Employee Engagement

How Millennials Learn in the Workplace

Bersin by Deloitte recently compiled a thought provoking infographic of statistics entitled “Meet the modern learner”. But who are the ‘modern learners’ and what are the influences that make their educational needs in the workplace so different? Millennials, the much talked about new generation of workers, are disrupting traditional L&D strategies. With this generation now making up 50% of the US workforce, and set to dominate the global workforce by 2020, it’s time to rethink how we reach out to them. Let's cut through the stereotypes and take a deeper look at the influences that shape this generation:   

The Tech Generation


Unlike older generations, traditional training programs will not have as great an impact on tech oriented millennials. According to a study by PWC, three-quarters of millennials believe access to technology makes them more effective at work. This generation wants their information to be easily accessible, quick and mobile. In fact, 67% judge their employers based on their technological knowledge and 59% said that an employer’s provision of state-of-the art technology was important to them when considering a job.

The Goldfish Generation


This raises questions as to the best way to reach the tech generation. Growing up in the Twitter age, millennials are attuned to consuming short snippets of information and a constant flow of instant feedback. A recent study by Microsoft went viral when it claimed that our average attention spans are now lower than a goldfish: the culprit being modern technology, and particularly smartphones.


Since then voices have come out to argue that this is not a sign that the tech generation has gotten dumber, it simply means that they process information faster. What is certain is that having to wait for an annual performance review does not fit well with this generation’s high learning demands.

The Social Networkers


PWC found that 41% of millennials prefer to communicate electronically at the office rather than face to face or over the phone. However, this doesn’t mean that they’re an anti-social threat to the office. In fact, as you watch them typing away on their smartphones they are probably collaborating with several different team members at the same time.


Being raised on Facebook and now Instagram and Snapchat, this generation is used to sharing constant updates about what they’re doing and similarly gathering information from others. When given tools to collaborate, millennials are much more likely to ask for and share development information with their peers.

The MyPod Generation

Often referred to as the the MyPod Generation, they are used to a high level of customization and expect no less when it comes to learning. With the rise of YouTube, blogging and online courses, this generation is used to going online to learn everything from cooking to programming on their own. The increase in flexible and remote working schedules, means that employees don’t want to be limited to fixed time slots when they can receive development training.


Rather than simply providing set training courses, they want to be able to choose between different mediums of learning and decide when they want to learn. Ultimately, a survey of millennials conducted by PWC found that working with great coaches and getting on the job training were the top two most important training opportunities employers should provide. Make it easier for your millennials to take ownership of the learning process by providing tools that give them the power to ask for coaching when they want and need it most.

Photo by Thomas Brault