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Guy Cooper

Euromoney Learning Solutions

Managing Director

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Training millennials: Do businesses need to change?


Are the younger members of the workforce that different to the rest of us? Guy Cooper gives us some strategic insight.

Millennials are the self-proclaimed most ambitious generation, yet it seems that many British businesses may be missing out on the opportunities this presents. 37% of people between 18 and 34 said that ambition is the biggest difference between themselves and older generations, according to a recent survey. This was followed by a willingness to job-hop and a desire for more feedback and recognition. 

This is reinforced by looking at what millennials say they want from a workplace: the opportunity to progress tops the chart, followed by personal development, working somewhere they believe in, and training opportunities. Millennials aren’t simply ambitious: they see their career far more holistically than many other generations, looking for ways to grow and fulfil themselves both personally and professionally. 

Yet when this is contrasted against some of the survey’s other results, it seems that reality may not be living up to the expectations of what is on track to soon become the biggest age group in employment. 

Although 71% of millennials say that the opportunities to progress in their current company are good or excellent, just a third say that they’re receiving training which is focused on advancing their careers. Even worse, 30% are either receiving no training at all or which only fulfils the most basic requirements of their role. 

Some organisations may be creating a real problem for themselves, particularly as the so-called ‘war for talent’ continues. 

What is behind this fall-off on training?

In part, this is a hangover from the recession, where training was often pared to the bone by companies focused on surviving and avoiding redundancies. Even as the financial climate improves, it’s easy for newly cautious businesses to be wary of investing heavily in training and professional development.

Unfortunately for millennials, their self-affirmed reputation for moving jobs frequently is unlikely to be helping them. Some business leaders are unwilling to invest in their staff lowering returns that might’ve been expected a generation ago when people of all ages tended to work at the same place for longer. 

But ultimately, this is dangerously short-sighted

Retaining high-potential and high-performing employees is vital for long-term success and growth. But as the economic recovery brings more job opportunities, these are just the people who are likely to go elsewhere if there aren’t training and professional development paths to support their ambitions.

Meanwhile the strong correlation between training, employee engagement and productivity means that perceived short-term savings on staff training and development could be costing businesses in other areas. Unfortunately the damage might not end here. Acquiring the reputation as an organisation with limited opportunities for personal and professional development can make it harder to attract top candidates.

This can be seriously damaging for long-term competitiveness. Innovation is what drives continued commercial successes but nearly a third of CEOs say that problems finding and keeping the right staff is making it more difficult. And bringing it full circle, a culture of innovation and investment is a vital component to creating the strong, collaborative employee brands which particularly attract millennial staff. 

In the long-term, the businesses that are succeeding across these areas are going to enjoy a real advantage over those that don’t.

What can businesses do to turn this around?

One of the first steps often needs to be an honest assessment of how employees view the training opportunities open to them. Particularly in larger companies, it can be easy for senior management to be unaware that junior staff aren’t happy with the options open to them.

This is where regular two-way feedback is important. Although millennials' need for regular feedback is sometimes seen by older generations as a sign of narcissism or neediness, these one-to-ones can be a valuable chance for managers to assess whether current training opportunities are meeting employee needs. 

The sheer time and organisation required to run employee training can be a barrier to implementation. While drawing on in-house resources can sometimes provide very cost-effective and targeted training, it can sometimes be easier for companies to outsource some elements, whether that’s the course or the organisation or both. This can be particularly true for middling and growing businesses where there isn’t resource for an internal training manager. 

Being flexible about how training is delivered is another way to make training more accessible. Elearning is increasingly popular, as busy employees can fit it around their work and can avoid having a whole day out of office, while technological developments mean that they can still get the benefits of classroom interaction with other students and the facilitator. 

Guy Cooper is Managing Director, Public Courses and In-house Training at Euromoney Learning Solutions 

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Guy Cooper

Managing Director

Read more from Guy Cooper

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