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Why Millennials Can’t Be Taught!

By Cassandra Lopez

Well now that I have your attention, let’s visit the actual problem: the newer generation entering the workforce demands a different approach to Learning. What this means: training needs to change to better fit their needs in order for organizations to reduce turnover and for all employees to be healthy. What this actually means: Learning needs to be challenging and relatable to my needs and aspirations. But, how do you do this?

Whether you are a millennial, someone looking to train or coach one, or simply someone looking to gain knowledge on new training and development trends, this is a very relevant topic that might help you understand the workplace and ways to interact with people from varying backgrounds.

Can you believe it? Babies born when Lion King came out in theatres are now adults and part of the workforce. This Generation Y, or Millennials, born early 80s – mid/late 90s, had a different lifestyle from their parents growing up in the tech age. Naturally, Millennials – meaning me – have their own way of learning and reasons for it. I know, I know. Wouldn’t it all be great if Powerpoints and textbooks were the most fun way to learn? Sadly, this is not the case. I find myself dosing off in some classes because of the lack of interaction and staring at words on the screen. In my position as a student manager, I have a fear of boring my staff at staff meetings, which is why I try to integrate some sort of activity like customer service scenarios or sensory treat (college kids love free food!).

In an article titled “30 Things We Know for Sure About Adult Learning”, I can consolidate to a few items that may still be true to the workforce today, including this new generation:

1. Integrate new ideas with what they know:
Keeping up with news and trends is something that is so easy to do and makes you look smart. Because of the internet and smartphones, everything is so instantaneous to us that any effort to relate to the current events or a person’s interests are going to generally leave them feeling like they learned something valuable and relatable.

2. Learning environment is to be endurable both physically and psychologically:
If you train in a dark, warm room, you’re already set up to fail. Make sure the audience is relaxed and comfortable. Maybe open up a light discussion to get everyone engaged. I’ve asked people about restaurants in the area, food on campus (did you get the food theme yet?), Coachella, movies, etc.

3. Learning experiences are sought out due to a need for the skill or be able to apply knowledge:
Another way to engage the trainees is to understand the reasons behind why they’re there. Maybe they’re looking to know how to brush up on how to network so they can grow their DJ-ing hobby. Learn their interests and help them develop beyond the current workspace.

I, being a Millennial myself, want to learn things that I will be able to apply later. This could be small like customer service tips, a new integration of a program, or a project testing my creativity. Us adults no longer want to learn things that will only help me do my current job. Whether or not you realize this, we won’t be at your business long if we’re not being challenged so managers might as well keep finding ways to educate and develop well-rounded staff. A thesis by Elizabeth Engleman, she visits Millennials’ personal and professional expectations, “have more frequent/job career changes, great focus on personal/family life, more knowledge of advanced technology, and more education.” She also refers to the Robert Half International where it was reported that Millennials want “control over their jobs, and to be given the creativity to complete their jobs with their own unique approach.” Unfortunately, this gives us a bad image where we are seen as “lazy” or “demanding” (Engleman). Sorry, but if I’m not being challenged and learning things to advance my career, I’m finding a new job that can offer me such things.

So what can we do to train these Millennials? We can try these three things:

1. Learn what their career expectations and their desired career path is.
The aquatic managers at the gym where I work have reached out to their staff and let them take on their own projects that they’re interested in. Because of this, a girl interested in writing has been able to create “Towel Talk,” a news and opinion based leaflet every week for staff to read.

2. Develop ways they can learn skills that may be useful to them in the future.
That “Towel Talk” leaflet may help develop writing, graphic design, and other creative skills that she can take with her.

3. Keep a strong relationship while they are still at the company:
A few years ago, I had an internship for real estate marketing where I didn’t feel like I had any strong connections to others in the office. This made me not want to try as hard or get excited about work. You might be thinking: work sometimes isn’t fun. While that’s true, there’s no reason to feel like you don’t belong to the point where you want to leave and that’s a big reason behind turnover.

The harder managers try to be as authentically engaged about learning their workers and finding ways to teach and apply new skills, the better they can practice being an HR professional. I can’t promise that they’ll want to stay at the company for five more years, but I can nearly promise that they’ll be leaving with nothing but nice comments about the management.


Engelman, Elizabeth. “Generation Y Vs. Baby Boomers: How Workplace Commitment Levels Affect Recruitment and Retention of Generation Y within Corporate America.” Order No. 3368749 Capella University, 2009. Ann Arbor: ProQuest. Web. 8 Apr. 2017.

Gordon, Daniel Martin. “Employee Engagement for Generation “Y” does Team Action Learning make a Difference?” Order No. 3587564 Grand Canyon University, 2013. Ann Arbor: ProQuest. Web. 9 Apr. 2017.

Zenke Susan & Zenke, R., (July 1998), “30 Things We Know for Sure About Adult Learning,” Training, Dale Carnegie & Associates, p 57-60.

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Why Millennials Can’t Be Taught!


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