Thursday, October 16, 2008

Employee training ideas for Generation Y

Generation Y, Millenials, or however you like to refer to the latest generation to move into the workforce ... they’re here, and now we must train them.

More than past generations, today’s college grads rely heavily on technology and social interaction. They can send instant messages while reading an article online and text a friend on their phone, all at the same time. Training Gen Y employees requires a mix of technology, social networking and entertainment in order to drive the message home.

Gen Y at work

If they can’t read the employee handbook in 140 characters or less, they’re not even going to turn the first page. Long-term employment translates to anything over two years and the thought of working 30 years for one company is absurd. They want to learn everything possible from their current employer to help them advance in their job.

They feel entitled to work when and where they want. They want to telecommute and play video games at work. They want to be measured on the quality of their work, not just because they sit in a chair looking busy from nine to five. They want freedom, creativity and a pair of jeans. Don’t forget Facebook, MySpace and Twitter at work.

So, how to we train this group of casual social butterflies now that they’re part of our workforce?

Training Gen Y

Here are some tips and employee training ideas for Generation Y to get you started:

Implement ongoing training. When Millennials start a job, they expect ongoing education and challenges. They’re eager to learn anything new and expect to use what they learn at this job to help them later in their career. If you don’t have the time or resources to offer ongoing training, supplement a static training program with simulations or online training courses to keep employees engaged.

Keep it short. Gen Y learns best from information delivered in short bites, rather than one giant, lengthy chunk of information. Break up long training courses into multiple, shorter sessions to help employees better consume the information. If it’s impossible to break up a large training session, create documents reviewing sections of information and make them available on the company network or online.

Make training entertaining. Gen Y grew up on computers and video games, with constant audio-visual stimulation. Explore training options that incorporate computer simulation, online courses and social media applications. Entertaining audio and video will hold their attention, ensuring Gen Y employees retain the message.

Allow freedom. If possible, give employees the option to attend training at a time that is suitable with their schedule. Online courses and podcasts may provide the most flexibility, allowing students to participate in courses at their leisure. Digital options also give Gen Y the freedom to review materials that were taught in a previous training session on their own time.

Explore mobile learning (m-learning). If you have the resources available, provide on-demand training experiences using mobile devices. Facilitate m-learning by offering e-learning courses, chapter reviews from training courses and share expert videos on the training topic.

Encourage teamwork. Millennial employees generally flourish and enjoy working in team environments. Develop team activities led by senior employees or managers during and after training courses to foster teamwork and reinforce training points.

When training any generational group, your goal is to provide valuable learning experiences that give employees the tools to develop in their careers. Training is a gift employers give to their workforce that keeps employees engaged, happy and productive. Knowing how younger generations learn best will help you develop the next great leaders in our organizations.

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