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Millennials in the workplace – a Q&A with Kath Fleet

Ahead of her seminar ‘2004: the Millennial event horizon‘ at Learning Technologies 2016, we spoke to Learning Consultant Kath Fleet to learn a little more about the expectations of Millennials in the workplace and how we can ensure we hit the mark with the workforce of tomorrow. Here’s what she had to say…

Millennials in the workplace

Why do Millennials differ so much to any generation before them?

Millennials are the first generation to properly grow up with the internet, with instant access to knowledge, especially through smart mobile devices which put this knowledge in the palm of their hands.

According to some definitions, the Millennial generation spans anyone born between 1982 – 2004. If you take the year that Millennials first came of age and entered the professional workplace – around 2004 – that’s the same year that Facebook first appeared. YouTube followed hot on its heels and Twitter was not long after that.

This is the first generation of people to grow up using social media and the first to use it to communicate by default. The challenge is that their employers don’t come with the same perspective as them. They come from an age in which to skill up or learn about something meant attending a training event or completing a course – but things have changed.

Why are the expectations of Millennials higher when it comes to training?

I think it’s very much in tune with instant access and the fact they are used to having things as and when they need them. Millennials are used to having a go-to place or a go-to person. Whether that’s a blogger, a YouTuber, a Facebook page or Wikipedia, they are used to knowing where they can find knowledge about pretty much anything.

This links in with the idea that you don’t need to train people quite so much as in the past. Knowledge and knowledgeable people are more important today because you don’t need to recall information anywhere near as much as you used to. You can just go out and find it as and when you need it.

The expectations of Millennials in the workplace are different because they learn from each other as opposed to learning from top-down messages or what is dictated by management. As long as someone has knowledge, they have status. It doesn’t matter where they rank in the workplace hierarchy. Top-down messaging and information might not be the most relevant to them at that time, so they will seek out what or who is most relevant to them right now – and often this is their peers, not their superiors.

Millennials have elevated status in the digital world which may be completely separate from their status in the real world. The digital world is measured in likes, how many friends or followers you have – everything is measured in popularity and it elevates your status. So when millennials come to the workplace, they look to do the same thing: to have visibility and to have impact… to add value.

What small steps can be taken to create training which engages Millennials in the workplace?

The simplest thing businesses can do is create a good knowledge bank and let people know where it is. Short, snackable ‘know-how’ content – things people can go and find when they need it which helps them go and do something. It needs a good filtering or search mechanism that helps people tailor the content to their needs, and it should be made up of granular content which can be digested in short bursts of learning.

Get the knowledge, put it on a platform and make the knowledge highly searchable and let people pull what they need and when they need it.

Audio-visual or video content is also good – the more visual and multi-sensory the content is the quicker it is to absorb in the moment – at the time of need. Plus this type of content plays well on smaller screens. Phones are often the first ‘tool’ a Millennial will pick up.

Finally, provide a social platform, a mechanism to talk and converse, create groups and networks. Promote social learning across the organisation and let the communities drive the conversation – don’t try to impose control over it. Let the stars shine.

If you would like to hear more about 2004, the year Millennials changed the workplace changed for good, Kath’s seminar at Learning Technologies 2016 is taking place on day 2 of the exhibition at 11:00 in Theatre 4. Alternatively, if you would like to speak with LEO’s learning experts about your challenges with Millennials in the workplace – either at Learning Technologies or not – get in touch with us today.

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