By now, many in the business world are familiar with Virgin Group Founder Richard Branson’s stance on his employees. They are the No. 1 priority, even more important than its customers. Following the retirement of Virgin Atlantic, he wrote in his “Dear Virgin America” article: “Build a business that puts its people first.”
When he first made this declaration a few years ago, many business leaders were surprised. But it’s no longer a controversial statement. When we take care of our employees, they take care of our customers. That truism is part of a larger picture: The pace at which employee demands, and therefore business demands, evolve continues to increase. As learning leaders, it’s important to keep up with — or stay ahead of — this evolution in order to keep employees engaged in their careers.
Millennials are one of the largest drivers for fast-paced change across business landscapes. Their thirst for self-direction in their careers is starting to make learning professionals look at development programs differently. According to thought leaders like Daniel Pink, people have an innate need for a certain amount of freedom in their lives; at least some capacity to plot their own course. In the business world, this translates into employees’ desire for obtaining ownership of their professional direction.
Learning is a key driver for professional direction and growth. Millennials need to learn, and they need to have a say in what and how they learn. That’s good. Self-driven and motivated employees are the employees we want on our teams.
The challenge for CLOs is to create a learning environment that allows millennials to feel a sense of ownership in their professional advancement. If millennials don’t have an engaging work environment, this pool of talent won’t stick around long. Express Employment Professionals’ conducted a survey last year exploring the reasons why employees leave jobs. Data suggests some 40 percent of young workers are likely to change companies because they aren’t given the opportunity to learn and advance as quickly as they’d like.
How quickly millennial employees want to advance depends on the person, and how motivated they are to learn and grow. Therefore, it is important that millennials feel empowered to learn about new concepts or future responsibilities. Further, accessibility to learning resources isn’t the only factor to consider when it comes to the self-directed employee.
Some millennials prefer to learn on their own by referencing world-class books and videos. Some prefer collaborative learning — online and in person — and others prefer to use their various mobile devices to consume learning content and offer their own ideas.
Many CLOs have found success with “always-on” learning solutions that meet self-directed learners’ demands for diverse content and the option to collaborate. These solutions also give the CLO a clear picture of the resources team members find valuable, and how much time they spend learning about various topics.
With this kind of data, learning leaders are in a better position to guide the self-directed learner in the right direction. For example, you may see that an employee has developed a keen interest in leadership based on the ways the employee interacts with leadership content — through comments, shares or recombining published content with their own thoughts and interpretations. That’s the perfect opportunity to recommend additional leadership readings or videos, or even refer that employee to an expert with whom they can exchange feedback and ideas.
According to the 2017 “Global Human Capital Trends” report from Deloitte, the average tenure in a single job is only 4.5 years. Millennials are regularly tempted to explore new job opportunities. Wouldn’t it be ideal if organizations could provide the kind of empowering environment that keeps this generation growing within an organization? Self-directed learning can be a valuable strategy to implement when it comes to engaging millennials and keeping them loyal.
Heather MacNeill is head of communications for BlueBottleBiz, collaborative learning platform. Comment below or email editor@CLOmedia.com.