Is L&D adapting to the needs of Millennials?

by Brett Henebery17 May 2017
Adapting to Millennials’ training needs is a challenge recognised by all organisations, but achieving this can be easier said than done.

As such, work is being done to help organisations understand the mindset of this generational group, and how L&D programs can continue to ensure consistency across the various age groups without any one group feeling left out.

A recent whitepaper by RainmakerThinking – titled: ‘The Great Generational Shift: Update 2017’ – offered some key insights.

“Every step of the way, Millennials want to find a work situation they can fit into the kind of life they are building for themselves,” the paper’s author, Bruce Tulgan, said.

“This is because they grew up overly supervised, coached, and constantly rewarded by their parents, Millennials will never be content to labour quietly and obediently in a sink-or-swim environment.”

However, Marie Duncan, learning development manager at Kibble Education and Care Centre, said that using the term ‘Millennial’ risks a “self-fulfilling prophecy” of stereotypes that are evolving about this group.

“As an organisation, if we harness the interests, talents and skills across the workforce and cross-pollinate these, then we are in a stronger position to enhance the entire workforce and not one generation of it,” Duncan told L&D Professional.

“I also believe that organisations should be modernising their workplace practices to reflect new learning technologies regardless of Millennials.”

Clayton Ilolahia, head of organisation development and learning at the Sydney Opera House, also questions whether there is much difference in terms of training needs between the generational age groups.

“Most of us have read articles about the habits of millennial workers, their need for flexibility, purpose and their preference for multitasking. But are these needs so different from non-millennials?” he asked.

“While social learning and micro-learning are two popular approaches for millennial development, these bite-sized learning methods offer value to all employees.”

However, whether we like it or not, Millennials’ attitudes in the workplace are markedly different to those of older learners, and as such must be taken into account when training programs are rolled out – a point Tulgan makes below.

“Millennials respect transactional authority, such as control of resources, control of rewards, and control of work conditions,” he told L&D Professional.

“This is because they look to their immediate supervisors to meet their basic needs and expectations, they freely make demands of them.”

Tulgan dismissed the notion that Millennials are “a bunch of greedy, disrespectful, slackers with short attention spans who won’t take ‘no’ for an answer”.

“Our research demonstrates clearly that Millennials want leaders who take them seriously at work, not leaders who try to humour them; leaders who set them up for success in the real world, not leaders who pretend they are succeeding no matter what they do,” Tulgan said.

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