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Strategies to Engage Millennials – We Aren’t That Different

Kid-MillennialAs a millennial, I feel like I already have a bad reputation to overcome before I’ve even entered the workforce. People seem to think my generation is lazy, has the attention span of a fly, spends all day on Facebook and Twitter, and enters the workplace with a never ending list of demands. Now I obviously can’t speak for my entire generation, but I know from my experiences with my peers that we’re actually multi-taskers, self-learners, very comfortable with technology, and committed to adding value to the workplace.
Given the stereotypes, in the corporate world, people are buzzing about (and maybe even a little afraid of) millennials; they want to know how to work with us and engage us. It’s exciting to see how training is evolving to incorporate learning strategies that millennials prefer to use like mobile, gaming, and video.

1. Mobile Learning

Millennials have grown up with mobile technology. The Pew Research Center notes that 65% of American adults age 18-29 own a smart phone, but that figure drops to 59% for adults ages 30-49 and 32% for adults ages 50-64.

Millennials have also learned to be resourceful. We’re often more comfortable searching for answers rather than waiting for someone to help us. We’re quick to plug our questions into search engines and networks, or message a knowledgeable friend. If someone asks a question we don’t know the answer to it is almost a race to see who can Google it faster on their smartphone. Similarly, for us, accessing job-related support, such as product details or procedures, on a mobile device is second nature—assuming the materials have been designed for easy search and reference. That said, we definitely don’t want to go through a 30-minute training course on our smartphones (that’s what desktop computers or tablets are for). Instead, we expect intuitive, smart design that respects the reference habits we’ve already built around our mobile devices.

Mobile apps can, of course, play a key role as well. Give us well-designed tools like action-planning wizards, performance support systems, or mentor video libraries, and with little coaching you’ll find us setting goals, accomplishing new tasks, and learning from the experts. Our parents and teachers have raised us to develop long- and short-term plans with measurable steps. Like many of my friends, I know I’d be excited to check off activities on my phone that would keep me on track in my training and let me visualize progress. Who doesn’t get a sense of accomplishment from checking off items from their To-Do list. It’s also a great way for managers to track employee training, and it starts with respect for the way I use my device and the ambitions that I bring.

Make mobile training short, concise and easy to use; not long, boring and hard to read.

2. Gamification

We all love a good game. However, millennials often go one step more, wanting to mix work and play. Why shouldn’t the job be fun and creative and why shouldn’t we be proud of achieving and see evidence of our progress (such as badges or scores)? Businesses can use these habits to drive training, as well. Since we tend to be mission-driven—we learn by seeing, by doing—gaming and storytelling can be a great way to keep us engaged in learning about our workplace.

Gamification in training is also a way to provide on-the-spot scored feedback in a safe and comfortable way. It motivates millennials to immediately correct their actions and aim for a higher score, which they can share with peers. Games are just naturally built to engage and motivate the players (or learners). Be careful, though: When it comes to training games, millennials want to genuinely learn something we can apply. We don’t want to feel patronized.

Games are a great way to tap into mission-driven values, make them meaningful for millennials.

3. Video Based Training

If you ask millennials, videos are the new text. Websites that are rich in video content keep millennial attention much better than a text heavy website. Blogs have turned into vlogs and YouTube is growing rapidly. According to the Pew Research Center 92% of online adults ages 18-29 reported watching videos on a video-sharing site compared to 80% for ages 30-49 and only 54% for ages 50-64.

An important factor in video production for millennials is brevity. The average YouTube video length is about 4 minutes. Millennials prefer short media to quickly spark interest, keep their attention, and get to the point. We’re more likely to retain information if it’s cut into short segments. We can still learn from long videos but we aren’t quite as likely to remember everything the narrator said.

We are comfortable with video; make it exciting and concise to help us retain the info.

It is exciting to see how training is changing to incorporate new technologies and learning techniques. Mobile learning, gamification and video based learning are methods that millennials are comfortable with but they can benefit all generations. If you are creating training for millennials remember that we are not as different as we are made out to be, just like other generations we are dedicated to adding value in our workplace, we just may take a different route to get there.

Learn more about millennial training strategies here.