We won! Cheerful young people looking excited while sitting at the office table at the business meeting

Generation “Happiness”

Retaining a talented workforce has become one of the biggest challenges since the end of the Great Recession in the 2000s. As economies are slowly recovering from what is believed to be the worst global downturn since World War II, competition grows and employees have new expectations from their organisation.

This is especially true of “Millennials” or generation Y workers born between the beginning of the 1980s and mid-1990s. Having made their first steps on to the career ladder at the beginning of the new century, they bring with them new expectations and standards in the workplace.

Could any employer dream of a better situation than the Post-War boom, when lifetime jobs were the norm? Back then, job security was the main aspiration. Baby boomers (the “Greatest Generation”) joined an organisation to stay in for their whole career. After them, Generation X workers aspired to a work-life balance, with a certain adversity to risk-taking.

Now it’s all changed.

Generation Y constantly question themselves, wanting to explore new opportunities. Their perception of the employer-employee relationship is different: they want to work with an organisation, not for it. That shift is not without a significant impact on the organisation. Deloitte’s Josh Bersin came up with a graph showing the economic value of an employee to an organisation over time. This curve clearly shows that employees shift from being a “cost” to the organisation to becoming more and more valuable as they become more skilled over time – if given the chance! That also proves that there’s a non-negligible cost associated with staff turnover. Organisations have to do more than just hiring and developing skilled millennials. Keeping them is much harder, but vital! That’s when an interesting equation published in the Huffington Post comes in:

“Happiness = Reality – Expectations”

Firstly, it’s important to define what makes these employees happy: what were their motives when joining the organisation? What made that company more attractive than its competitors when they were looking for a role?

Then comes the reality: is the company delivering the promise made when it got the employee on board?

So how can learning technologies help to balance the relationship between what the learner is provided with and their expectations?

The key to the retention of Generation Y workers relies on helping them achieve their career aspirations. Thoughtfully-designed learning and platforms can be the answer HR have been looking for. The balance has been shifted from treating learners as a massive (passive) crowd, who are taught at, to treating them as individuals who are in control of their learning and knowledge retention. This is an important leap forward.

To achieve this, personalisation is undoubtedly crucial. In our latest webinar, Toby, platforms product manager and Alastair, head of design and development, addressed the urge to provide learners with personalised tools and content, using playlists to curate content. With a generation so used to being special and the master of their own life, passing the control back to the learner is essential in making them feel like individuals with choices. A ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is no longer satisfactory for people who are familiar with customised apps and technology.

Millennials are also extremely pragmatic, so elearning that isn’t relevant to them personally or actually useful will often be met with negative responses.

For a generation that is not satisfied with just being comfortable, continuous assessment allows for improvement that is drip fed throughout a career, rather than just left to an induction stage. These ambitious and forward-thinking individuals are more likely to feel happy settling in a company if it can ensure they will grow and progress within it. Alongside this, the feedback received from assessments allows those driven individuals to benchmark standards they wish to meet, creating a culture that desires learning.

Although classroom learning allows for interaction between employees and ‘real life’ feedback, socially-enabled elearning environments are the next step in ensuring these employees are retained. In an age of social media, feeling connected to one’s peers is something easily taken for granted. In terms of contemporary technology very few things are done in isolation: playlists are shared, photographs are viewed and communication is instant and constant. Digital challenges and systems that offer both familiar and novel forms of interaction between colleagues who may not usually meet can help to retain millennial staff as by putting a fundamentally different relationship between the company and the staff into place.

Ensuring each individual’s aspiration is fulfilled can be decisive if organisations want to retain their skilled millennials, and help to make the equation right. Using learning technologies in the most effective way is key in ensuring they are engaged and retained.

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