Jennifer J Deal and Alec Levenson continue their series with a look at Millennials’ desire for development.
Part of being successful is knowing everything you need to know to do a good job at work. To do that, Millennials realise that they need to continue developing. They need to continue getting the training they need so that they have the skills to be successful both in today’s work environment as well as in the one that they see coming at them very quickly.
Millennials in the UK are quite concerned about stagnation, both in their career and in their development. Latest research shows eighty-three percent of them believe that they need to continuously improve their professional skills and capabilities.
They want to remain competitive in the workplace, they like to be challenged to do new things, and they feel strongly about making a contribution. They realise that if they don’t continuously improve, they won’t be able to grow and contribute to their organisation.
Millennials in the UK place a high priority on development. Almost half (46 per cent) say they work for a particular organisation specifically because of the career opportunities.
A majority (60 per cent) say they see their position as an opportunity to develop technical expertise, 80 per cent see it as an opportunity to develop their leadership potential, and 60 per cent say it gives them a chance to demonstrate their abilities as a leader.
Almost three-quarters (74 per cent) say that they have access to learning and development resources at work that will help them improve their skills. Yet about a quarter (26 per cent) of Millennials tell us they are not getting the development they need to make them feel they are continuing to learn and improve.
For many Millennials, it is likely that part of the reason they do not think they’re getting enough development has more to do with time than it does with the availability of the development.
More than a third of Millennials in the UK (39 per cent) say that the developmental opportunities exist, but they do not have enough time to really engage in them. They might be able to sit in a class, but there isn’t time after the class to figure out how to apply what they learned in class back in the workplace.
A number we spoke with said they simply were not given enough time to think about and assimilate what they were learning. They felt much of the learning was simply washing over them, rather than being integrated into their work, which they saw as being a waste for the organisation that was paying for the development. This frustrated them because they really want to learn and improve.
The lack of time for on-the-job development is an issue for Millennials in the UK particularly because it seems inconsistent with what they are being told by the organisation and their managers. Millennials are told that they need to develop new skills and improve at work so they can contribute more and get promoted.
They seek the development provided by the organisation to meet the goals that they are told are so important and then they are told that there is no time to practice what they learned, so that can really improve.
From the Millennials’ perspective, if the organisation wants the employee to learn and is going to benefit directly from the employee’s development, then the organisation should provide the resources for the employee to develop.
If the organisation does not provide the resources for Millennials to develop (e.g. provide work time to do the development, pay for the development, and ensure enough time to integrate the development into the work), then the implicit assumption is that the organisation does not really prioritise development, regardless of what the messaging is on the subject.
If that is what Millennials believe is going on, they will look for situations where they believe they will be more likely to get the development they need, and have the resources provided to do it.
Millennials will often start looking at options at other organisations because they are concerned that they are stagnating. If they can’t develop, they cannot move up, and if they cannot move up they are stuck.
In many cases Millennials move to other organisations because they believe they will have more and better development opportunities at the new organisation, not because of any active dislike of their current situation.
Organisations can improve their retention of Millennials through not just providing the necessary development, but also by providing the environment and time for Millennials to take what they’ve learned during the developmental opportunity and figure out how to transfer and apply that knowledge in their actual jobs in the workplace.
It is only once that transfer of the training is done that the organisation, the manager, and the Millennial will truly believe that the development has been effective.
Jennifer J. Deal is a senior research scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership and an affiliated research scientist at the Center for Effective Organizations at the University of Southern California.