Posted by: Professionals In Human Resources Association (PIHRA) | October 27, 2010

Training Paradigm 2.0: Why Millennials Require A Different Approach

By Diane Spiegel

In this new decade, the traditional method of assimilating younger employees into
an organizationʼs culture is likely to be increasingly less effective. The reason:
The work styles and expectations of Millennials/GenYers are phenomenally
different than any other generation in the workplace today.

In previous generations, the unspoken, sink-or-swim approach that most
companies relied upon to bring new workers up to speed was often good enough.
Applying that process to workers in their 20s will likely backfire. Millennials more
than any other generation require clear direction, guidance and goals from their
managers. Most Millennials have grown up in schools that follow the Rubric
teaching model, which is based on well-defined assignments, clear benchmarks
and continual feedback and discussion.

This mental framework is deeply ingrained in the DNA of Millennials. It is the
process they assume will be in place in the business world. The lack of success
many companies have experienced in working with Millennials is the result of a
collision between this generationʼs worldview and how most companies function

A New Approach
To leverage the talents of this highly educated and goal-oriented generation,
companies need a new paradigm for training managers. Rather than assuming
new workers will absorb an organizationʼs culture without explicit discussion and
proceed just as their elders have done, enlightened companies are re-designing
supervisor/leadership training to accommodate the more interactive and
collaborative work styles of Millennials.

The new training paradigm must be designed to help managers understand that
the youngest part of their workforce will place more immediate demands on them
than they placed on their own mentors. The new training paradigm must also
prepare managers to spend just as much time describing the task at hand as
they do educating Millennials about everything from proper business behavior to
cell phone and Internet protocol. Collaboration is an innate skill among
Millennials, so utilizing this strength will enhance their commitment, as well as
increase productivity. As much as anything, the new training paradigm must
connect the dots for Millennials, who thrive on certainty and clarity. Having grown
up playing video games with static rules, ambiguity is not part of their immediate
skill set.

According to consumer research psychologist Dr. Kit Yarrow, a professor of both
psychology and marketing at Golden Gate University in San Francisco and
author of GenBuy, context is everything when it comes to working with
Millennials: “Value shifts become less threatening when the context within which
theyʼre created is clearly identified. Context builds understanding, which shifts
judgment to empathy. In the workplace, empathy is the difference between a
tolerated or manipulated workforce and an inspired one. Itʼs easier to train,
coach, adapt or compromise when behaviors feel less personal and
consequently less threatening.”

The Importance of Being Millennial Friendly
Training managers to engage Millennials in their comfort zone is critical to
avoiding high turnover and the indifference that often occurs when a workplace is
not Millennial friendly. Unlike other groups of workers, this demographic has no
loyalty and harbors deep skepticism about the business world – that is, until they
come to appreciate and trust their supervisors. Research clearly indicates
Millennials do not have a strong alliance to organizations. However, they can
form very strong bonds with their supervisors, which is where so much of the
important work occurs.

Daniel W. Rasmus, author of Listening To the Future and a noted expert on the
impact of Millennials in the workplace said: “My research suggests that
Millennials remain very cynical about the corporations in which they work. They
have heard about outsourcing, downsizing and layoffs for years. According to the
data I’ve seen, Millennials were laid off in greater numbers than older workers
during this great recession, which reinforced their lack of trust or any motivation
to create a lasting relationship with any firm. If organizations want to regain the
trust of this generation, they need to go to extraordinary measures. Organizations
must be willing to make the necessary investments, such as mentoring, training
and investing in company social networks, that will help prove they are worthy
places for young people to place their loyalty.”

Rasmus also said it is critical to pre-empt any unhealthy conflict among workers
of different ages. “We can either stand by and watch age warfare as the
Millennials and Boomers battle it out for dominance in the workplace, or we can
negotiate a mutually beneficial common ground that will engage employees and
help organizations innovate,” he said. “Ultimately, this is a business continuity
issue and thus a strategic issue for most businesses. Organizations don’t have a
real choice in confronting it. If they ignore the issue, it will be a strategic misstep.
If they embrace it, organizations may well find it a competitive advantage,
especially if they do it sooner than later.”

Manager training programs that anticipate Millennialsʼ inherently different
workplace expectations are likely to build productive teams and create new
leaders. In short, new times require new tactics. Companies that rethink their
approach to training younger workers are likely to gain a significant advantage.
For those that donʼt, the opposite is also true.

Diane Spiegel is CEO of The End Result, a leading corporate training and
development firm, and creator of the Sage Leadership Tools, which help
manager’s work more effectively to engage Millennials.



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by FV Speakers Bureau, Daniel Rasmus. Daniel Rasmus said: Read my workforce comments in Diane Spiegel's PIHRA blog post on Training 2.0 […]

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