I’ve read the word ‘Millennial’ so many times in articles, branding and advertising over the last few months, that I can just about muster up the strength to type the word myself. Like it or loathe it, they’re topical for a reason, because by 2025, 3 out of 4 workers globally will be Millennials.
Whilst it’s flattering so many employers are taking an interest in how to engage and work with Millennials, a lot of it seems misdirected and based around loose stereotypes. So, to help those who may have been blind-sighted by the media here’s a ‘Dummie’s guide to Millennials, by a Millennial.’
We don’t fall for gimmicks – we want insider insight and real stories
One of the biggest misconceptions made by the advertising industry is that young people buy into celebrity endorsement and branding. When asked, Millennials prefer endorsement from real, trustworthy people. This is probably the reason that blogging is over-taking journalism, and why you can find reviews on restaurants, hotels and previous employers in just a few clicks. As a person who’s more likely to check a restaurant’s Instagram than the menu listed on their website, I must agree. It’s probably the reason why I’m writing this blog – we value real people and real stories. We want a genuine insight into ‘I’ve been there, I’ve done that, this is what worked for me.’ So, it’s important to ensure your learning content speaks to your learner on a human level. Case studies and scenarios that evoke emotion are far more likely to go on to make real behavioural change. Demonstrating to your learner examples of how others have reacted in a similar situation, how a difficult problem was resolved, and what it resulted in, is far more likely to achieve engagement than a glittering success story with no background information.
We’re not whimsical – we value security as much as the baby boomers did
Reports suggest that Millennials will be in at least 6 varying job roles throughout their career, whereas most baby boomers settle in one type of role throughout their working life. Understandably, many employees could take the outlook that a member of staff who is temporary isn’t a cost-effective, worth-while investment. Why invest in someone who could leave and take their new skills elsewhere? Alternatively, why would employees want to stay if they haven’t been supported in their learning and development? Continuous development is one way of ensuring that the learners you’ve invested in are retained as part of your workforce. There is a lot of talk about Millennials being impatient, but what it means is that we’ve come to expect instant feedback rather than delayed responses. Giving them regular feedback rather than waiting for annual reviews is one way to achieve this. Allowing for your learners to track their own progress, work to objectives you’ve set together, and see a clear learning path will ensure future commitment.
Yes, we tend to throw around acronyms – but CSR is important to us
Another false stereotype is that Millennials associate success with money, alone. We may live in a celebrity-heavy culture, surrounded by expensive throwaway trinkets and trends but we put a lot more value on important matters too. We care about the value that our work has on the wider world. I recently spoke to a friend who saw her dream job advertised but on seeing a scandal in the newspaper about the company, withheld from applying for the role. Ensuring that your company culture allows for events that enrich communities, will help to demonstrate to your Millennials workers that you have good corporate social responsibility.
Actually, a few of those stereotypes are correct!
Millennials really do adapt to new technology quickly. If your next people development strategy is a move towards digital learning, it’s a move that will be well received by the Millennials in your team. As a generation that was very nearly named ‘Generation Net’, we’ve grown up with the internet and are aware that even the most difficult to use technology is just a Google explanation away.
And although we can be guilty of having our phone out over dinner, rather than speaking to the person that we’re sat opposite, Millennials are pretty social! Brought up on social media and networking, collaborative learning is something that will be adopted easily. Whilst some of your ‘baby boomers’ may feel apprehensive about sharing a learner resource in a discussion hub, or an achievement on a scoreboard, your Millennials have probably already posted a picture of their breakfast on Twitter, a #tbt on Instagram and a status update on Facebook by midday. So if you can’t beat them, join them!
Whilst these tips aim to help you engage your Millennial workforce, it’s important to take note of what Adam Conover says – The only stereotype that is correct about Millennials is that they are young. If you want to appeal to Millennials, treat them like people.
Author – Emily Russell of Saffron Interactive