Meeting the Training Needs of the Millennial Generation

The millennial generation has taken our workforce by storm in the last few years and changed not only the way we think about work, but the way we think about development, too. The generation that is typically characterized as “entitled,” “job-hoppers,” or “technology hungry” has made an enormous impact on many companies’ training strategies, and as they continue to flood the workforce, those changes will continue to affect every organization out there.

Some quick facts about this generation:

  • Currently, millennials make up 38% of the workforce, and as the youngest millennials are just this year turning 21, that percentage will only increase. Research from AON Hewitt predicts that millennials will make up 50% of the workforce by 2020.
  • 55% of millennials are not engaged at work, and that disengagement costs the U.S. economy somewhere between $284 and $469 billion annually in lost productivity.
  • Millennials are not afraid to leave their jobs to find something better – they will often leave to seek a role that will make better use of their strengths and qualifications.
  • Finally, 87% of millennials rate “professional or career growth and development” as important to them in a job – compared to just 69% of non-millennials.

Clearly, the millennial generation knows something that we don’t – and it’s about time that we catch up! Let’s explore what I’ve found are the three most important factors in meeting the training needs of this generation:

1) Having L&D opportunities at their fingertips,
2) Receiving organizational support and manager involvement in their training, and
3) Learning things that they consider to be worth their while

L&D At Their Fingertips

Millennials are not quite digital natives, but they have truly grown with the biggest technological advances of the century. As often the earliest adopters of social media and mobile channels, they expect for the important information in their life to be available to them on whatever device they are using at the moment. Flexibility is key – in fact, organizations that implement a combination of face-to-face, telephone, and electronic communication media are the most successful in engaging these millennial staff.

There are a wide variety of learning options out there to get the right information in the hands of your staff – literally. E-Learning modules are an effective way of getting specific training information across to all of your staff. And the benefit of today’s modern e-Learning is that it can be wrapped to not only your internal learning platform, but often can be optimized for mobile devices as well!

Also keep in mind, not all learning has to take place through formal training programs. Take a few minutes a week to gather some relevant journal articles to send over via email, or create a series of reinforcement tools that can be referenced by your staff as they have time or desire. Dr. Laura Book, OD Manager for SGEi, has some great tips for creating the continuous learning environment that your millennial staff crave.

Manager Involvement & Organizational Support

According to a recent study, a whopping 72% of employees think their employers don’t care about their career growth. For an already disengaged population of millennials, that could be a death sentence for your retention rates. All employees want their managers and companies to care about their development, but for millennials, it’s an absolute necessity. According to Gallup, “Millennials want to work for managers who can support, position, empower and engage them,” and that all comes down to the emphasis they place on ensuring learning opportunities are available.

Ideally, managers should be communicating with their staff often in both casual and formal settings and providing relevant feedback on their performance, as well as discussing their goals for the future. But a huge part of this conversation that is missing in many organizations is that focus on the learning needs of their staff. In the more formal setting, managers should help create a concrete plan for each employee’s training and development, helping capitalize on their strengths and identify their needs for the future.

Opportunities Worth Their While

Finally, Millennials need training opportunities offered to them that are worth their while. Millennials are looking to the future – they want to know that their organization will help them progress in their careers. That doesn’t seem like a tall order, does it? You wouldn’t think so – but only 39% of millennials agree that they learned something new in the last 30 days that they can use to do their jobs better, and only a third agree that their most recent learning opportunity was “well worth” their time.

One reason for this disparity between what employers are offering and what millennials feel they are getting out of it is that millennials more than any other generation don’t want to fix their weaknesses – they want to develop their strengths. In the last few years, Gallup has researched the concept of building your strengths vs. improving on your weaknesses, and they have discovered that true weaknesses never develop into strengths, while strengths can develop infinitely. This is where your managers truly become the key to keeping your millennials on track and aiding in retention – use your managers’ knowledge of their team members’ skills, knowledge, and talents to ensure that as an organization, you are giving them every opportunity to focus on those strengths.

In the end, when it comes to aiding millennials in their quest for knowledge, it all comes down to showing them that they are your priority. This generation may have been given the label of “entitled,” but that simply isn’t true. Millennials want to expand their knowledge and skills, be useful, and grow and develop within the organization that has meaning to them. Once they find their niche, they will become one of your biggest assets.

If you’re struggling with finding a way to meet the training and learning needs of your staff, or are interested in learning more about creating a continuous learning environment, please reach out to our SGEi team! We are dedicated to serving the needs of customer-centric businesses and providing training and learning opportunities for every unique workforce.

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