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Engaging with the largest cohort of today’s workforce is a challenge for many HR and L&D professionals. Millennials are known for seeking just-in-time relevant information and training, being collaboration-oriented, seeking instant feedback, being hands-on and for easily multi-tasking. While most employers appreciate these traits in their millennial employees, short attention spans, the constant need for cell phones, internet and social media, attention and recognition are tricky millennial behaviours that organizations struggle to deal with. These pose a greater problem when learning schedules are rolled out. Then, the question that springs forth is ‘how do we ensure millennials learn effectively?’
Research indicates that millennials value experience. This stands at the core of their learning needs. The ways of learning that millennials are most receptive to can be summed up by these three mantras, adapted from the 5 moves to engage millennials by Christy Price, a psychology professor at Dalton State College.
- Mantra #1: Learning = Doing
The millennial generation has always refused to follow blind orders and do things without understanding the rationale behind an action or behavior. Their need to understand how and where they are adding value by doing or learning something is of utmost importance. Therefore, getting their hands in it or jumping in the deep end of the pool is their way to learn things first-hand and swim their way to expertise. As a result, immersive games and interactive content that place learners at the centre of the learning experience are most popular with millennial learners.
- Mantra #2: ‘Just – in – time’
While older generations abhor the millennial need for instant gratification, this need for immediacy stems from their desire to be agile, experimental, and seek relevance in a context that is ever changing. An integral part of this process is learning quickly and learning just enough to help alter the situation, i.e., just-in-time. The popularity of google as the source of information and mobile as the platform of learning allow millennials to satiate their need for immediacy, and most importantly seek what is relevant to their current context quickly and before it changes.
- Mantra #3: Freedom to explore and experiment
The Millennial generation tends to believe that learning can come from anywhere and everything, as what they value most are relevance and rationale. Therefore, it is important to them that they are presented with an environment that allows free and open communication. This affords them the ability to connect and ask questions without the fear of being judged or mocked, making learning a natural process in their day-to day life. As a result, learning that comes from simulated, virtual, augmented environments fosters high levels of engagement, learning, and impact.
In short, at the core of each mantra lies the need for experience and experiential learning. Millennials seek to be productive and valuable members of the workforce, as do so as fast as possible. Therefore, they expect that the organization presents them with the right tools, avenues and platforms to hone their ability to add value and unlock new potential for business. After all, Albert Einstein’s words have never rang more truer than for the millennial generation – ‘To experience is to learn, everything else is just information’.
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