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millenialsWriting on how to get an entire generation of employees engaged with their jobs is an awesome task.  It raises the question of how can one reach general conclusions for a huge group of people.  Does every member of the so-called “millennial” generation think alike? No, they do not.  Articles on this blog by this writer, and others, have stressed the need for individualized job training programs, adapted, to the degree possible, to the desires and learning styles of each individual. The desire for individuality is also considered a characteristic of the millennial generation (along with a greater openness to collaborative learning) as with the baby boomer generation before them. But, there are general characteristics of millennials that can be used as the overall structure for recruiting and training. As will become clear, such programs will also have unexpected benefits.

Perhaps you want to respond that cost alone will ensure that this is not possible, and that management will need to have certain training standards to require. Remember that mobile and interactive technologies allow for a great deal of personalization. And, perhaps a lesson in itself for the millennials, some compromise may well be necessary.

Good management should realize that what it really wants to ensure are results, that it should be flexible, subject to ever present fiscal realities, in how the results are achieved. The term “millennial generation” lumps people together more than it should. The millennials are generally considered to have been born sometime between 1980 and 2000, though this varies.

As millennials flood the workforce, companies are seeing a massive drop in employee engagement – the lowest it’s been in almost a decade. Why?

  • Twenty-first century employees have shorter attention spans.
  • They consume content all the time and on the go.
  • Most importantly, they won’t hesitate to leave an employer when they’re dissatisfied.

In fact, 60 percent of millennials stay at a job for fewer than three years – and replacing them costs companies billions annually. In short, millennials look for companies that align with their core values. Ok. How do we keep them from leaving? A recent report from a learning provider makes some good suggestions as to what we might do. The really interesting thing is how many are good ideas for dealing with all employees, not just millennials, and developing employees to their maxim; which cannot help but benefit companies.

  • Millennials appreciate that professional development is the pathway to success. Training and development is seen by millennials as the most important perk in employment. They want training and development because they tend to see this as the best way to advance within a company and a field. One has to wonder how many baby boomers, well advanced if not nearing the end of their careers, wish they had more opportunity to learn up to date skills.
  • Millennials’ primary concern is to do work that matters. “Millennials are on a constant search for meaning, and they’re demanding it more than ever. The better you can educate employees about why your company exists and what it’s doing to help others, the better chance you have at retaining young talent.” It appears that many millennials are bringing substance to what baby boomers spent so much time declaring – a desire to change the world for the better.
  • Millennials want autonomy so they can decide how to do their best work. This is the ”tell me what you want, let me decide how, when, and where to get it for you,” which has long been the basis of good management. The military calls it mission orders, the result wanted, versus task orders, how to get the result. Millennials are the first generation virtually fully raised with technology. They are not just comfortable with technology, but actually enjoy using technology – and the time and geographic flexibility it provides. As long as they make the effort, and produce the results, sizable numbers of millennials will work well when they are allowed to choose their own work conditions. (This is another characteristic of millennials which is true of a lot of members of earlier generation.)
  • Millennials do not want to play by the old “rules” of how to do things. This is good for business. Millennials aren’t looking to break the law.  What they are always looking for are new ways to do things. They want to change things for the better.
  • Millennials always tend to want to know more. They may the phrase “too much information” but they usually do not feel this way. They are used to devices which can bring them the information they want and need. They particularly appreciate the concepts of big data, and data mining, that answers can be found if you have enough facts. They want complete and honest information, and a chance to find out what the information means. Give it to them.

Learning and Development touches all employees throughout their careers.

This is as true for a twenty-two-year-old just out of college as for a seventy-year-old. In fact, scientific evidence shows that continuing to challenge and develop the brain helps people’s brains work longer. If they don’t live longer, they live better.  Career long, and life long, Learning and Development is a no lose proposition, for employees and for their companies. The really funny thing is how many of the characteristics of millennials apply to other generations. Significant numbers of baby boomers could be in the general work force for another twenty years, Generation X members for a lot longer than that. The points are virtually all relevant to others and well as to millennials.  Any conclusions about a whole generation are virtually by definition oversimplified. The entire workforce will benefit by carefully designed and implemented programs to add more meaning to work, to add flexibility to work arrangements, to provide sufficient information, to establish a climate of lifelong learning, and all other efforts to make employees matter and make them feel that they matter.