4 Tips for Onboarding Millenials


Those crazy Millenials are everywhere these days, aren’t they? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 50% of the workplace will consist of Millenials. As learning professionals, we’ve probably noticed the landscape of our organizations is changing. Are our programs changing to accommodate the generational shift? They should be. Consider your onboarding process. As more and more young professionals are entering the workplace, we need to engage them from the very beginning, to help set them up for success in their new roles.

Recently, I was able to attend a webinar facilitated by Brad Karsh, CEO of JB Training Solutions. Brad is the author of Manager 3.0: A Millenial’s Guide to Rewriting the Rules of Management. Not only is Brad a witty, engaging presenter, but he also happens to be an authority on communication in the multi-generational workplace. As I listened to the webinar, (look for the recording on trainingmagnetwork.com), I found myself taking some notes about the content in general…but as I read through them afterward, I realized they also serve as really good reminders when developing an onboarding process, for employees of any generation, but particularly where Millenials are involved.

Inspired by that webinar, here are 4 tips for engaging Millenials during the onboarding process:

1. Give them structure, but help them be self-sufficient.

We all know that “sink or swim” isn’t exactly an effective learning method. But neither does constant hand-holding. Generally speaking, Millenials have grown up with constant support and structure. Throughout their childhood, they’ve constantly looking to a leader to help them – whether that’s a parent, coach, teacher or Scout leader. As they begin a new role, they will be seeking guidance. Provide support, tools and resources, but enable them to be self-sufficient. This goes for the general Orientation process and moving into a routine with a direct supervisor.

2. Tell them why.

Context is key, but context takes time. Regardless of one’s expertise, it takes time and experience to learn the processes, culture and nuances of an organization. Be the person who explains WHY things are the way they are. And even though I know NO ONE has EVER said this before, it bears repeating: “Because that’s how we’ve always done it,” is not a legitimate explanation.

3. Encourage and enable relationship building.

Millenials want to feel that they belong to something (and really, don’t we all?). They want to like their co-workers. They want to get to know them as people, not just as co-workers. Provide opportunities to become better acquainted, both socially and in collaborative settings. Keep in mind that not everyone wants what you want. Just because you’re not into Happy Hour or other social functions, doesn’t mean that others in the organization don’t rely on those opportunities to network and become more familiar with others.

4. Inform and educate.

According to a study quoted in the webinar (sorry, I forgot to write down the source), 74% of Gen Y workers say the future of success is in skill development.

I’m sure all of my L&D brethren are nodding and saying, “We’ve been saying this all along!” (shakes fist in the air!!!)

So, let’s do it. Let’s make sure people like us, the ones who get it, are providing learning experiences for our newest employees. Consider the 70-20-10 model, and know that learning isn’t just about formal classroom time. How can you provide coaching, mentoring and development opportunities to your new employees? Give your Millenials someone to look up to.  Provide training. Incorporate social learning. Learn what your people need, where your organizational gaps are, and fill them.

There you have it. 4 tips for onboarding Millenials. But guess what? These are good ideas for all new employees, regardless of generation. The key is, all new employees have inherent needs that should be addressed, to set them up for success in their roles.

Generations certainly have their unique traits, but no generation is better or worse than another…they’re just different. Do what you can to understand the people who make up your workforce, and provide a meaningful onboarding experience for all.

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4 thoughts on “4 Tips for Onboarding Millenials

  1. Gregg Nelson says:

    Hi Michelle

    Great tips for working with Millennials ! There is a shift taking place requiring organizations to adapt to new models in order to achieve success. A big one is how organizations educate and develop their employees. Here is a link to an info-sheet regarding Multi-Generational Workforce’s (http://www.triplecreekriver.com/multi-generational-workforce).

    To quote the info-sheet:
    “By 2020, Millennials will comprise 50% of the global workforce”
    “89% of Millennials think it is important to be constantly learning at their job.”
    “98% of Millennials believe working with a mentor is a necessary component in development.”

    Thank you !

  2. Michelle says:

    Hi Gregg,

    Awesome comment – thanks for the link! You’re absolutely right, there is a major shift occurring. As L&D practitioners, we need to be advocates of this shift and doing our part to create an environment that is conducive for learning (formally AND informally!) and relevant to our organizations’ cultures.

    Enjoy your week!

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