Four strategies to motivate millennial IT Pros

Companies that fail to appeal to millennials working in IT risk losing the fresh ideas, skills and talent that they have to offer.

IT professionals can be particular. So, offering an optimized work environment is a key way to attract and retain the best talent — this is particularly true with millennial employees. Have you considered how to develop a workplace culture that’s specifically attractive to millennials? (Hint: it’s not just filling the fridge with Red Bull.) 

Millennials currently make up about 36 percent of the workforce and are poised to comprise about 75 percent of the workforce by 2025. Even though this newly-employable workforce is banging down doors trying to get jobs, they aren’t taking advantage of the technical training they need to be qualified for those jobs. Training is a key strategy for improving retention. A recent study by IBM reported that employees who don’t feel supported to reach their professional goals are 12 times more likely to leave an organization.    

Here are four strategies to help you cater to this substantial demographic, get them in the door, and make sure they stick around your organization for the long haul. 

1. Train with Tech 

One of the defining characteristics of millennials is that they are the first generation of Web, mobile, and social media natives. A quarter of them believe that their relationship to technology is what makes their generation unique. Technology changes rapidly and millennials change their usage along with it.

Online content and accessibility through mobile devices are changing the ways that people approach training. IT training is transitioning away from day- or even week-long seminars and boot camps to short, mobile tutorials that learners can access any time. Online content is also continuously updated to keep up with the furious pace of technology, as well as to meet changing business needs. 

It’s entirely possible to teach complex concepts using technology while also measuring depth of understanding with engagement tools such as interactive, in-course quizzes to help build confidence while reinforcing key concepts, practice exams, and virtual labs which provide the means to get the hands-on experience necessary to pass a certification or solve an on-the-job issue. Training with technology, particularly resources like virtual labs, can enable learners to get more hands-on or apply material to real-world situations — furthering their ability to comprehend what they are learning. 

2. Provide Flexible Scheduling Options 

Having a consistent connection to the World Wide Web, it makes sense that millennials are more inclined to work remotely compared to previous generations. When they aren’t working remotely, they’re bringing their own devices to the office and are efficient at working on their own time.   

A millennial’s office is wherever he or she is right at that moment, whether it’s in a workplace, on the go, or at home. Training should be accessible at their office — wherever that might be. This is not a generation of people who are going home and getting on their desktops. They are using laptops and smartphones, and should have easy access to their learning on these devices.   

Millennials tend to engage further with learning outside of the traditional classroom environment. Because they are used to constantly consuming new content and having nearly limitless options, millennials would prefer training in short bursts rather than through lectures or dense study guides.   

For instance, one commonly used study method is creating flashcards, which help learners absorb small bits of information at a time — allowing them to process the information and practice immediate recall, a strategy that has been known to improve learning outcomes. Condensing IT training topics down to the size of a flash card can be pretty tough, but graphics and videos make it a lot easier and more engaging.   

If you give your millennial employees access to easily-parsable information along with the flexibility to train at their own pace, they will feel empowered, building a sense of respect and trust with you. 

3. Effectively Deal with Shorter Attention Spans 

Growing up with the internet at their fingertips, millennials have a fast-paced mindset to go along with their expectation of instant access. Because it’s so easy for their minds to move from one topic to the next, it could be just as easy for millennials to fit training seamlessly into their stream of content consumption.   

However, you still need to hold your employees accountable and make sure that they are fitting training into their regular schedules. Building a training plan for your team will help you administer and evaluate your team’s training progress effectively. 

Accessing and using reports to monitor your employees' training will help you stay on track. When IT pros fail to train, their skills degrade over time. Without ongoing training, performance degrades by more than 25% every four years. Online training allows your team to keep their skills current, and even more, it enables them to improve and grow, resulting in organizational and service delivery improvements. 

With these reports in hand, you can provide your employees with personalized feedback, letting them know what they are doing right and what more they can be doing to achieve the goals that you are setting for them. 

If your employees, millennial or otherwise, are having trouble fitting training into their schedules, sit down and offer to help them organize their time. You can work together to set more structured guidelines, simplifying the process of training.   

4. Validate Training and Learning 

Gamification has become a powerful motivator in many areas of the digital and millennial world, from social media usage to brand awareness to the workplace. Consider that 91 percent of employees say gamification increases productivity in the workplace. Providing an immersive and effective learning experience will engage your employees so that they are excited to train. 

Gamification can evoke friendly competition among your employees, pitting them against each other in friendly competition to achieve IT training success. It also encourages learners to engage more with the content, motivates specific action regarding the content, influences workplace productivity, and drives innovation. 

It’s important to create a reward and acknowledgement program that validates the experience of learning for all employees. Incorporating training rewards such as immediate positive feedback, badges, and other outward recognition, such as a leaderboard to showcase training efforts, can make all employees excited to learn. 

How Millennials Will Change Your IT Department 

Millennials bring new ideas to the table when it comes to IT training. Their priorities are influenced by their attraction to the latest technologies, willingness to be connected, and eagerness to try new things.   

Companies must adapt to appeal to millennials, or risk losing the minds, skills, and talent of this influential generation. Organizations that are dealing with younger IT pros need to feel out any generational differences and reevaluate how they approach training when it comes to millennial learners.   

Throughout the past several decades, the world of IT has evolved drastically. But this generation has changed the face of this industry even more so than ever before. Now it’s time for employers to change with it. 

Ben Finkel, Instructor, CBT Nuggets

Image Credit: SFIO CRACHO / Shutterstock