5 Learning Trends and Strategies to Watch When Developing Millennials

When it comes to labeling HR buzzwords, learning is usually one of the first words labeled.

There is no shortage of reasons that make this statement true. Here are just a few:

  • An overlap in learning and technology
  • The skills gap
  • How millennials learn
  • The alignment of learning with business goals
  • Mitigating scrap learning

Looking at some of those more closely now, specifically scrap learning. If you’ve never heard of the term, scrap learning is learning that is delivered, but not applied on the job. To further explain the metaphor, it’s learning that is thrown out once it’s learned.

To help put this in perspective, according to one LinkedIn study about 20% of job training turns in to being time wasted. That’s the percentage of learners who never apply their training to their job. That same study says 67% of learners apply the lessons learned, but in the end, revert to previous habits. Another study found 45% of training content is never applied.

So how do HR professionals address scrap learning, the skills gap, and the alignment of learning and business goals?

First we have to consider the generational disposition of the learner. There are at least four generations in the workplace. Millennials are increasingly occupying senior roles and are expected to exceed a third of the global workforce by 2020. For HR professionals seeking to engage and retain talent and develop future leaders AND foster cohesion in the workplace should consider this variable. With this in mind, a key theme of concern has to be the evolution of the learning landscape.

Let’s look at the numbers.

A recent ManPower Group survey of 19,000 working millennials across 25 countries found 93% see ongoing skills development as important to their future careers. 80% rate the opportunity to learn new skills as a primary factor in considering a new job, and 93% want lifelong learning and would spend their own time and resources on further training.

Deloitte also conducted a millennial focused study. They surveyed 7,700 employees from 29 countries. It provided similar insights, but presented new insights on leadership development. The survey reports that only 28% of millennials feel that they are being fully utilized in terms of their skill sets. Almost two-thirds (63%) of respondents say their leadership skills are not being fully developed while 71% of those likely to leave their organizations in the next two years are similarly dissatisfied with how their leadership skills are being developed. Millennials also prefer to work in organizations whose values match their own, with 56% ruling out ever working for an organization over its values or standards of conduct.

Of course, technology continues to play a role here. Research from LinkedIn indicates the shelf life of a worker is just five years. Turnover from millennial workers alone costs the American economy $30 billion per year. That’s according to Gallup.

Here are five technologies/strategies to watch and why they matter today and the future of corporate learning.

1. Personalized Learning: If content is a commodity, then data is a goldmine. Companies that quantify skills gaps and serve courses that matter to their workers will have a competitive advantage. Think of how an employer would focus learning if they knew which skills would put them closer to a raise or promotion OR if managers could identify and plug learning gaps. 

2. Peer-to-peer: If two heads are better than one, what about 4,000? Coca Cola is using a “strategy activation” platform that equips personnel with critical skills from supply-chain management to mindfulness. The platform is collaborative in that it crowd sources insights through virtual “idea tournaments”, connects employees with experts during accelerated learning sprints and gauges employee sentiment with analytics.

3. Education as a benefit: Education has value as a retention tool. It’s still a new concept. As such, companies are starting to treat it as such. Starbucks, for instance, helps with workers’ education. Chipotle uses a platform to connect employees with degree programs through a network of nonprofit universities. Their data shows that employees who enroll in education programs are twice as likely to be promoted.

4. Learner-experience design: As learning has evolved to address modern corporate challenges, a new field has appeared in the space: learner-experience design. Basically, it merges data-driving insights into learner performance. It draws on user data to create interactive and adaptive courses that are more personalized and relevant.

5. Unbundling: This is strategy essentially means companies are not going with one big company/platform to accommodate their learners. Instead, they’re picking and choosing programs and platforms that work best for their employees. That leads to the employee having more influence over educational strategies… pursuing shorter, faster education programs from solution providers.


As the workforce continues to become increasingly multi-generational, it is important for HR professionals to consider the importance of education and how it ties to the business goals laid out before employees. A significant part of that equation is embracing the way these generations act in their personal lives and using it to reinforce their interactions in their professional lives.

We’ve all heard the saying before, “Art imitates life.” For today’s workforce, it’s “Work imitates life.”