I’d like you to meet Siobhan.
Siobhan is 22, has a (2:1) Business Management degree from the University of Portsmouth, and is your organisation’s newest employee. Having specialised her studies towards precisely your business function, she seems like a fantastic new addition to the team.
There’s a problem though. Siobhan has never worked in the industry before and has very limited work experience of any kind. This is no surprise, as whilst a UKCES report on youth employment highlighted that organisations want graduates with experience, less than 30% offer any form of work placement.
Given that new graduate employees such as Siobhan therefore often have limited workplace experience, there’s a risk that they lack the soft skills to be effective team members, critical thinkers and collaborators. This isn’t helped by limited academic opportunities to gain soft skills. Critical thinking is only offered to AS level, meaning it is worth limited UCAS points and offers little progression. The A level equivalent (General studies) is also being scrapped from 2017!
As such Siobhan is a typical ‘millennial’ employee, a term which commonly refers to the generation born between 1990 and 2000. Like Siobhan, they often have excellent ‘hard skills’ qualifications, but sorely lack the soft skills to support this.
Don’t give up on millennials just yet. Although 44% are prepared to leave their current roles within two years, this reflects a widespread frustration at limited learning opportunities. This is particularly true of soft skills, with 64% of employees like Siobhan feeling unready to take up leadership roles when employed in them!
In other words, millennials need and want opportunities to development themselves. This means that by providing ongoing support to bridge the soft skills gap, you can outmanoeuvre less sympathetic competitors in retaining and developing millennial employees.
So, how do you train an employee like Siobhan?
Let’s get digital
Siobhan is part of the first generation to have grown up with constant internet access and near constant visual stimulation, and your training needs to be innovative and varied to engage her. In other words, you need to blend. Why not check out our guide to blended learning?
Using online platforms as part of your blend is particularly important to millennial employees. They are likely to be more mobile, active, and generally ‘busy’ than previous generations, according to a Goldman Sachs analysis, meaning that the ability to access development materials remotely and on-the-go is extremely attractive to them.
It may be a cliché, but many millennials are less attentive learners. It’s part of what one analyst dubbed an ‘engagement crisis’ which means conservative delivery methods such as courses and classroom settings simply don’t work!
By comparison, increasing numbers of organisations are ‘gamifying’ their learning and development resources. This approach can include everything from leader boards and points systems to real time feedback and competitions. Gamification can not only increase learner engagement, but also be used as part of a blended approach to maximise the progress of employees like Siobhan.
A recent Deloitte study highlighted that 92% of millennial employees in ‘buddy’ systems felt that they received valuable feedback and advice from their buddy. Despite the seeming challenges that millennials pose the learning and development environment, they welcome the opportunity to learn from others first-hand experience! Accordingly, buddy systems have a vital role to play in imparting soft skills on your millennial employees as part of a blended learning solution.
One thing is clear:
Imaginative blended learning is essential to soft skills development in a millennial workforce.
Alex Phipps-Morgan, Bray Leino Learning
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