Training Strategies for Integrating Millennials into Your Workforce

September 8, 2008
The culture and mentality of those now entering the workforce is pushing companies to rethink integration and retention strategies. Often referred to as the “millennial” generation, recent college graduates and others under 30 differ significantly from Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers in their approach to the world of work, how they set and work toward personal goals and priorities, and how they assimilate new information. Among characteristics often ascribed to millennials are:
  • Technologically savvy
  • Focused on convenience
  • Team-oriented
  • Goal-focused
  • Fun-seeking
  • Responsive to leaders they view as having integrity
  • Expectant of quick rewards and a structured fast-track
  • Possessing a strong social conscience
With its strong emphasis on organic growth and employee training and development, Suffolk Construction has researched and designed an effective, continuously evolving training program specifically for millennials, resulting in a 97% retention rate among all employees of this generation.  While a cornerstone of Suffolk’s approach is to emphasize already widely accepted training methods for adult learners, we have found these methods to be even more critical for success among millennials. Class and Program Structure Use appropriate class formats:
  • Emphasize highly interactive, team-based, and workshop formats
  • Offer readily available “at-my-convenience” online and interactive tutorials that learners can access while multi-tasking
Offer accelerated tracks that quickly position millennials for upward mobility Non-Electronic Course Materials Use non-electronic materials minimally, designing essential documents to maximize efficient comprehension and knowledge retention:
  • Avoid lengthy, dense texts, giving preference to reference guide formats over manuals
  • Ensure easy navigation in all written documents, mimicking well-designed online navigation
  • Mirror online communication techniques, using simple, direct language and short paragraphs, and organize information into easily digestible combinations of text segments and graphical illustrations
Appealing Instructors Select instructors to whom millennials can ‘relate’: young, ambitious, and knowledgeable employees who are successful within the organization. Course Content Incorporate themes of importance to the current generation:
  • Address issues of corporate social responsibility, such as environmentally conscious practices and giving back to the community
  • Clearly answer a key question for millennials: “What’s in it for me - today, tomorrow, and in the future?”
  • Acknowledge the millennial’s desire for life/work balance, offering strategies for maintaining this balance
  • Emphasize teamwork and a team mentality overall
Courses for Others Even the best structured training program for millennials is likely to fail in terms of retention rates if the organization is not prepared to accept the shift in mentality and culture. Take steps to facilitate the process:
  • Educate managers and others on millennial characteristics
  • Partner closely with HR and Recruiting    - Recruiting top-notch candidates can increase acceptance of millennials    - Mentoring and career-pathing can directly address specific millennial needs
Suffolk-Specific Examples Suffolk has successfully incorporated this millennial-based methodology into our overall training program in numerous ways, including the following:
  • In early 2008, we launched a comprehensive training initiative designed to provide construction project teams with customizable, supplementary onsite training geared toward the specifics of their projects.
  • We offer numerous courses exploring LEED and sustainability and their internal and external significance.
  • We provide managers specific training on understanding and managing millennials.
  • Our Learning Management System allows employees to use a range of convenient, self-service tools to facilitate and organize their learning experience.
  • Our in-house designed and developed online curriculum is highly interactive and conveniently accessible to learners nationwide.
David First, Vice President, Learning & Development Suffolk Construction has been recognized nationally for its commitment to employee learning and development initiatives. Just last year, Suffolk’s Red & Blue University, named after the bold colors of the Suffolk logo, was ranked on Training Magazine’s “Top 125” list for its state-of-the-art training offerings and LEED coursework.
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