The Do’s + Don’ts of Training Millennials

Debbie Wooldridge
Posted: October 7, 2016


Millennials, also known as Gen Y, were born between 1980 and 2000 and now make up a majority of the workforce at 53.3 million, or one in three American workers. This generation grew up in a digital age with constant access to information, a great level of comfort using new technologies and mediums, and a different point of view than previous generations.

These characteristics are already changing the face of business and will completely alter what we expect from our workforce within the next 10 years. More than that, the way these characteristics show up in this generation of employees will revolutionize how we perceive and create effective workplace training.

Millennials are effectively taking over the workforce, and that might mean you have to adjust. See the top do's and don'ts for training this generation and getting the most you can out of them.

So take this to heart and find ways to help build training solutions:


Lead with the “Why”

In the past, a boss might have said jump, and employees would ask, “how high” Millennials want rationale before jumping if they jump at all. “They say why; give me reasons. Maybe I don’t have to jump. Maybe there’s a better way,”

Continue with the “How”

Knowing “why” to do something is not the same as knowing “how” to do it. Provide a clearly organized overview of why you need to learn something (i.e., the relevancy to the job). Then dive into the how and what.

Be succinct

Millennials do not need to memorize the entire operations manual nor do they need to know all the minutiae. Focus on information/skills employee will use immediately, therefore; create training programs that provide the least amount of information needed to accomplish the job.

Make information readily available

Millennials want info when and where they want it, but only when they’re ready for it so build performance support tools that accessible and relevant.  Providing training and support at the moment of need directly in the workplace enables Millennials to learn at their pace and immediately apply what they learn to the situation. Using technology to make the information readily accessible ensures that companies are connecting with a generation that grew up with cell phones in their pockets and instantaneous social media updates.

Pair constructive feedback with positive reinforcement

Millennials crave feedback; an experienced staff member should provide both constructive feedback and positive reinforcement. Ensuring that the feedback is information-specific, issue-focused and based on observations.  Provide an environment for discussion after the feedback is offered to further ensure learning and growth as well as sets the stage for a positive course of action.

Provide opportunities for learning and development in micro-teams

Team approach appeals to Millennials, offering opportunities to learn and grow in their jobs with multi-generational and multi-responsibility teams creates new efficiencies for all employees.


Take for granted baseline knowledge

There must be an accurate identification of what the learner does and does not know.  Although Millennials may have experience in the same field, they don’t have the same baseline knowledge of new methods. Overestimating knowledge may result in training that leaves too many gaps and, therefore, results in an inability to meet the business goals.  Conversely, underestimating knowledge may result in wasted time and overtraining of content not needed.

Rely on text-heavy content

It is unrealistic to expect Millennials to respond to the type of training provided two, five or ten years ago.  Keep up with current advancements in training tools and methodologies including video to replace text-heavy content. Video is more engaging and impactful than text, and people retain more information when they watch video.  With smartphones, Webcams, and simple video software, video has become easier and more affordable for companies to use in their training program.

Assume they understand career advancement

Most people want to advance their career, whether through building and refining skills as an individual contributor or taking on manager or higher executive roles. Millennials do not see the need to earn titles through steady career progression, feeling confident in their abilities to execute at any level. Therefore, make sure that training illuminates the path to the next level—or how to skip several levels and get to the “top” faster.

Forget the importance of ongoing training

Initial training should only be the first step of a longer-term learning process. This is a generation that’s always looking to learn. Scheduling and providing ongoing training is well worth the investment because building up the skills within the business effectively improves the company’s bottom line.

Presume confidence equates to understanding

Millennials aren’t afraid to talk to anyone in an organization; they’re driven to achieve, and they embrace technology to ease processes. However; this confidence does not mean that they understand the steps to take or the reason behind a process.   Ensure training content has impact by tying it into relevance and practicality on the job.
With the numbers of Millennials entering the workplace continuing to grow daily organizations have no choice but to update their training programs to ensure that they can recruit, grow and retain these workers.  If not, companies will quickly lose employees who are looking for companies that offer a good cultural fit.

What changes have you made in your company training program to better align with the Millennial workforce? Please share in the comments!

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