The Millennials Are Here, But Can You Keep Them?

Millennials walking out on you? Here's the learning angle you shouldn’t ignore.

I was recently delivering a training class and as we were going through introductions, I realized that we have already hit a much discussed inflection point.

Over ½ of the students were millennials (born between 1980 and 1996). It seemed like just yesterday, we would hear “The ‘Millennials’ Are Coming”. And now they’re here. But, according to the latest Gallup poll, they are not sticking around: as many as 6 in 10 millennials change jobs in less than three years. Considering that the average cost to replace a millennial employee is somewhere around $24,000, that’s obviously a problem.

So, how do you keep them from walking out the door? I believe there’s a learning angle you can’t ignore. According to the same Gallup poll, 87% of millennials say professional development or career growth opportunities are very important to them in a job. Oftentimes, this generation in the workforce has been assigned negative labels like entitled, coddled, and needy just to name a few. I do not believe that is warranted, I believe it is more that they are misunderstood. Here’s one characteristic that is true: they want to learn differently. Unfortunately, too many companies have yet to embrace this paradigm shift in learning and development.

So, what can we do to attract millennial talent and keep the ones we have from leaving? Below are four key characteristics that your Learning and Development program should address.

Here are 4 easy tips to retain your millennial workforce:

1. Learner-Centric Learning

Millennials grew up having relevant information given to them, whether it is what products to buy on Amazon, or what TV shows to watch on Netflix, or what songs to listen to on iTunes. The more you use those applications, the more they can predict what you want and give you relevant choices. Similar for corporate learning, millennials need to have relevant content that allows them to learn on-demand and increase their responsibility as they learn more. They also need a learning system that brings that content to them with suggestions, like Amazon, Netflix and iTunes do.

2. Feedback, Coaching, and Mentoring

Millennials crave constant feedback on their work to foster continuous improvement and development. For them, this is their way of making sure they are doing what is expected. This requires coaching and mentoring, with constant feedback. This can be in the form of learning content that always provides feedback on where a millennial needs to focus, or it can be in the form of performance management. Bosses need to be trained to act like coaches. Many companies are now stopping formal performance reviews, and doing frequent informal and continuous 360-degree reviews. How often does your boss give you feedback and coaching?

3. Digital Learning

Millennials grew up on technology and the internet. For learning content to be engaging and motivating for them, the content needs to be mobile friendly, social and collaborative in short bursts. Gone are the days we can rely solely on a live classroom-based training course to engage our workforce. YouTube-style short learning modules which can be consumed in 10-30 minute chunks, while providing interactivity, are most appealing to millennials. Has your organization embraced digital and social learning content as the norm?

4. Continuous Learning

Millennials are very driven on their purpose and need goals to work towards. By providing continuous learning, millennials are engaged and allowed to grow within the position they have, and learn new capabilities. This keeps them from feeling they have no career advancement opportunities and looking for those opportunities elsewhere. Does your organization offer training opportunities to allow its workforce to continuously learn new skills and capabilities required for their current job and for future jobs?


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