”
- “Online learning is routine to them. They want something else!”
- “Their general lack of attention span combined with boring programs.”
- “Performance feedback is not necessarily immediate.”
- “Because traditional education is not virtual.”
There’s a lot to dissect there. Sure, digital proficiency makes them comfortable working with technology, but they may find it boring or contrary to how they’ve learned before. There’s a natural inclination to collaborate and share, and that’s easy to lose in virtual and blended learning programs.
Really, they’re not averse to the idea of online learning, Millennials simply have very high expectations of technology and they get frustrated if they have boring stuff, it’s not easy to use, the eLearning courses are too long, or they don’t fit the purpose.
Those frustrations, though, sound pretty universal for all learners. Don’t they?
Think Beyond the Millennial
That exercise proves that Learning and Development spends a lot of time considering the millennial learner. And for good reason! They’re a major demographic to which we must appeal. Like all of our learners, they have a unique perspective and set of pre-built skills, including an ingrained technical fluency.
So should we change all of our training to include every possible bell and whistle? No! Go back to basics and think about Adult Learning Theory. Honor their experience and expertise, while supporting their chosen learning approach.
Jennifer Hofmann provides much-needed guidance, arguing,
“We are always talking about engaging millennials because they are digital natives and they grew up with this content. BUT, really, we’re not just trying to engage young learners we’re trying to engage all learners.”
Maybe, then, thinking about Millennials in modern learning proves a more valuable exercise than we originally anticipated. It allows us to see the bigger gaps in our training and appeal to all of our learners, not just the youngest and most unfamiliar in the bunch.