The job market has turned a corner, giving today’s graduates more choices. As employers, we need to not only attract young, talented candidates, but learn how to keep them happy and productive. Most companies expend considerable resources recruiting new staff members, but how do you keep these new grads engaged?
Today’s college alumni are a new breed of workers — we can’t train them the same way we did employees just five or 10 years ago. Members of this new generation have a different take on what makes a desirable work environment. They also expect ongoing enrichment and challenges, and they want to know that what they learn today will help them in their long-term career.
Additionally, Young professionals want to know that what they learn today will help them in their long-term career. They’re like sponges, eager to soak up as much knowledge as possible. Training is seen as a benefit, but only if it is approached correctly.
Millennials do not regard training as a discrete event that occurs every six months — they’re ready and eager to pick up bits of knowledge on the go. Employers can capitalize on this desire by using technology-based learning to embed professional development as part of the daily workflow rather than relying on live, formal training sessions that take employees away from the job.
Weeklong, instructor-led classes are considered out of date — most new hires are accustomed to a very interactive digital lifestyle. Millennials grew up with constant audio-video stimuli, and they are accustomed to receiving and disseminating information from multiple sources simultaneously.
Although these multimedia experiences might seem jarring or confusing to their parents, they are second nature to the newest generation of workers. Employers claiming to be innovative lose credibility fast when they fall back on PowerPoint presentations, printed handouts and one-way lectures for training.
Millennials expect engaging learning experiences, whether they take place in the classroom or online. Early exposure to the sophisticated programming techniques of television and video games has left them with high expectations for all forms of communication — they assume employers will communicate via highly produced, interactive media. Employers can address this need by supplementing static training with simulations and other forms of learning that require active participation.
Another popular method of teaching these young professionals is by leveraging techniques used in some video games (such as multipath scenarios) that put learners in control. Virtual classroom sessions also can be used to bring together groups of learners to interact and discuss topics that have been covered in online self-study.
Although the primary goal of training is knowledge transfer, not entertainment, interspersing multimedia learning that incorporates audio and video will grab and maintain attention.
Another aspect to consider is millennials’ work-life balance. To them, work is no longer 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. — many younger employees work flex hours and spend more time working once they’re home. They’re on their hand-held devices virtually 24×7.
Employers can take advantage of this trend, providing easily digestible learning experiences on demand via mobile devices. This could be a section of an e-learning course, a specific chapter within a reference work or a brief video by a high-profile expert.
Additionally, millennials love to search, so consider the new generation of learning-optimized search technologies that enable users to pinpoint exactly the information they need, precisely at the moment they need it.
Podcasts provide another effective mechanism for learning on the go, as information on business issues, trends and initiatives can be downloaded to laptops, iPods and other MP3 players for quick and easy consumption. This allows employees to glean new knowledge during their commute or anytime that’s convenient.
Learning should not be an isolated event that removes employees from the workplace. Rather, it should become an inherent part of the workday that is easily accessible via multiple electronic devices. This affords employees the flexibility to select, cafeteria-style, the exact combination of information resources they need for the work at hand, ensuring improved job performance and greater employee satisfaction.
One final observation of millennials is that they tend to define success in terms of team rather than individual achievements. Perhaps this is why many seek to also gain “soft skills,” helping them to be a better team player or learning to motivate a team as a first-time manager, for instance.
There is a wealth of engaging online courses that hone these business skills. One example is the use of multimedia vignettes. Through them, employees can freely navigate a simulated workplace — complete with virtual colleagues, ringing telephones and documents on the desktop — to analyze and solve business problems.
Ultimately, the goal is to provide rich, pleasing learning experiences that stimulate employees. Training no longer needs to be a chore, but an added benefit in the workplace.
Further, even though millennials consume learning in smaller, more frequent “bites,” today’s most innovative learning platforms allow all this activity to be effectively tracked, recorded and measured. Those who embrace this new mode of learning are likely to be rewarded with more knowledgeable — and more loyal — employees.
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