MillennialsThe Millennial generation has posed one of the greatest challenges to the business world over the past few years. Millennials have different ideas from the generations that came before them about what jobs should be (i.e., places to learn and then move on), work-life balance (they believe balance is important), and the place of technology (they grew up with technology and much of their educational and social lives is already spent online). Millennials are changing how business is done, and in particular how workforce education is done. They are also the perfect audience for training MOOCs.

What do Millennials want?

What are Millennials? Digital natives who now make up more than one-third of the workforce. Tech-savvy self-directed learners. Young people who have spearheaded the rise of the share economy. Recent college grads who both expect and require extensive formal training to be successful in their jobs.

Their attitudes toward work and training are fundamentally different from those who came before, and it is essential that organizations both recognize and embrace these differences. As the Allen Communications website puts it:

“As learning professionals, we know we have to keep up with our audiences or be left behind. We also hear that Millennials bring an interactive learning style, fluency with new technology, and a sharing culture….Success starts with not viewing new technology in itself as the solution to winning over Millennials, but rather as a tool for creating layered approaches and improved engagement. In other words, with Millennials, you can’t simply rehash old content in a new format and expect improved results.”

According to Allen Communications, what Millennials want from a training program is “bite-sized learning, immediate feedback, and big-picture relevancy.” The firm has identified video-based learning, gamification, and mobile support as the three best strategies for engaging Millennials. Notice that video-based learning is the primary method of content delivery used in many MOOCs and that gamification and mobile support are two major MOOC trends we’ve discussed previously in this series.

Learning games company Sweetrush also offers tips for training Millennials. They suggest these four approaches for delivering training to this market:

  • Tell them upfront what is expected and what they need to know.
  • Keep it tech-savvy.
  • Coach and praise along the way.
  • Say it with visuals.

Well-designed MOOCs are able to meet all four of these requirements in an engaging, effective learning environment.

MOOCs and Millennials

Of all of the uses for MOOCs in a corporate environment, training Millennials may be the one where the digital learning format can excel the most. Recent graduates know that they don’t have the specialized skills they will need on the job, and they expect their employers to provide formal training programs so they can acquire those skills. According to Sarah Doll, Accenture’s senior director of talent management, classroom instruction is not the best way to train this generation. These employees want meaningful projects, they want to “feel like they are adding value,” and they “will learn faster and be more productive quicker if they do more on-the-job training.”

Not only are MOOCs an effective way to provide the type of training Millennials want and need, but a recent study by software consulting company Software Advice revealed that this generation may actually prefer this training format. The survey involved assessing the training preferences of 1,500 U.S. workers. Here is what they found:

  • More than half of 18 to 24 year-olds, and nearly the same percentage of 25 to 34 year-olds, said that knowing a company used MOOCs for training “would positively affect their decision to submit an application.”
  • Nearly three-quarters of 18 to 24 year-olds, and more than half of 25 to 34 year-olds, said they would participate in a company-sponsored MOOC. Software Advice notes that this is particularly striking since the participation rate for mandatory e-learning is less than 70% and participation in voluntary training is barely over 30%.
  • More than half of both 18 to 24 year-olds and 25 to 34 year-olds said they would be more likely to stay at a company that used MOOCs for initial training and as options for continuing professional development.

Based on the survey results, it appears that MOOCs can be effective tools for attracting, training, and retaining Millennial generation workers.

Challenges to training Millennials with MOOCs

Using MOOCs in training programs actually addresses two of the major challenges many companies are facing today:

  • The skills gap between what recent graduates know and what employers need them to know
  • How to attract and retain fresh talent in an a competitive environment where young people no longer expect to stay at a job for longer than a couple of years

The main challenges to actually implementing MOOCs in training programs for Millennials are the same as those to using MOOCs in general—many companies still don’t know what they are, what they can offer, and how to best use new digital learning environments to meet their training needs. But, as with most other aspects of today’s business landscape, this will change as technology continues to improve and more training departments become aware of the tools available. In addition, Millennials themselves will be drivers of this change as they demand more tech-savvy, meaningful, on-the-job training.

Copyright 2014 Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.

Bryant Nielson – Managing Director of CapitalWave Inc.– offers 25+ years of training and talent management helping executives, business owners, and top performing sales executives in taking the leap from the ordinary to extraordinary. Being a big believer in Technology Enabled Learning, Bryant seeks to create awareness, motivate adoption and engage organizations and people in the changing business of education. Bryant is a entrepreneur, trainer, and strategic training adviser for many organizations. Bryant’s business career has been based on his results-oriented style of empowering the individual.

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Bryant Nielson is heavily involved in the Corporate Training and Leadership and Talent space. He currently is the Managing Director for CapitalWave Inc and the training division, Financial Training Solutions. He brings a diverse corporate experience of organizational development, learning and talent development, and corporate training, that also includes personal coaching of top sales individuals and companies of all sizes. For the prior 4 years, Bryant was the Managing Director and Leadership and Talent Manager for Lengthen Your Stride! LLC. In this position, Nielson was the developer of all of the courses for MortgageMae University (MMU), the Realtor Development Center (RDC), and of Lengthen Your Stride! (LYS). In that position, he developed material, refined over many years of use and active training, and condensed the coursework and training to be high impact, natural learning, and comprehensive. Bryant has over 27 years of Senior Management experience encompasses running his own Training and mortgage firm, in New York City. He strongly believes that the corporate training is not to be static but should 'engage and inspire' students to greater productivity and performance.

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