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1 November 2014 CFA Institute Journal Review

Training the Millennial Generation: Implications for Organizational Climate (Digest Summary)

  1. Karl Strauss, CFA

The millennial generation has a succinct set of recognized characteristics related to learning style and workplace preferences. When engaging this audience, a training program designed in consideration of these characteristics will improve the likelihood of achieving an effective knowledge transfer.

What’s Inside?

The authors identify six characteristics of the millennial generation and explore the implications these characteristics have for the development and design of workplace training. Suggestions for incorporating this information into effective training programs are provided, as well as the potential consequences of failing to do so.

How Is This Research Useful to Practitioners?

The millennial generation is in the process of supplanting the baby boomer generation as the largest generation group present in the workforce. As current members of the workforce increasingly interact with the millennial generation, both sides will benefit from a deeper understanding of how to best customize training and communication programs to accommodate the unique learning style of the millennial generation. Understanding this generation also has significant application for private wealth managers, savings plan sponsors, and all others who need to educate and communicate with millennials.

Six synthesized characteristics of the millennial generation are identified: ability to multitask, desire for structure, focus on achievement, technologically savvy, team oriented, and seek attention and feedback. Training programs should be developed and designed to address these characteristics by engaging the audience through active learning, collaboration, and technology-oriented environments. Personal feedback throughout a training process ensures appropriate progress is being made and is preferred over post-training assessments.

An effective transfer of knowledge is the primary objective of any training activity, and catering to the needs of the audience increases the likelihood of conducting a successful training program. Failing to consider these characteristics in training programs could result in an unengaged workforce, poor retention, and poorly trained workers unprepared to contribute in the workplace.

How Did the Authors Conduct This Research?

The authors rely predominantly on the existing body of work from academic literature related to the millennial generation. Educational studies and findings are compiled to extract a summary of characteristics, workplace preferences, learning preferences, and learning styles of the millennial generation.

Articles are identified and sourced from various databases, including Academic Search Premier (EBSCO), Business Source Premier (EBSCO), Wilson Business Abstracts, and Google Scholar. These databases produced 14 recent articles dealing with characteristics of the millennial generation, which the authors summarize and examine for commonalities. The authors believe the six characteristics, noted earlier, that received the most recognition and discussion throughout the reviewed literature are valid and assign them to the millennial generation as the basis of their discussion. They also consider contradictory findings and highlight those articles that assign conflicting characteristics to the millennial generation.

Scarcity of data is a limitation of the article. The millennial generation is defined as those born between 1980 and 2000, which means that many have not yet meaningfully entered the workforce, so there is limited research specific to training this generation. The validity of the 14 articles is also questionable because the basis used for assigning the characteristics to the millennial generation is omitted. The authors deem the characteristics to be valid simply on the basis of how frequently they were cited.

Abstractor’s Viewpoint

I would appreciate more disclosure regarding the article selection criteria the authors used as well as additional information on the research methodology supporting the conclusions of the 14 summarized articles. Assuming the six characteristics are valid, there is value in understanding how the millennial generation learns. Whether in a formal training setting or an informal exchange, at some point current members of the workforce will need to convey ideas to members of the millennial generation, and insight into the learning process of their audience will help achieve this goal.

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