As Millennials continue to hold the current title for largest generation in the U.S. workforce (Pew Research Center), sales organizations need to figure out new methods for training their Millennial staff that differ from previous approaches taken with Baby Boomers or even Gen Xers. Additionally, with the high number of Baby Boomers retiring from their jobs, it’s crucial for companies to capture their transitioning employees’ institutional knowledge so it can be easily communicated to newer hires.
As the “digital native” generation, Millennials learn differently because of their lifelong relationship with technology. Organizations need to consider that contrast when designing learning strategies. For example, a hands-on approach to learning is a better way to get through to this generation than strict lecture-style training. A joint study from Allego and the Sales Management Association (SMA) comparing the learning preferences of 260 sales reps and managers revealed that Millennials would like to spend 12 percent less time on in-classroom training. It’s been proven that taking a less formal approach to learning, and finding ways to connect that learning to real-life situations, is preferred by Millennials (American Psychological Association).
Taking into consideration what we know about the way Millennials prefer to learn, organizations clearly need to find ways to grab their attention. One of the best ways to do so is through video. The average human brain processes video 60,000 times faster than text, and the Millennial brain processes it even faster. An altogether more enjoyable way of learning, video clips are also more effective in helping viewers understand course concepts, which then can be applied to real-world situations.
It is certainly not new knowledge that Millennials are heavily attached to mobile devices. Search engines and social media are this generation’s go-to resources for information, regardless of the subject. They are constantly sharing knowledge and insights with one another through these media, which allows them to give and receive near-instant feedback. Organizations should employ technologies and methodologies that mimic the approach Millennials have become so accustomed to. By doing so, they promote greater connection and collaboration between Millennials and their co-workers, while breaking down knowledge silos.
Microlearning is becoming one of the most successful learning methods for Millennials as it provides bite-sized, quick, and easily digestible bits of information best presented through short videos. The presentation of information in small chunks reduces cognitive load, eases the perceived burden of learning, and gives learners a sense of empowerment. These shorter sessions of learning allow for Millennials to engage frequently throughout a busy week when they have a few minutes between meetings or phone calls.
Organizations would be wise to hop on the microlearning bandwagon to help their teams create and curate learning resources that can be easily accessed and beneficial to any generation. Two- to three-minute chunks of information at a time tend to be the most successful.
Video games get a bad rap, but as it turns out, incorporating gaming into a learning strategy can be successful in Millennial training. In fact, 57% of 18- to 34-year-olds play video games at least three times a week, and two-thirds of them said it was important in helping them learn how to create winning strategies, solve problems, and work successfully on a team.
Incorporating gamification into your learning strategy can have a positive effect on learning outcomes. The competitive aspect of these game-like techniques contributes to increased motivation, engagement, and enjoyment for learners. Not to mention, Millennials take well to automatic and immediate feedback, which can be achieved through gamification. Don’t let “gaming” scare you, incorporating gamification doesn’t need to be complicated. Game-like techniques can include awarding points, achievement badges, and levels; giving quizzes and assessments; displaying leaderboards or progress; or giving feedback or rewards.
Mentoring and Coaching
Millennials are always looking to learn and are responsive to mentor programs. Having trainers and managers provide their younger peers with regular feedback and keeping the lines of communication open is helpful. The Allego/SMA study revealed that 20-something Millennials perceive role-play with manager feedback to be 33 percent more important than the average salesperson consider it to be. Furthermore, if an organization is using a technology platform to bolster its training strategy, it should make sure it allows for asynchronous feedback from managers and peers. Time is a commodity, and it can get in the way of allowing managers to spend time with up-and-coming talent. Furthermore, geographically dispersed teams face scheduling challenges connecting with one another, especially when dealing with multiple time zones. Providing feedback within a learning solution is a great way for trainers and managers to provide consistent coaching, without dealing with scheduling constraints.
Millennials are the future, so it is important that organizations design learning strategies that adhere to the strengths and weaknesses of this unique generation. As the previous generations transition from their current positions, passing on the wisdom and job knowledge they’ve cultivated over the years is vital to the continued success of an organization. Furthermore, research is beginning to show the needs of Millennials may not truly be as disparate from their predecessors as we might believe. What is certain is that gaining a better understanding of how Millennials learn will pay off for businesses now and for generations to come.
Mark Magnacca has spent the last 15 years helping sales leaders shorten the sales cycle and distribute their best ideas faster. He has extensive experience coaching leading sales teams to deliver a consistent message in the marketplace by integrating mobile technology into their sales process, and has worked as a presentation coach with a wide range of financial service companies to create practice-development and business-building strategies. Magnacca is the author of “So What? How to Communicate What Really Matters to Your Audience” and is the president and co-founder of Allego, a sales learning platform that harnesses the power of mobile and video to transform sales enablement and training for improved sales performance. The platform brings sales enablement and training out of the classroom and beyond the sales kick-off, allowing sales professionals to onboard sales reps faster, improve message consistency, capture and share best practices from the field, and improve overall sales performance.