October 27, 2019

How Millennials Learn & Work

The world is becoming more accessible, and expectations for education and employment are evolving.

One of our goals at KnowledgeWorkx is to stay current with social trends, enabling us to provide thought leadership for our clients. That includes tracking the preferences and makeup of the global knowledge workforce.

When we look at Millennials, a group that has now largely entered the job market, one thing we see is positive signs in the area of flexibility.In this article we will discuss big developments in two areas: the ways people prefer to learn and take in new information, and what people expect when it comes to work.

Changes in Content Delivery

Researchers from the Bersin Institute, a part of Deloitte, have identified four phases of learning design over the last 30 years. The 90’s saw the rise of “E-Learning and Blended Learning.” Around 2002, providers began moving to a “Talent Management” model. By the end of 2010 it was the philosophy of “Continuous Learning.”

Now we are in what the Bersin Institute calls the “Digital Learning” phase. People are looking for learning in smaller serving sizes, freely available and accessible anywhere.

Most Learning & Development specialists probably have not heard of all the formats Josh Bersin and his team talk about. Things are moving rapidly and it is hard to keep up.

Learning Management Systems (LMSs) have been normalized as a backbone for delivering content, and they continue to evolve – becoming more invisible, data driven, and specialized for the user. This allows learners to learn all the time, everywhere, on demand, and at their own pace.

When it comes to the philosophy of learning, content providers must increasingly be design-thinking oriented, delivering content through tailored learning experiences. Those who adapt are able to reach learners with the piecemeal content and educational solutions they are looking for.

KnowledgeWorkx is on track with this. We just graduated two of our people as High-Performing Learning Journey architects, and signed up with Promote International as a platform we are going to be using.

We plan to push out some of our learning solutions in the next few months. Some of these will be micro based, others driven by online interactive sessions with real-time video – parts of the plan as we grow into the Digital Learning age.

How Millennials take in Information

When you look at the way Millennials interact with learning, there are a few interesting things to mention.

First is that you have to grab their attention quickly. The first seven seconds (or less) of engaging are where they decide if something is worth their time. If not, they move on.

Millennials are very pragmatic as well. They want to know immediately, “How is this going to benefit me and my career?” They want to learn only as needed, controlling the pace and not being overfed with stuff that is irrelevant.

This is driving everything to become more modular and micro: presenting small pieces of learning that are relevant right now and can be applied immediately.

Millennials also want to be able to learn anywhere, even on holiday. Certainly not just at work. Mobile learning is important, being able to access information on phones and tablets. Many people are streaming podcasts while running or riding a bike and combining learning with other activities.

Finally, Millennials want to learn together – not just alone. Well-designed learning finds ways to connect you with others, sometimes in the form of gamification to introduce a competition element. Earning badges has become a normal part of design.

Badges may stay localized, to highlight progress and give micro-rewards incentivizing a particular journey; and they may also pop up on other systems or in physical hard-copy, so you can prove you have completed learning journeys, gained competencies and continued to grow.

This is some of the changing landscape of learning.

The Rise of the Gig Economy

What people are looking for in their careers is also changing. There is a shift away from long-term relationships with employers, where you spend your whole career with one company, and toward more flexible and temporary work arrangements.

The gig economy is on the rise. Some sources say that 20-30% of the working population in the U.S. and Europe are now independent workers.

You could call them solopreneurs: independently registered mini companies, writing their own invoices. A recent paper from McKinsey estimates that in Europe and the U.S. up to 162 million people are working for themselves. Freelancers represent a powerful force of talent, and every organization should assess how they can take advantage of this expanding market.

Along with flexibility in where they work, Millennials want meaningful engagement. They want to feel they are having an impact in the world. Yes, the pay needs to be reasonable and you need to be able to make a living, but many Millennials are more interested in a job that changes the world and is meaningful than in an extra high salary.

The gig mentality also means future employees want to control variables at the task level – when they work, how they work, and what they actually do. That means variety in their tasks. But they also appreciate flexibility in who does the job.

Millennials want a feeling of being connected to and belonging to a tribe. There needs to be the opportunity to share work and pull in some of your buddies if they are better at doing something than you. That may be someone outside the company that you can subcontract work out to.

Finally, Millennials are looking for employers who will give them opportunities for personal development – learning new technologies and growing professional skills they can take into their next job.

Leveraging Individual Talent

In the old days companies created a place and brought the work, and institutional hierarchies defined the roles that employees could fill. Now organizations have become much more platforms that match up work with individual talent, so that the talent is able to dictate when, where, and how they do the work.

Organizations need to be good at bringing work together with people and casting vision for pursuing shared goals.

Despite growing involvement with technology, people are still at the heart of organizations. According to Mercer’s 2018 “Global Talent Trends Study:”Human talent, rather than capital and technology, is the key factor linking innovation, competitiveness and the growth of companies in the 21st century. People, not robots or artificial intelligence software, will continue to brainstorm new ideas, inspire others, and drive organizations to succeed.

Many of us need to build more human organizations. That includes working to build trust on teams where there is diversity. A big part of professional development in the workforce of tomorrow will be training our people to be culturally agile, able to work with many kinds of people.

KnowledgeWorkx helps organization across the globe develop flexible Inter-Cultural Intelligence, enabling workers of all generations and cultures to thrive in the workplace of today and develop into the talent of tomorrow.

Check out more articles on our KnowledgeWorkx Resource  page.