The Best Way to Keep Millennials Engaged

Surveyed insights into what drives a new generation to work.

GUEST COLUMN | by Darren Shimkus

credit-udemy-surveyUdemy recently conducted a national survey to find out why organizations have trouble with employee engagement. We discovered that millennials, now the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, are nearly twice as likely to be bored at work than their colleagues. So why is the most connected generation feeling disengaged at work? It turns out that very different factors drive job satisfaction for them than other generations, according to our survey. They’re not necessarily after bigger salaries or interested in climbing the corporate ladder. Rather, millennials want to use their talents in a company that makes the world a better place and provides them ample opportunities to learn, grow, and acquire new skills. In fact, 80 percent of employees surveyed agree that learning new skills at work would make them more interested and engaged in their jobs.

They’re not necessarily after bigger salaries or interested in climbing the corporate ladder.

In short, millennial employees want to control their own destinies. They want a clearly defined path for building the professional future they envision for themselves. They want to grow! This presents both opportunities and challenges for corporate learning and development teams. You can be a hero by listening to your employees’ goals and helping them get there, but you’re probably also going to have to change up the way you operate to better anticipate and cater to this generation’s demands.

Employers need to foster a culture of self-driven learning across their organizations that entails more than offering (even well produced) mandatory training. In addition to delivering learning content that’s interactive and engaging, companies need to get comfortable supporting millennials’ interests beyond the current role they find themselves in. Marketers will learn how to code. Software developers will learn finance. This is good! Adapting to this world means letting employees cross-train in other disciplines to explore a broader range of skills.

Millennials consider themselves multifaceted, and many pursue personal projects outside the office, such as blogging, selling on Etsy, coding their own websites, building projects in their garages, or teaching yoga. Recognizing and championing their pursuits can go a long way in demonstrating commitment to the whole person, not just the employee as a job resource, and alleviating that pernicious feeling of boredom.

Conquering employee boredom may seem daunting, but new innovations in online learning make it easier and more efficient than ever before to roll out on-the-job skills training to an entire workforce of diverse workers with diverse ambitions and interests. When millennials are empowered to develop their skill sets at their own pace and on their own schedule, they’ll reward their employers with greater engagement and productivity. And that, of course, will do wonders for your bottom line.

Darren Shimkus is General Manager of Udemy for Business. Udemy is a learning platform using more than 16,000 instructors to change the way organizations teach and learn. Darren has an MBA from Stanford where he was an Arjay Miller Scholar.

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