Engaging younger generations in the workforce

Written by Armin Hopp on 31 October 2018

When asked to indicate which job benefit was most important to them, more millennials chose training and development than any other benefit on offer, ranking it as more important than flexible hours, bonuses and holidays.

Yet, too many organisations are limiting themselves to outdated learning and development delivery and are failing to offer relevant skills development that will engage younger generations and drive the business forward.

Millennials are used to constant and instant access to digital devices and online resources. On-demand mobile micro-learning works well for these learners. However, simply providing the latest in elearning is not enough on its own to engage millennials with learning. 

The common issue is not that millennials will only engage with the latest learning technologies - the methods implemented to carry out learning delivery are where L&D programs are failing the younger generation at work.

Businesses now need to develop cross-disciplinary thinkers, people with an optimum blend of problem-solving and soft skills 

Younger employees have only recently left their educational environments, and they expect to participate in further learning activities. In fact, they are used to classroom-based learning, so this mode of delivery may form part of effective blended learning.

The problem is more likely to be with the use of generic training materials and training programmes that are not responsive to the needs of a fast changing business and changing job roles.

The 21st-century career

In its 2018 ‘Human Capital trends report, Deloitte defines a 21st-century career as ‘a series of developmental experiences, each offering a person the opportunity to acquire new skills, perspectives, and judgment’.

It adds, ‘Careers in this century may follow an upward arc, with progression and promotion at various times—but they will look nothing like the simple stair-step path of generations ago’.

The report points out that technical skills quickly become obsolete. Businesses now need to develop cross-disciplinary thinkers, people with an optimum blend of problem-solving and soft skills that enable them to get the most out of the latest intelligent business technology.

There are a number of strategies L&D professionals might adopt to engage younger members of the workforce in learning the skills they need for a 21st century career:

  1. Deliver soft skills training in a clear context. It is important that younger employees understand the benefit of soft skills to business objectives and to their future career. For example, they need to appreciate that improving their language and communication skills will provide them with opportunities to work with colleagues and customers around the world, offering prospects for exciting relocations in the future.
  2. Gamify your learning delivery. Touch and swipe mobile learning lends itself to gamification. Employees might be challenged to reach the next level in the ‘game’, ahead of peers who are also participating in the learning game. If learning is fun, then it is more engaging; so it’s important to mimic the fun aspects of games as well as the competitive element. The social element of a learning platform is also key. Consider how to invite feedback and collaboration, perhaps by creating polls to drive discussion.
  3. Help millennials help themselves. Providing self-service learning to new entrants in the workforce is crucial to setting expectations. If young employees learn to sit back and wait for training mandates, it will be hard to foster a self-directed, collaborative learning culture later on. Instead, encourage young employees to identify their own training needs and even to find their own training content. If a young person discovers useful training content online and shares it with other employees, then it benefits both the organisation and the individual; as they feel they are making a valuable contribution to their team. 

Millennials are expected to overtake Baby Boomers in population in 2019 as their numbers grow to 73m and Baby Boomers fall to 72m. Getting learning provision right for this group and equipping them with soft skills is key to future agile business growth.


About the author

Armin Hopp is the founder and president of Speexx.



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