Today, Millennials alone make up over a third of the global workforce. There is a sea of opinion as to why Gen Y and its successor, Gen Z, are so different from their predecessors. There is no doubt that, as a generation, they do things differently. There is a sea of opinion, yet few organizations seem to have a grip on what they really want from a job and how to help them get it. 

Why is this? Well, it is quite possibly because the gap in generational characteristics is far greater between Baby Boomers and Millennials than between any other generations, and so the gap in understanding when it comes to the workplace, is far greater. For this reason, this generation has been labelled disruptors. They now make up over a third of the global workforce and have become the catalysts for organizational change, just by being themselves. 

This generation of tech savvy, digitally hard-wired, high-speed individuals are capable in ways that previous generations are not. On the other hand, they are often perceived as lacking in the communication skills required to thrive in daily organizational life. Another way of looking at this, however, is that it is organizations that need to adapt to meet the learning needs of their workforce.

So, are Generations Y and Z  friend or foe to organizational learning and communication? Well, that all depends on the learning and communications strategies with which managers expect them to engage. A hierarchical organization looks at its workforce from above and asks, “why do you not fit in?”  A contemporary organization looks across at its multi-generational workforce (or over video link) and asks, “how do we need to adapt?” and maybe, “would you prefer me to WhatsApp you the question?”

In reality, a learning strategy that meets the needs of Millennials and Generation Y is simply a modern learning strategy fit for a modern workforce. These are fit-for-purpose learning strategies reflecting current externalities and making best use of the technology we have available to us today.

Stereotypes and Strategies

Because the behaviors of the Millennial generation have been amply scrutinized by others prior to this, we’ve created a handy summary of behavioral stereotypes, offered alternative perceptions, suggested some possible reasons for these behaviors, and proposed ways of adapting learning strategies to address these.


Millennials are entitled, demanding and have high expectations.

We say 

Well, they are definitely motivated, intellectually curious learners. They value personal development over remuneration and are willing to spend their own time and money on self-improvement. They are searching for a sense of purpose in their work, beyond making money. They don’t shy away from taking on the big challenges, and they want to make a positive impact (a somewhat elusive concept in itself) as quickly as possible. 

Why is this?

The vast majority of Millennials have been educated to degree level and have developed a taste for learning. They are used to on-demand content that they can access whenever and wherever it is convenient for them to do so. 

They are a generation brought up to believe they can be and do anything they want in life, but they have also grown up in the shadow of a number of major world events including 9/11, numerous teenage shooting sprees, and the looming calamities of climate change, and the global Coronavirus pandemic. These things can shake a generations sense of security and drive. 

How can you adapt your learning strategy?

  • Engage learners with self-directed opportunities that also allow them to use their own initiative in directing and managing their learning and development.
  • Make access to learning flexible and on-demand with a mobile learning platform. 
  • Make the most of their motivation and thirst for self-development and use it to embed a culture of learning in your organization.


They are impatient, have short attention spans and don’t know how to communicate. 

We say 

These are definitely very efficient people, with little to no patience for bureaucracy. They like to get ideas out there, no matter whether you are their peer, boss or the CEO. 

Why is this?

These are people used to learning and communicating digitally, faster and without having to deal with bureaucracy or hierarchy. They do not see barriers where there don’t need to be any. They are used to accessing information whenever and wherever they need or want to, thanks to Google. 

They have grown up with high-speed internet and software that is well-designed and glitch free. They do not have Generation X’s patience for battling with user interfaces that are far from perfect. Social media has normalised the sharing of ideas and content amongst peer groups and this behavior carries into the corporate environment. 

They feel the need to get somewhere better, faster, because that’s what their peers on social media seem to be doing.

How can you adapt your learning strategy?

  • Make lessons short and relevant, using a strategy based on micro-learning.
  • Make it ok and easy for people to share their ideas via built-in peer communication capability modelled on social media platforms. 
  • Ensure a glitch-free, intuitive user interface.
  • Develop clear progression pathways and opportunities for personal development.


They lack self-esteem and need constant affirmation.

We say 

They may seem confident and comfortable with big challenges, but they are, after all, still relatively young, maturing and growing their career paths. Gens Y and Z communicate differently – they have highly-developed digital communication skills and are accustomed to very open communication and sharing, which means that they are often not afraid to ask for support in the workplace, but if they don’t get it, they may not stick around.

Why is this?

Constant comparison – everybody else’s lives look better than theirs on social media. They have more conflicting priorities than previous generations due to social and environmental externalities. They want financial security, but this doesn’t always align with the sense of purpose and impact they want to have. Used to on-demand emotional reinforcement provided by social media systems. Interpersonal interactions differ from digital interactions – they are more complex, awkward, peppered with grey areas, and do not offer the same instant reinforcements as likes and smiley faced emojis.

How can you adapt your learning strategy?

  • Embed regular, informal opportunities for relationship and trust building communication with colleagues – both face-to-face and via integrated systems of communication modelled on social media platforms.
  • Set short-term, achievable, confidence-building goals.
  • Engage as managers, integrating recognition and reward systems into your learning platform and offering regular feedback.
  • Personalise learning pathways as much as possible.


They are always on their phones / texting / playing games

We say

Yes, it probably is true that they spend a lot of time on their phones, but they probably spend less time in meetings and on computers. They are avid communicators and keen learners and their phones support both of these missions. 

Why is this?

The amount of time spent coordinating communications (physical, phone and video-based) can be shocking to them. Also, phones are a learning tool as well as a communication tool and enable non-traditional modes of learning. Texting is a faster and more efficient way of communicating, organizing, and sharing information and new ideas than meetings and phone calls. It allows for highly time effective bursts of intensive communication and more flexibility than phone calls and meetings. Games are a valuable tool for learning winning strategies, problem solving and conflict resolution skills.

How can you adapt your learning strategy?

  • Implement mobile-based learning & development to enable swifter, more flexible communication with peers and colleagues.
  • Gamify learning to make it fun, but also to create opportunities for setting goals and rewards and enable a clear sense of progression.

Effective Learning Is a Two-Way Street

A workforce that wants to learn, get better, innovate and grow is surely a dream come true. It does, however, mean that organizations need to adapt if they are to fuel this enthusiasm and retain talented employees. Energy spent focusing on the challenges of managing Gen Y and Gen Z would perhaps be better spent developing engaging strategies to help them grow and achieve the impact that they so eagerly seek

If you would like to request a free demo and learn more about a Millennial-friendly mobile learning solution that offers flexible, self-directed, on-the-go learning, get in touch with us now!

Talk to our experts!

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