Why Train Millennials?

Reading time: 5 minutes

Millennials, the Generation Y employees that were born in the decades leading up to the millennium, are gradually taking over the workplace. The first of these are already experienced in our businesses, delivering activities, managing teams and even managing managers.

Those employees who are joining your company today, straight from school, university or as apprentices, are the newest of their generation and they are being expected to fit in to roles and a business that was probably designed and led by Baby Boomers. They fit in like a round peg in a virtual hole. I am writing this at a desk, in my office, on a laptop – Millennials are more likely to be reading this on a smart phone whilst commuting or waiting at the Nespresso machine.

Why does any of this matter with respect to training? If you are a Baby Boomer then read on because Millennials are different from you and this influences What, How and Why you train.

Historically the paradigm has been that ‘of course’ organisations should provide training for their employees because this creates a safe, effective and loyal workforce. Twentieth century society expected individuals to have one career and just a handful of jobs in a lifetime. With such a sedentary workforce it made perfect sense to invest in training as you would ultimately get a return on investment (ROI) in the decades ahead.

Now switch those consistent, reliable employees for a whole new workforce of hyper-confident entrepreneurs who genuinely believe that the greatest gift they can bestow is to just be there. Who feel a sense of entitlement, want instant gratification, and will absorb every opportunity to develop and learn so that they can move on to the next great job and be the next Steve Jobs or Elon Musk whilst still in their twenties.

In the Millennial paradigm training looks more as though you are investing in someone else’s stars of tomorrow, someone who is likely to move on long before you realise your ROI. So why invest in training them?

Understand the Millennial Paradigm

Although we define the generations according to dates of life events and development – generation is far more a state of mind than year of birth. Check out the following table and see which column honestly resonates best for you.

Baby Boomers: the in-line generation Millennials: the on-line generation
Look after me for life Invest in me for now
I’ll give you the next decade I’ll give you the next year
It’s a privilege to be offered training It’s my right to be offered training
I seek stability I seek opportunity
I work for entrepreneurs I am an entrepreneur
I’m lucky to be here You’re lucky to have me
It’s my duty to focus and concentrate It’s your duty to engage me
I work at the office then relax at home I blend work and fun 24/7
I’m pleased to find a phone signal or Wi-Fi I expect to be connected anytime, anywhere
The internet is a valuable resource The internet is just how I live my life


It is perfectly possible to be a Millennial trapped in a 1960’s body! It is equally possible to be a Baby Boomer who just happens to be only 20 years old.


So why train the Millennials if they are going to move on or become your competitor one day? Because these people are the catalysts of change that will keep your business relevant and successful for the years ahead. Your customers are already Millennials so you have got to be able to think like them and do business like them.

Business case studies are littered with the stories of Hoover, Encyclopaedia Britannica, IBM, Woolworths who stuck to their tried and tested formulae, were market leaders until the market moved on and they failed to lead or even follow.

Millennials are the first Internet Natives – people who have grown up on-line, who just expect 24/7, unlimited connectivity. Whether your business is finance, retail or manufacturing, the accelerating churn of change has to be powered by those who live an on-demand life, not those who merely understand it.


Ironically the skill sets required by your Millennial workforce are little changed from those needed by their parents or grandparents. Everyone in a business world needs to be able to effectively:

The difference between the generations is that Millennials are more engaged by learning opportunities that directly add value to them personally and which align with their personal goals and ambitions. So whilst the capabilities trained may be familiar and consistent throughout the generations, the way in which they are communicated or sold to the Millennial workforce needs to be radically updated.


The ultimate outcome for any business is to be successful, and it’s no different for the Millennials working there; they want to be a part of that success. When it comes to developing Millennials, the way we position and deliver training needs to evolve and appeal to the younger generations who will be leading the businesses of the future.

One way is embracing their technological know-how and therefore e-learning is an expectation. There are on-line platforms and webinars available at the click of a button and you can easily download an app on your smart phone, as well as watch influential business professionals on Ted Talks.

There is no reason learning cannot be fun. Millennials have engaged in online game playing since childhood. When you ‘gamify’ the learning process using features like scoring, ranking and badge collecting, you add a familiar dimension to the experience and introduce the element of friendly competition many Millennials enjoy.

The “what’s in it for me” mentality is hard for Baby Boomers to comprehend, yet if we don’t position training in this way we will never get Millennials fully motivated and on board. From a business perspective, we want them to leave any training having the opportunity to demonstrate the skills they have learnt, but be warned, they will be expecting some kind of reward in return for your investment in them!

Follow-up is equally as important so that they can showcase what they have learnt and further embed their skills. Let them become a mentor for others; they will love nothing more than to show their peers how it’s really done! Similarly, give them a mentor so that they can absorb the knowledge and skills required to deliver an effective outcome for themselves and the business.

Training should be interactive, fun, engaging and collaborative and everyone needs to be encouraged to participate and share ideas. They need to feel involved and valued; without appealing to their “what’s in it for me” mentality at the beginning of the session, you will struggle to take them with you on the learning journey.

When delivering training in the traditional setting of a classroom, often the venue choice has a huge impact on whether learning is inspirational or not. Many offices and conference venues are boutique and modern which appeal to the Millennial learner. You should never underestimate the power of a change of scenery; take them outside and encourage syndicate groups to move somewhere else within the venue for inspiration.

Finally, Millennials are most engaged when they see how their training and experience contributes to their own and the organisation’s growth. As part of the process, explain how their professional development is linked to their own personal career advancement and ultimately the success of the business.

Finally, it is important to create opportunities for Millennials to feel as though they are progressing quickly.  Career ladders have transformed into scaffolding; creating a flexible platform for moving around the business to gain more knowledge and expertise will help you to retain key talent for longer.

There is no substitute for face-to-face training so how can you dovetail this to motivate and maximise your investment? Here are our top tips:

  • Enhance training with technology for this tech-savvy generation
  • Build gamification into your training
  • Get them to participate and shape the agenda for learning
  • Give them opportunities to demonstrate what they have learnt
  • Offer coaching, mentoring and feedback on an ongoing basis
  • Follow-up any training with more skills development opportunities within 3-6 months
  • Assign them a mentor and/or mentee
  • Location, location, location – inspire them with your venue
  • Align training with your organisation’s vision and strategy
  • Reward them regularly including sabbaticals to different departments

This blog was written by Nic Hallett, Managing Director and Lisa Smith, Client Services Manager 

At Excel Communications we have delivered Leadership and Management training over 30 years on most continents in multiple languages. You can view the results we get for clients here. Alternatively call us on +44 (0) 1628 488 854.