Improving Millennial Skill Gaps & Engagement in the Workplace

Millennials are a new generation of employees, and not just in the most literal sense. The millennial workforce maintains distinctly new ideas and attitudes about their careers, and these will challenge companies to more effectively address two areas of corporate learning and development that already prove difficult to tackle: decreasing skill gaps and increasing employee engagement. A study from Accenture finds that employee skill gaps and lack of engagement are already problematic for companies, and that learning and development departments struggle to effectively address these challenges. Nearly half of businesses surveyed stated that skill gaps were prevalent among employees in their company. Given that millennials will comprise 75% of the workforce by 2025, it's imperative that companies more adequately address these challenges.

Why will the rise of a millennial workforce force companies to address skill gaps and engagement differently?

Millennials are all about mobility. While businesses recognize that investing 30 or more years into a single company is a thing of the past, they may not be cognizant of the extent to which millennials are willing to switch jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 91 percent of millennials expect to stay at a job less than three years, which means that in total, millennials could have between 15 and 20 jobs over the course of their career.  This is in part because they're more willing to relocate for their career, as well as because they're highly-educated and seek positions that offer a high level of intrinsic satisfaction. In fact, more than 50% of millennials would take a pay cut for work that aligns with their values and 90% want to use their skills for good.  In other words, if millennials don't find meaning (engagement) in their work, they're not apt to stay. Millennials are also more team-focused and confident in their skills and abilities than previous generations of workers, and while they prefer working in teams, they're highly focused on their own personal success and development.

These notable characteristics present employers with two challenges:

1.) Finding new ways to decrease training time for millennial employees

2.) Approaching employee engagement in different ways

Establishing an effective process for closing skill gaps more quickly is essential for a myriad of reasons, the first being that the existence of any skill gaps, even among seasoned employees, is bad for business. However, closing skill gaps quickly will be particularly important in the coming years because HR departments will be faced with onboarding new employees far more frequently, and managers will likely find themselves in an ongoing process of training new hires. Thus, companies must find ways to effectively minimize this training period and get new hires up to speed quicker to avoid sacrificing productivity.

Closing skill gaps directly correlates with increasing employee engagement, as employees without skill gaps are more likely to be meaningfully engaged in their work. However, traditional approaches to engagement may not adequately address the needs of millennials. A Deloitte study finds that already, lack of employee engagement is the top issue facing 87% of HR and business leaders. With an incoming wave of millennial workers more ready than ever to change jobs, companies must find better ways to improve engagement.  


The Solution

So what specifically can employers do to decrease skill gaps and increase engagement among millennial workers?

Emphasize Personalized Learning and Development

As mentioned, because companies can expect continuous onboarding of new hires going forward, it's essential that skill gaps are closed more expediently. Research demonstrates that top-down, one-size-fits-all approaches to learning and development are not doing much to minimize the persistent skill gaps that affect companies across the country. However, with personalized learning solutions that allow employees to find the resources and training that specifically matches their skill gaps, not only are employees receiving the training they actually need, but they're more likely to identify training as a meaningful part of their professional development, thus increasing their level of engagement. Given that 72% of millennials say that they would sacrifice a higher salary for a more personally and professionally fulfilling career, and that 65% of millennials say personal development is the most influential factor for staying at their current job, personalized learning that fosters a higher level of engagement is key.

An integral part of such personalized learning and development plans will be the competency-based learning model, which is ideal for addressing the needs and preferences of the millennial worker. A competency-based model defines the specific ways in which an employee can excel and allows him or her to measure their current skills against a model that explains the distinction between good performance and great performance—a distinction that is often lacking. Ultimately, with a competency-based learning model, millennial employees will be able to make an impact far more quickly, thereby increasing their engagement.

While the rise of the millennial workforce will challenge companies to more adequately address skill gaps and employee engagement, personalized learning solutions that leverage competency-based models and accessible self-directed technology will ensure this need is met. Learn more about personalized learning solutions by contacting SkillDirector today.


Cheryl Lasse