Understanding Millennials: Who Are They and Why Train & Develop Them?


Millennials want to learn. They want to grow. Companies need to give them the opportunity to.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a young, up-and-coming startup or a decades-old established corporation. Chances are, you have millennials at your company, and you need to be prepared to manage them differently than employees from other generations.

In this article, we’ll specifically discuss emerging research on millennials, what they look for in jobs and why investing in their growth can benefit companies. For a more in-depth look at how generations differ in the workplace, we’ll direct you to one of our previous blog articles, “Is There Really a Generation Gap at Work?

“New research shows that most millennials want to learn on the job.”

What do millennials want out of a job?
So, what exactly makes millennials excited about rolling out of bed in the morning and going to work? New research from Amy Adkins and J. Brandon Rigoni of Gallup notes that most millennials want their jobs to be opportunities to learn and grow. According to this report, “Millennials assign the most importance to this job attribute, representing the greatest difference between what this generation values in a new job and what other generations value.”

The new Gallup report “How Millennials Want to Work and Live” noted that nearly 60 percent of millennials want to learn and grow in their positions. This is in stark contrast to Gen Xers (44 percent) and baby boomers (41 percent) who are less likely to feel the same way at work. This desire and importance placed on development opportunities could be due to millennials’ life stage versus anything specific regarding their generation.

The Gallup report also noted that out of the top three reasons companies retain employees, education and growth opportunities was the one major difference between millennials and other generations. Millennials want to be deeply invested in their work, have the opportunity to advance and work with managers who develop them.

The issue goes deeper
If employees want to learn and grow at work, the next logical question is “Why?” Adam Poswolsky of Fast Company may have answered this perfectly when he said millennials want to make a difference. “Millennials want to work with purpose and they want their workplace to be aligned with their values.”

In other words, they don’t just want to learn, they want to make a difference in and outside of the office.

Is that why negative stereotypes about millennials exist?
Adkins and Rigoni pointed out that a common criticism previous generations have of millennials is their lack of patience and assumption they should be rewarded without having to prove themselves. Millennials want to learn and professionally develop right away while other generations believe they need to earn their opportunities, i.e. “They shouldn’t expect a company to invest in them until they can show they are worthy of such an investment,” the authors said.

The problem with this philosophy is that it doesn’t line up with millennials’ assumptions – that is, in order for them to make a difference, companies need to invest in them from the get-go. Millennials want their employers and managers to invest in them by coaching and developing them to become the best workers they can be immediately.

Give millennial employees incentive to work hard by offering them training and development opportunities.

Give young employees incentive to work hard by offering them training and development opportunities.
Give millennial employees incentive to work hard by offering them training and development opportunities.

Benefits of training and developing millennials
We’ve discussed what millennials want out of a job – to learn and grow, among other things – but how does this help a company? Why should companies spend their hard-earned dollars on developing their millennial staff?

Here are three great reasons:

  • Protect the bottom line: Employees who are undervalued and have less opportunity to grow are more likely to look for new opportunities. Turnover rates can severely impact a company’s bottom line as it spends more dollars trying to find job-seekers with the same level of talent. It’s much more practical to provide free training programs and classroom sessions to employees than spend a considerable amount of time pushing new employees through the hiring process and then trying to get them up to speed.
  • Become more efficient: Don’t limit employees to their respective job titles and functions. Training programs can act as cross-functional bridges between two different jobs. This is crucial and will enable you to keep staffing expenses low. For example, if you have office administrators who only answer phones, why not train them in data entry or provide them with more formal communication and writing training? The latter could enable them to help you build comprehensive reports and presentations – something you may have been doing yourself.
  • Stay attractive to all workers: Give seasonal workers a reason to come back to your company. Let them know that seasonal workers are just as valuable as part-time or full-time employees. They can contribute significantly to your company by taking part in training programs.

HR managers need to rethink their strategies
Does your company know they can offer their employees discounted classes and educational opportunities through Fond? These types of unique benefits exist, and it’s imperative that HR professionals stay well-informed about innovative offerings like this as well as other industry trends.

Managers must toss away old stereotypes about millennials and embrace the facts: Many millennials don’t feel entitled, they just feel like they’re not receiving the right opportunities to grow and thus are leaving for companies that will afford them those chances.

Along with offering classes at reduced rates, like through Fond‘s Perk product, HR professionals should instruct managers to provide regular feedback to millennial employees. While this may not be the same type of learning experience presented in formal classroom settings, it does award employees the chance to get better at their current job. In turn, they’ll feel more engaged and are more likely to find meaning in their work.

Want to learn more about millennials? Download our free eBook How to Reward Millennials Without Making Them Entitled. Or request a demo of our perks and rewards platform.

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