Training Millennials
Training & Learning

The 3 Biggest Myths to Training Millennials (And What L&D Pros Should Really Know)

Lazy. Entitled. Unprofessional. These are just a few of the common labels used to describe the millennial generation. But, these words hardly paint a realistic picture of the millennial cohort.

Millennials, anyone born between 1982 and 1996, make up about one-third of the global workforce. There are a lot of myths that exist surrounding the work ethic of millennials—making workers in this generation seem nearly impossible to train.

There’s no denying that millennials tend to communicate, think, and approach training in a different way than other generations. But, we’ve found that many of the myths about how to train millennials are not only exaggerated—many are flat-out untrue.

Here, we’ll walk you through three of the most common myths about training millennials, discuss the underlying facts from which the myths were born, and set the record straight on what L&D pros should actually do.

Myth #1: It’s hard to engage millennials in learning opportunities

Research from Gallup shows 55% of millennials are not engaged at work. In reality, it’s not that millennials don’t want to be engaged; it’s that their workplace doesn’t fuel their sense of purpose. Millennials seek roles that promote inclusive work environments. They also value collaboration and want to learn alongside others during online training or while taking a course.

Unfortunately, a great number of millennials feel underprepared for their current positions: in a study about millennials in the workplace, Qualtrics found half of those surveyed “question their capacity for success.”

Employers who train millennials well tend to invest in learning opportunities that connect employees with each other and emphasize collaboration.

What L&D pros should know: Collaborative online tools connect your workers during training

Leverage online tools that encourage colleagues to exchange information and share ideas that they’ve learned in training.

Throughout a training experience, your millennial employees may have questions, need clarification, or want to bounce ideas off of each other. A collaborative environment gives your learners a centralized space to exchange thoughts about training materials—which, in turn, helps reinforce the skills they’ve learned.

A collaborative environment gives your learners a centralized space to exchange thoughts about training materials, like in the discussion forum above.

A collaborative space could look like an internal wiki, Slack channel, or a collaborative eLearning software like 360Learning. Each of these examples gives your learners access to on-demand information, which leads to increased knowledge retention by reinforcing the skills they need to do their jobs effectively.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Successful Employee Training Program

Myth #2: Millennials have shorter attention spans, so they won't engage with training

Millennials, in particular, get a bad rep for having short attention spans—most notably, the widely cited yet untrue theory that millennial attention spans are shorter than those of a goldfish.

The millennial generation grew up adopting new technology and being entertained by content on mobile devices and smartphones. In turn, it's shaped the way the millennial workforce communicates.

But if you see your millennial workers looking at their phones throughout the day, that doesn’t necessarily mean they have trouble focusing on their workload. In fact, research shows us that the human brain is able to process information better when we balance moments of deep focus with breaks.

What L&D pros should know: Millennials respond best to microlearning

People assume it’s impossible to keep millennials engaged. While it might be hard to do that with boring hour-long videos (what previous generation liked those, anyway?), you can effectively engage millennials with microlearning.

Microlearning has become increasingly popular for training millennials (and all workers, for that matter) because it consists of short bursts of learning that the brain can focus on in tiny, bite-sized chunks. One reason microlearning works is because it supports the way the human brain processes information. Studies show the human brain can focus deeply for about 20–25 minutes, and then it needs a five-minute break.

See how you can include gamification elements as part of your microlearning strategy.

Best of all, microlearning is simple to implement. Video clips, short quizzes, or even gamified training modules are all strong examples of microlearning that you can incorporate into your existing training program.

Related: Microlearning Examples and Techniques to Improve Employee Learning Outcomes

Myth #3: Millennials don't stick around long enough to justify investing in career development

It’s true that millennials leave jobs more than other generations; however, if your response is to train them less, then you’re shooting yourself in the foot. LinkedIn did a study and found millennials change jobs about four times in their first decade after college, compared to two job changes from Gen X.

Dig a little deeper, and you’ll see that millennials value training above all else. If there’s no promise of skills development in a role, millennial workers are more likely to leave. Therefore, training is crucial to retaining millennial employees.

Related: 4 Reasons Why L&D Is Crucial for Your Talent Management Strategy

What L&D pros should know: The way to keep millennials is actually to invest in on-demand training

Millennials who feel satisfied with their company’s learning and development opportunities are more likely to stay for five years or more.

While surveying millennials in 2016 and 2019, Deloitte found a direct correlation between employee satisfaction and learning and development opportunities. According to these studies, millennial employees are likely to stay in their roles long-term if they have access to learning opportunities. In addition, according to PwC’s “Millennials at work” survey, the most high-value training experiences include mentorship or working with a coach when training.

So, if you dig deeper, the root of the problem isn’t a need to climb the corporate ladder faster. Really, millennials don't have access to the learning styles they crave the most: on-demand training about skills they need at the moment they need it. Here are two easy ways to provide on-demand training:

  • Create a mentor program, connecting younger workers or new hires with your company’s top talent.
  • Conduct a skillshare series. Once a month, invite subject matter experts at your company to lead an optional training for all staff about a topic of their choice. Record the session and share it with staff afterward, so everyone has access.

Related: The What, Why, and How of Mentorship Programs at Work

Training millennials doesn’t have to be a headache

At the end of the day, millennials want to feel valued by their institution and want access to training opportunities that help them do their jobs better—just like any other generational cohort.

Invest in Collaborative Learning experiences to engage your millennial workers, and you’ll see an uptick in engagement among workers of all ages. Platforms like 360Learning are rooted in the concept of Collaborative Learning, which connects employees and encourages them to share ideas and work together. You can learn more about it in our ebook, here.