Meet Millennials. Described as demanding job hoppers with little loyalty, they’re projected to make up half of the workforce by 2020. So, if you haven’t taken notice, it’s time to pay attention. The future success of your business depends on it.

A few of the many Millennials of Axonify

Millennials know what they want and aren’t afraid to go after it – even if it means leaving what appears to be a dream job for a risky venture at another firm. So, how do you keep a talent pool of Millennials on your payroll for the long term?  How can you help them perform today and develop into tomorrow’s leaders?

The answer is through learning. But not just any learning. Don’t expect your 20-year old training methods to work:  this generation has high expectations and little patience. To retain, engage and push this generation to perform at their best, learning at work must mirror how they learn in everyday life. Here’s what Millennials want:

Quick and Instant Info. In today’s distraction-riddled workplace, Millennials have no interest in sitting through lengthy training sessions, or reading “how to” manuals and books. They want learning that reflects real-life interactions (think Twitter and Google): short, to the point and immediate (e.g. I’m doing something in my job. How do I do it?). That means, if you want to grab their attention, you’ll need to swap out lengthy classroom sessions for bite-sized learning modules that take no more than 5 minutes of their time.

Mobile Access. Millennials are the first generation of “digital natives” and would be lost without their mobile devices. The good news is they’ll embrace learning that’s available via an app—even logging in after hours if it’s really compelling. So, get rid of the notion that learning has to happen in a formal setting and let them learn whenever and wherever they want. You’ll get far better results if you give them more freedom.

Social Elements.  Millennials are communicating constantly via email, text and social networks. They’ve established their comfort zones around peer support.  They thrive in this environment. And they react positively to social feeds and discussion groups.  They’re also intensely motivated by a sense of value, and want the opportunity to contribute to the organization’s success in a variety of ways, such as participating in knowledge crowdsourcing. This means you need to stop locking up content behind closed doors and start making it accessible. A central repository of learning content that enables and encourages collaboration allows the entire organization to benefit from shared knowledge. And the more Millennials are able to participate in contributing their knowledge and ideas, the more they’ll feel valued and engaged. Plus, you’ll also benefit from hearing their point of view.

Entertainment.  Gaming is embedded in the psyche of Millennials, and they’ve grown to look for entertaining, engaging experiences wherever they go. If learning can be made fun, and offer challenges and a bit of competition, this generation will just eat it up!  After all, why should training be boring? By changing this mindset and gamifying the experience, learning becomes something that they want to do, rather than something they have to do. And when they want to learn, they will participate more and elevate their performance, benefiting the organization as a whole.

Personalized Experiences. Millennials are accustomed to app personalization technology, and have little patience for generic anything. They expect learning content to be relevant to their needs and timely. Otherwise, they’ll tune out or just not bother to complete the learning module. With today’s technology, there’s no reason all employees should receive the same type of training anyway. Personalized learning just makes much more sense from a development standpoint for everyone across the organization.

So, if you’re serious about attracting and retaining Millennials, it’s time to change your approach. Give them learning opportunities that appeal to the way they want to learn, instead of forcing them to adhere to old-school methods that just don’t work. The secret’s as simple as that.

Carol Leaman

Author: Carol Leaman

Carol’s not your typical CEO. Sure, she’s built several startups into multi-million-dollar successes, and as Axonify’s President and CEO is currently driving a revolutionary approach to employee knowledge. But she’s more the doors-open, come-see-me-anytime sort of executive. Her ambitions are sky-high, but her approach is warm and down-to-earth; Carol doesn’t just dream big, she makes big things happen.

You can read more of her writing at ATD, CLO and Training Industry Magazine. She’s also a regular contributor for Fortune.

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