Top tips for training the Millennial workforce

By Bizclik Editor

Written by Anthony Lye, Chief Product Officer of Red Book Connect


As the saying goes, life is what happens to you while you’re looking at your smartphone. And there is some truth to it, especially when applied to Millennials and how they learn. Millennials don’t learn in classrooms anymore, and if businesses still think new hires are going to sit in a desk, open a notebook and take notes with a smile, they are in for a rude awakening.

To train Generation Y with any effectiveness, businesses must embrace mobile and social technology, and let go of outdated notions of workplace education - quickly. According to a report from UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, Gen Y will make up 46 percent of the US workforce by 2020. With Baby Boomers retiring and Gen Y arriving, companies are under pressure to absorb recruits and make them productive.

SEE MORE: How to attract talented and highly motivated employees

However, businesses are struggling to bring the best out from this generation. According to a recent study from Bentley University, 68 percent of corporate recruiters say that it’s difficult for their organization to manage Millennials. In addition, the study found that 61 percent of business leaders give colleges and universities a “C” or lower on preparing recent grads for their first jobs.

In the restaurant and hospitality industries, finance and consulting, marketing and advertising, workplace training and development requires a total transformation that embraces the habits, preferences and values of Gen Y. When companies recognize that social and mobile technology empowers Millennials, rather than makes them narcissistic and unproductive, they will unlock the potential of new recruits well ahead of competitors. Here’s how:


To train Millennials, create entertaining video lessons that are no longer than three minutes. With anything much longer, you will lose your audience.

In the last year, the average length of internet videos has dropped from 6.4 minutes to 5.1 minutes, according to comScore. In 2008, Lloyds TBS Insurance also found that the average attention span has dropped from 12 minutes to 5 minutes in just 10 years. I wager this isn’t a coincidence.

Three minute videos ensure that your Gen Y audience can take it all in, and it makes your learning module far more engaging and accessible than dense text. If you need to use written content, break it into short sections with catchy headlines and bullet points.


15 years ago, people parked in front of their TVs. Now, Millennials ‘park’ anywhere they have 4G and a smartphone or tablet. If you want Gen Y to get their training done, allow them to do it during their commute to work, on the beach or at home.  

While they could sit at a designated training station at train at a specific time, Millennials focus better when they select the time and place. Plus, why pay for computers and sacrifice space to training when your recruits already have the hardware? Provide a mobile training site or app, set a deadline and let your trainees meet it on their own time, not yours.

Also, make the registration and login process extremely fast. If your employees have to fill out lots of fields or click through multiple web pages to train, they will sign in less often.

SEE MORE: How to create a positive work culture


Why do college professors now complain about Millennials who surf Facebook instead of paying attention during lecture? Well, in lectures one person does all the talking, and he or she isn’t always that interesting. Plus, tons of colleges now record lectures and let students watch from their dorm room.

So-called “Generation We” values collaboration, discussion and teamwork in education. This could be a consequence of social media or the discussion-based learning styles now popular in high schools. Either way, recognize that new recruits will put more energy into training if they can connect with co-workers. Let your trainees share content, post on a discussion board and rate learning modules.


They grew up playing Donkey Kong, they started shooting at each other when Halo came out and now they spend money to gain an advantage in ‘free’ games like Candy Crush. Millennials respond well to the imaginary worlds, point systems and digital objectives that make video and mobile games so addictive.

To get recruits motivated during training, gamify their learning experience. Allow trainees to unlock badges as they make progress, rank everyone on a public leader board and in some cases, consider offering some real prizes like gift cards, tablets or e-readers to acknowledge exceptional performance.

However, keep the focus on competition, not assessment. Gen Y sees competition as a fun road to personal development. Grading, on the other hand, feels like an imprecise relic of the education system and a poor indicator of workplace success. Gamify with points and badges, not letter grades.

SEE MORE: What should you look for in a mentor? 


Gen Y has zero tolerance for irrelevant content. Think about it: they have instant, on-demand access to billions of articles, videos, blog posts and images at almost no cost. Technology has trained them to skip whatever seems boring and irrelevant.

Using a short introduction video, image, headline or bullet points, show why each lesson or training module is worth their time. Cue your learners to think, “This is information I must know,” instead of, “I’m going to skip this if I’m not entertained in five seconds.”

It’s time that businesses stop complaining about Gen Y’s mobile-social obsession and instead use it accelerate training and develop a more effective workforce.

In the process of developing great educational modules, I recommend that companies use popular media as models. There’s a reason lots of Millennials read and watch BuzzFeed, Policy Mic and Vice while skipping out on traditional media. They are all mobile-friendly, they keep posts concise and creative, they focus on Millennial subjects and their content is designed for sharing and discussion. Business will be surprised at how engaging their training can become if they learn from popular media.

While Gen Y might benefit from complex readings, high pressure tests and rigorous class schedules, let’s pick our battles. Help Millennials acquire the knowledge and tools to do their job, and then see what they can handle.


About the author

Anthony Lye is the chief product officer at Red Book Connect and is responsible for leading product development and cloud operations for all products, which include hiring, training, scheduling, business intelligence, shift communication, loyalty programs, labor and inventory management software and tools.Red Book Connect is a global mobile technology solutions company providing innovative technology for the restaurant, retail and hospitality industries. The company delivers a comprehensive suite of customizable software designed to automate managerial challenges such as hiring, training, scheduling, business intelligence, shift communication, labor and inventory management. 


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