Tony Glass calls out the stereotypes of millennial workers.
With millennials now the largest generation in the workforce, many organisations are concerned about how to cater to this group’s learning preferences. Within the field of enterprise L&D, almost every trade magazine, conference or blog provides guidance about specialised learning approaches to gain acceptance of millennials.
Companies have been led to believe millennials need specialist treatment – or they will go elsewhere. Some accepted generalities about millennials include that they:
- Value collaboration over working alone
- Have a desire for meaningful work
- Place an emphasis on work-life balance and flexibility
- Are thirsty to build capabilities
- Prefer frequent feedback about their performance
- Aspire to grow in their career
On inspection, these preferences and desires seem suitable for most workers, regardless of their generation. A lot of research supports this notion. A recent study by CNBC, for example, shone the spotlight on generational similarities.
Looking at the importance of six traits in a potential employer — ethics, environmental practices, work-life balance, profitability, diversity and reputation for hiring the best and brightest — millennial preferences of each of the six traits were similar to other generations in the workforce.
The conclusion is simple: the differences among generations of employees have been grossly exaggerated, which has created a number of misconceptions related to enterprise learning practices.
This is not to say that work learning practices should not evolve – in fact, this is where the millennial myth has come into play.
Because millennials are associated with the rise of technology, they are incorrectly credited with driving new work practices and expectations. However, it is actually the ubiquity of technology, the accelerated pace of work and our consumer experiences that are driving new work practices, not millennials per se.
As collective generations have evolved, so must the formula for L&D. Progressive L&D teams are embracing learning’s informal and always-on nature by creating an ecosystem that offers diverse learning modalities.
Learning decision makers should not assume that their target learner will be young; they should aim to create learning solutions that are effective across all generations, because they speak to the modern employee, regardless of age.
Forward thinking L&D is not the classroom-based, didactic training of the past, which is separated from the work context. Instead, effective L&D is intertwined into an employee’s workflows. Organisations should create learning and development strategies that allow employees access to rigorous and relevant micro-learning content and modalities that can be delivered at scale.
Whether the employee is struggling against a tight deadline, is unsure of some new software or wants to learn about a new role that they are striving for, they need to be able to access quick and effective training. It is significant that that training be available anytime, anywhere, on any device.
Effective L&D content also enables different learning styles and preferences, whether an employee prefers to watch, read, listen or practice depending on the specific moment of need. Providing for self-directed pull-based learning is key, but so is the ability to push out links to individual topics that fit into the workday.
Finally, the content needs to be accessible within learning system and company portals. The point is to get the employee to the relevant content for immediate application against a workplace challenge.
Change is happening throughout organisations. Business models, strategies and the face of the modern worker are evolving. By creating an L&D programme that is inclusive, modern and easy to use, learning leaders can positively impact the experiences of every employee, as well as the output of their organisations.
About the author
Tony Glass is VP and GM EMEA of Skillsoft.