Who are the millennials? More importantly, how are you designing and developing the “right” mix of learning to reach this new generation? I have a special interest in this segment of the workforce, as well as a concern that we are not adjusting our learning departments to the ways millennials have been accustomed to learning, networking and communicating.
First, let’s examine the millennial generation on their own terms. Here are just some of their attributes:
• Born after 1980.
• Appreciate speed of information, mashups, free content, personalization, networking and social causes.
• Dislike mass marketing, traditional ways of doing things and having knowledge pushed on to them.
• Hang out virtually at Web sites such as Facebook, MySpace, LiveJournal and Twitter.
• Have an estimated spending power of $1 trillion a year.
Consider the following: Millennials are experienced multitaskers who are accustomed to frequent text messaging (one friend of mine shares that her 18-year-old regularly sends and receives more than 1,000 texts a month) and send e-mail while searching the Internet and watching television.
What does this all mean for the world of corporate learning? First, we have to adjust to millennials rather than the other way around. They prefer learning to be delivered on a social-networking platform, one that is not tied to a set time and place and that encourages networking and community-building along with learning and performance improvements on the job.
Dr. Christopher Dede, professor at Harvard University’s School of Education and an expert in learning technology, believes one must understand what he calls the “Millennial Learning Style” before designing any offerings for them.
According to Dede, there are five elements of the learning style, and together they form the foundation on which to design and deliver learning to millennials. They include:
• Fluency in multiple media and simulations.
• Community-based learning.
• A balance among learning by doing and mentoring.
• Lots of links to relevant Web sites.
• Active cocreation of learning offerings.
Also, according to research conducted by Deloitte Consulting titled “Tapping Techno-Savvy New Hires To Boost Loyalty and Performance,” millennials prefer to be educated in networks or teams, use multimedia, be developed while being entertained and learn experientially using simulations.
As a result, you should partner with your human resources department to learn what, if anything, they are doing to experiment with new methods to recruit and retain millennials. For example, many companies are now targeting entry on a new “list” — Best Companies to Launch a Career, which is conducted by BusinessWeek magazine.
On this year’s list, the top three companies — Deloitte & Touche, Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers — are using Web 2.0 and other contemporary approaches to recruit talent and orient new hires to the world of work. For example, Ernst & Young uses Facebook to let prospective employees talk freely and openly to current E&Y employees about what it’s like to work at the firm, and Deloitte created a rap video about office life at Deloitte for prospective hires to watch prior to interviewing with the firm.
Employers that performed the best in BusinessWeek’s rankings were the ones that recognized the need to experiment with new ways of attracting and developing the millennial generation. Learning leaders should take note.