July 12, 2011
Gen Y to employers: Your on-the-job training programs stink!
Much has been written about how Generation Y -- the under-30 crowd in the workforce -- has had to adjust their attitude in today's crippled job market. As Associated Press reporter Cindy Krischer Goodman (no relation) wrote last fall, Gen Y's demands for work-life balance and instantaneous career development have been replaced by a desire to remain employed and make valuable contributions to a larger team.
[Flickr photo by skilledwork_org]
But that doesn't mean Gen Y -- also known as millennials -- has lost its voice in the workforce entirely. According to a new study released by Workplace Options, an international provider of work-life and employee benefit programs, workers age 18 to 29 are saying loudly and clearly that employer training programs don't measure up.
How can corporate training programs meet Gen Y's needs? Seventy-five percent of millennials surveyed said they'd get more out of employer training programs if they could follow along remotely on their smartphone or tablet device. By comparison, just 40 percent of respondents age 30 to 45 felt the same way, as did 26 percent of respondents age 46 to 65. (More than 450 employed Americans were polled for this survey, which was conducted by phone in May.)
But Gen Y respondents didn't stop there. Six in ten of them said workplace training programs would be more effective if they were "shorter and less time consuming." Only 39 percent of respondents overall were in agreement, as were just 36 percent of respondents age 30 to 45.
"Workers under the age of 30 grew up with different tools and expectations than middle-aged workers and baby boomers," says Dean Debnam, chief executive officer of Workplace Options. "Younger professionals are more inclined to communicate and interact effectively through technology, so the standard model of one person lecturing to a room full of people may not be the most productive approach to reach this age group."
This doesn't mean on-the-job training isn't important to younger workers. It is. In fact, nine out of ten Gen Y workers surveyed said they'd "feel more comfortable talking to managers and supervisors" if their company offered internal communications training. (By comparison, just 67 percent of respondents age 30 to 45 expressed the same sentiment, as did 66 percent of those age 46 to 65.) Likewise, seven out of ten younger workers polled cited "the availability of personal or professional development training" as an important employee perk.
We can debate whether employers should update their training programs to accommodate the demands of younger workers until the next generation enters the workforce. But if you ask me, the real question has nothing to do with age and everything to do with embracing current technology. Given that a majority of workers rely on smartphones to stay informed and connect with others, why don't more employers offer smartphone and tablet versions of their training programs?
Gen Y may be the segment of the workforce complaining loudest about the outmoded, interminable classroom-style training sessions so many employers offer. But they're not the only ones in the workforce glued to their mobile devices round the clock. And they're certainly not the first workers ever to be bored out of their gourd by a meandering face-to-face presentation. So why take up 90 minutes of valuable employee time in a classroom setting if the same points can be made in a snappy 15-minute video that workers can watch on their phone at their convenience?
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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