Millennials are changing the workplace, and they are doing so in large numbers. Born between 1980 and 2000, millennials are the face of the newest generation of workers, and they demand a different workplace than the generations before them.
They can command those changes because they are in short supply in places where birth rates are lower, and they will support an older population as life expectancy increases, points out a 2011 PwC report entitled “Millennials at Work: Reshaping the Workplace.”
What Millennials Value at Work
So what do millennials want from employers? The report found that millennials aren’t much on loyalty to an organization; they often prefer electronic communication to face time; they value work/life balance, and they want to work for companies they like as consumers.
Other findings from the study are perhaps the most vital for professional development departments to grasp: “this generation are committed to their personal learning and development and this remains their first choice benefit from employers. In the second place, they want flexible working hours. Cash bonuses come in at a surprising third place.”
Millennial employees want to move up the ladder quickly at work, and they are prepared to study and learn what they can to do so.
An organization that is committed to the professional development of its employees is likely to garner more loyalty, something Millennials are short on.
A white paper from Franklin University about why investing in employee education means positive business growth states that “employees who are encouraged and financially supported in pursuing their education are likely to be more motivated to engage in proactive initiatives and voluntary contributions toward organizational goals. . .”
If your organization wants to encourage loyalty among its millennial workers and to attract high-quality millennial applicants, it is essential to invest in a learning and development program that speaks to their desire to learn as much as they can about their positions and the industry at large.
What Type of Learning?
So what types of training speak to the newest generation of workers? Your learning and development organization should avoid doing too much formal classroom training, according to the PwC report. Just six percent of millennial respondents said they would most value formal classroom training.
You might think that developing a comprehensive e-learning platform might be the way to go. While on-demand, byte-size training that allows workers to access and digest training in small doses on their time schedule and wherever they are located is definitely a valuable tool for employers to offer employees, it is shouldn’t be the main pillar in a learning and development program.
A mere five percent of respondents in the PwC report said that they would most value e-learning. It isn’t a good investment of time, money, or energy for an organization to rely completely on e-learning to teach its newest employees.
Millennial workers instead want mentorships and strong coaches. Twenty-eight percent of respondents in the PwC report said they would most value working with these individuals among many options for training and development.
Creating strong partnerships between older, more experienced employees, and Millennials or between knowledgeable and experienced Millennials and less experienced Millennials can have a positive impact on learning and growth for an organization.
In particular, fostering learning and teaching relationships between younger and older workers can help to break down the generational divide that can cause problems in the workplace.
When employees of different generations can talk and work together in a positive climate, they are less likely to have difficulties working together on important projects and can, instead, offer productive ideas and feedback to one another in a caring way.
Another form of training well-received by millennials (21 percent in the PwC report) is changes and rotations of roles to gain experience. Cross-training exposes individuals to new ideas that can help them see their current roles and work-related challenges in new lights and help solve problems.
It can also prepare them to be better managers as they understand what it is like to work in different areas of the organization.
Additionally, 19 percent of millennials responded that they would most value collaborating with inspiring colleagues on important projects. High-performing workers who have experience and great ideas to share can fuel learning and discoveries in new employees.
Millennials value opportunities to learn over money at work, and they seem to prefer active, working relationships and collaborations that can teach them new concepts and skills.
They may prefer less face-time in work-related communications in many cases, but they don’t prefer electronic training to real, human interaction that can impart valuable training. Your organization can create mentorship, coaching, cross-training, and collaboration opportunities to help younger employees develop their talents and profitably move the company into the next generation.