How to Train Millennials Using eLearning

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Have you heard the joke about the Millennial and the doctor?

The Millennial goes to the doctor’s office, telling him she hasn’t been able to do as much work at her job as her other colleagues. After the examination she asks the doctor, “So, can you tell me in plain English what’s wrong with me?”

“In plain English,” the doctor replies, “you’re just lazy.”

“Okay,” responds the Millennial, “now give me the medical term so I can tell my boss.”

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All joking aside, Millennials aren’t quite as lazy, self-absorbed, and Miley-obsessed as previously thought.

In fact, a PriceWaterhouseCoopers study found them to be just as committed to their work as previous generations.

But that doesn’t mean Millennials don’t have their own generational quirks and eccentricities you need to be aware of.  Especially when it comes to training (which Millennials value highly, with 65% of them citing it as the most influential factor in choosing their current job).

There are plenty of dos and don’ts when it comes to how to train millennials, and specifically if you take an online, or eLearning approach.  Here are the three key facets to being successful with eLearning and Millennials:

1. Social

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Millennials grew up in the age of Facebook, MySpace, and instant messaging.  When they wanted freedom away from their parents they didn’t hop in a car and go joyriding like the Boomers; instead they logged onto AIM and traded emoticons with their friends.

This is all to say they are extremely social.  In fact, according to a study by LifeCourse Associates, Millennials are much more likely than Boomers or Gen Xers to say they like to socialize informally and make new friends while at work.

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This means any eLearning focused at Millennials needs to have a social learning component to it.

Scores of learning management systems come with this type of functionality already built in, and there are also plenty of off-the-shelf collaboration tools you can integrate with your existing training process to facilitate social learning.

Social training elements you should apply with Millennials include:

  • Group chats and communities based on individual courses, teams, or onboarding classes
  • Integration with LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks
  • Micro-blogging and commenting
  • Social bookmarking and sharing
  • Blended learning with video-chat and live courses (Millennials also highly value mentorship, so facetime with an instructor is ideal)

2. Mobile

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According to a Pew Research Center study, fully 65% of Americans aged 18-29 own a smartphone.  This is compared to only 59% of those aged 30-49, and a paltry 32% for those aged 50-64.

The selfie-taking Millennial, nose down in a touchscreen, is practically a cliché at this point.

Luckily, this is something you can use to great advantage with your training content.

Mobile learning (or mLearning) is, again, a feature that’s really taking off with LMSs already, and includes a whole host of options and potential deployments.

For instance, you could use mLearning to:

  • Build a native or web-based mobile app for Millennials to access training and decision support content on the go
  • Integrate GPS technology and allow learners who are close to each other to meet in person
  • Add additional social functionality through group text, video chat, and geotagging
  • Use podcasts to add a portable audio dimension to your training
  • Utilize existing mobile eLearning apps to supplement material

3. Gamification

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This may be less obvious than the above two, but Millennials are actually highly ambitious and very goal-oriented.  In fact, one survey found that 40% of GenY workers expect to be promoted every two years, and 60% of them see their jobs as stepping stones to something greater.

Additionally, Millennials crave constant feedback, milestones, and specific, short-term goals.

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It shouldn’t be surprising that the generation that grew up trying to attain high scores in Mario Kart, get to level 60 in World of Warcraft, and win any number of increasingly specific XBOX LIVE badges would want equally straightforward metrics for success in their work lives.

Adding gamification elements to your eLearning will feed that Millennial hunger for benchmarks and visual progress.

In fact, companies from Deloitte to Xerox have used gamification to great effect in their training courses.  Game-like functionality you can include to appeal specifically to Millennials is:

  • Badges: You can award badges for anything, from completing a specific class, to having the best score on a test, to having the fastest time for a module. Let learners display these on their profiles.
  • Points: There’s nothing quite so satisfying as seeing numbers go up due to your effort.
  • Social currency: Gaining “money” for helping others or for adding more connections appeals to both the ambition and social-savvy of Millennials.
  • Progress bars: This kind of real-time feedback during training is extremely valuable to Millennials who want to know where they stand at all times.
  • Levels/quests: Clear goals and explicit “win” conditions are something visible for Millennials to achieve.

Other tips

There’s a lot more that could be written about how to motivate and train Millennials. From their desire for workplace flexibility (allow them to complete the training where/when they want) to their inherent frugality (online learning can overcome a lack of social interaction if it doesn’t dig into GenY’s pocketbooks), they offer unique challenges for instructional designers and CLOs.

What are things you’ve done to make your eLearning or online training more accessible to younger hires?

Looking for Learning Management System software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Learning Management System software solutions.

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About the Author

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JP Medved

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J.P. was formerly content director at Capterra.

Comments

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E-learning is made effective with online training and bridges the gap between the lecturers and the students where the students see the lecturer giving lectures on a particular subject. Most of the e-learning websites now have videos on all the subjects to enable the students to learn quickly and easily.

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Solid stuff! 100% agree about gamification. Millennials are wired for it.
Thx for sharing JP.

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