Training millennials in the workforce

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A new generation of workers is among us, but how can learning and development teams ensure that their training interventions will make a difference to these digital natives? David Chan explains.
The millennial generation is broadly defined as those individuals born after 1985, who have grown up with the Web and mobile communications. The impact of technology is not limited to their virtual habits however; it has fundamentally altered the outlook and behaviors of these "digital natives" in the real world too.
Millennials are accustomed to finding information and socializing online. As such, they tend to choose self-selected teams and crowd-sourced information in everyday life, rather than relying on traditional management hierarchies or authority figures. They also pride themselves on being liberal, diverse, and individual, and so are more likely to seek out their own unique and entrepreneurial career paths, rather than following the pack.

The full impact of 'Generation Y' is yet to be fully felt in the workplace, with the recession reducing the availability of graduate and entry-level roles. But, as the economy picks up, the process of recruiting and training Millennials should become a priority for public and private sector organizations.
With a recent poll from the Association of Graduate Recruiters suggesting that there are currently 70 applicants for every job, many employers will consider the current climate to be a buyers' market. But how do you ensure that you're attracting the best and brightest candidates?
Millennials will scour the Web for information on prospective employers, so it's vital to check that your online reputation is as polished as it can be. They'll also be looking out for customizable roles to suit their individual skills mix. As such, presenting graduate schemes as one-size-fits-all commodities won't wash anymore. Finally, will Millennials find your corporate culture appealing? They'll be looking for opportunities to be autonomous, show initiative, and use the tools to which they're accustomed, so how do you ensure that your organization appears progressive and inclusive?
Socializing new recruits into today's workplace is difficult at any level - many organizations have an increasingly mobile workforce, which encompasses remote, global teams, communicating largely through e-mail. While Millennials may be happier jumping into this environment than older counterparts, the challenge is to define the authoritative sources of information within these dissipated organizational structures - whether people or procedures.

Millennials will be accustomed to working in their own way, so outlining their freedoms versus the constraints of the organization will be a vital part of induction training. Do they know when it's appropriate to self-organize or when they should consult their line managers? Are you enabling them to choose their own online tools to get things done, or enforcing standard software across your organization? And if it's the former, are there policies in place on how they should be used?
Ongoing training
In the age of social media, employees are increasingly becoming brand ambassadors and customer service representatives, regardless of their actual role within an organization. With Generation Y likely to be the ongoing early adopters of the 'next big thing', they will become increasingly influential in how an organization is portrayed on the Web.
With this in mind, continuous updates to procedures and training will be crucial. Do Millennials know which tools they can use and how to get the best out of them? Do they know what is acceptable to say on social networks? And are information security policies in place to protect your organization's data and intellectual property?
The entrepreneurial spirit of Millennials makes them far less likely to aspire to a 'job for life' than their predecessors, so continuous professional development is more important than ever. Organizations should ask themselves whether they are doing everything that they can to retain their best young employees.
Performance appraisals should be split from development appraisals, to ensure that employee dissatisfaction can be identified early. It's also important for Generation Y's feedback to be taken seriously. Do they have a new approach backed by a business case that could make operations more efficient or profitable?
Finally, offering training will help to lock-in Millennials for a number of years. Going outside of your organization to external suppliers is a good idea too - Generation Y will be attracted to portfolio careers, encompassing a number of different areas, so offering the opportunity for them to add another string to their bow that can help your organization will be highly beneficial.
Embracing the opportunity
There is no doubt that Millennials are fundamentally different to their predecessors, posing a variety of managerial and technological challenges for organizations. It should be remembered, however, that with the right training and guidance, Generation Y will bring a fresh approach to the workplace - one that has the potential to revolutionize many traditional organizations and bring tangible benefits to businesses.
About the author:
David Chan is the director of City University London's interdisciplinary Centre for Information Leadership. He recently co-authored "Responding to the Millennial Generation" - a whitepaper outlining the impact of 'digital natives' on the workplace. For further information, please visit:

Reprinted from our sister site, Training Zone

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