One of the disruptive trends in talent development is a that the labor market is becoming more challenging. 

Why is that? One word: Millennials.

With the number of new entrants to the workforce continually declining, keeping employees engaged and providing learning opportunities for them is critical to retaining millennial employees. But how do we tailor corporate learning to a generation that has a short attention span and is seemingly always preoccupied?

To find an answer, we need to connect with Millennials and find ways to engage them with effective corporate learning initiatives. Here are five strategies to make corporate training appealing to Millennials.

6 Effective eLearning Corporate Strategies for a Millennial Workforce

1. Use Microlearning for Ad-hoc Learning Environments

Millennial learners have a lot on their minds as they are often juggling many tasks. As a result, they tend to have a short attention span. […] Wait – where was I? Oh yes, writing about a short attention span. […] In fact, according to Bersin research on the modern learner, Millennial employees get interrupted every five minutes, and if that is not distracting enough, they unlock their phones up to nine times an hour. Daily life and activities are already demanding enough with an ever-increasing number of things competing for attention. Thus, you need to grab their attention quickly and to get your message across before something else comes along and distracts them. As it pertains to online learning, learners like to watch videos, but won’t watch much beyond the first four minutes–so the first 5-10 seconds is crucial in grabbing their attention and getting your point across.

Simultaneously, ad hoc training is starting to become a large theme in e-Learning. Today’s learners are used to being able to instantly access learning materials that only comprise just what they need at that time. As an example, if someone wants to learn how to use a function in Microsoft Excel, they may do a quick search for a YouTube video. Thus, materials have to be relevant and immediately applicable.

Micro-learning, a type of learning with bite-sized and specific content, answers to the need for short and appealing content, as well as to the rise of ad hoc training. Additionally, having these short training sprints also allows for more frequent learning, as 5-10 minute content chunks, such as a podcast, can be easily slotted into nearly anyone’s day. In this type of micro-learning, the learner is the one in control, and is thus more likely to be engaged in the learning experience, leading to more learning and better knowledge retention over time.

2. Enable On-The-Go Learning by Making use of Wearables and Mobile Tech

Socializing, in the modern age, largely comprises of interacting with others seamlessly via technology. Similarly, the modern learner has (or wants to have) access to her mobile device 24/7. Mobile devices, and increasingly, wearables, help to enable this. Even for answering any small questions that arise in a personal or work context, there is an irresistible pull to grab a device and look for an answer.

Corporate learning should accommodate this urge by providing training opportunities through mobile technologies. This approach would increase opportunities for exposure to learning material. Combined with gamification, being encouraged to learn while commuting or during the work day, will spur engagement with the material. Additionally, due to the social potential of technologies, they can be used to enhance communication and collaboration, even providing coaching opportunities on your smartwatch throughout activities to receive immediate feedback.

It would be a waste not to take advantage of the ease with which Millennials keep their tech handy ready for use and for learninh. Not only will this lower the border to fit e-learning into daily tasks, it will also make it easier to access materials anywhere, from any device, and at any time.

3. Utilize Gamification as a Tool to Motivate and Improve Learning

Gamification is a trend that has penetrated many aspects of daily life over the last decades. Applied to e-learning, gamification introduces playful and competitive elements in the online learning environment, thus motivating millennial learners to move on to the next learning task and keep track of their performance. Some examples are: collecting items as you progress through training content, introducing accomplishments, and using scoreboards to mimic a competition.

Another development that builds on the gamification component of Online Learning is a VR-empowered environment in which learners can go through trial-and-error scenarios to practice. Not only does this make learning fun, it also makes for better retention. The well-known 70-20-10 rule claims that 70 percent of all learning takes place on the job. The great part about having a VR-environment in which your learners can practice, is that this most closely matches the environment in which they are experiencing 70 percent of their learning. Learning-by-doing in real life is preceded by learning-by-doing in a VR-setting.

4. Appeal to Social Instincts by Designing Social Learning

Given the social characteristics of most tools the current Millennial workforce uses, it makes sense to appeal to social forces in online learning to engage them in your company training. By using digital platforms to which they are accustomed to and feel comfortable using, you meet the Millennial workers where they are (online), and how they interact (social).

Taking the use of an online platform as a given online learning environment, there are various ways to make this type of learning social within your organization. One way is to introduce collaborative, team-based learning, in which workers with similar jobs learn and grow together by working together and giving each other feedback. Another option is to introduce coaching, where more experienced employees coach those in the early stages of their career. In any case, whether it is peer or coaching interactions, immediate and ample feedback is an invaluable aspect of this type of social learning to Millennials.

5. Recognize Online Collaboration itself as an important Skill for the Modern Learner

Working flexibly has become more commonplace and can be considered as much as a hygiene factor for organizations. Utilizing collaborative social learning allows for the teaching of soft skills and higher level skills, and in the modern working environment, collaborating virtually is becoming an increasingly important skill in the workplace. When learners work together virtually in diverse teams, they are also practicing the very online collaboration skills that they will need in their jobs and careers.
Online projects that require teamwork may require even more effective communication, planning, task division and coordination than in traditional work settings. Thus, a by-product of your learning technologies may be an opportunity to practice and enhance these valuable skills.

6. Allow for Curated Personalized Learning

Given the different types of jobs and skills required in today’s organizations, it will be important to allow for curated learning experiences, which provide personalized learning for your learners. 

A good example is employee onboarding training. Since roles vary widely, different employees will need to learn different things at different times. Being able to go through the training of one topic and come back later to another component later allows your new hires to gain skills just at the time when they need them. In addition to enabling nonlinear training programs, you will also want to leave some room for your employees to complement the learning materials you have provided them with extra, external resources that they can refer back to when they need to. Examples of those are Youtube videos, TED-talks, research articles, but also Codecademy trainings and more. 

By having your learners curate their own learning environment, they will be studying actively and have more control than by following a preset, linear training. Ultimately, this freedom in learning will improve employee retention and results in greater engagement with the organization.
Want to learn more about Millennials and Learning in a Corporate setting? Check out our blog series on 6 Ways to Build a Learning Organization Through Leveraging Millennials!