Designing learning for millennials

millennials“Millennials” is the corporate training buzzword we’ve been hearing a lot lately. According to PwC, by 2016, 80 percent of the workforce will be made up of millennials – the generation of people born between 1981 and 1999. As with any major culture shift, some companies are a little nervous, and understandably so – trainers know it could be significant but aren’t quite sure what to do about it.

What are some characteristics of workplace Millennials? Millennials rely more on email and social platforms rather than the phone and face-to-face communications to get work done. They also often like to use multiple mediums, for example switching between text, email or phone for a single topic as well.1 They are incredibly comfortable with technology, but let’s not forget that many industries employ older generations that have become just as comfortable with it. In fact, millennials are not unlike other audiences that training professionals have strived to engage.

So, how are millennial learners different?

According to a Pew Research study, they are motivated self-learners that can be self-directed employees. “Millennials seek transparency and real time feedback in their work environment. They have been accustomed to using innovative technologies for learning in their studies from K-12 to University education. It is a natural progression for them to use similar technologies for training in their work environments.”2

Investing in training that meets the requirements necessary to engage millennials does not necessarily exclude current and future generations and can easily meet their needs.

Delivering content to millennials

Allen communication recommends three strategies that can be tremendously successful when used to deliver content to a millennial audience:

  •        Mobile learning
  •        Gamification
  •        Video Based Learning

Mobile learning

With the millennial’s preference for multiple platforms they can be reached via desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile – with mobile driving much of their communication.

Learning initiatives for mobile need to build on current mobile habits to maximize the efficacy of training (rather than asking users to change their habits).3  So, for example, users would normally use mobile devices for quick information, simple interaction, and one-click answers to problems and instructional designs needs to incorporate that.


Karl Kapp, author of The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-Based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education, defines gamification as the use of game-based mechanics, aesthetics and game thinking to engage people, motivate action, promote learning and solve problems. Gamification takes elements of gaming and adds them to traditional instruction with interactivity and engagement as first consideration.

Like other online corporate training strategies, learning games must directly align with business goals in order to be a valuable – for example building desired skills in managers through realistic scenarios.

Video-based Learning

Millennials have grown up in a social, video culture in which media becomes a conversation and not a passive review.

There are endless ways to exploit video in order to create motivating and engaging learning experiences. Learners can be engaged as viewers or content creators. Teaching methods must turn it into a springboard for engagement.


Every generation in the workplace will gain from innovation in instructional strategies and tools that cater to millennial’s needs for new corporate training methods.
The ultimate cross-generational goal is training that will help employees adapt to the work environment and reach business goals effectively.


  1. How Millennials Can Become Better Managers http://blog.clomedia.com/2013/07/how-millennials-can-become-better-managers/
  2. Millennial Whitepaper http://www.allencomm.com/3-strategies-to-engage-millennials-get-results/millennial-whitepaper/
  3. The Millennials Are Coming! Proven Engagement Strategies http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/1188/

About the author

Roberta Gogos is a Social Media & Content Marketing Consultant and eFront Learning’s Community Manager, she is contributing author to a number of blogs and focuses on social media, culture-specific communication, technology, and elearning. She can be contacted @rgogos or via LinkedIn.

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