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Apr 07

How Harvard Business Publishing Is Embracing The Millennial Mindset At Work – Forbes

There is a new workplace paradigm at play and it is changing the way millennial employees are building relationships with their employers:

Millennials don’t work for you; they work with you.

Embracing this new mentality will be what differentiates your business from other highly competitive options. Millennials are quickly entering their peak employment years and are bringing a new attitude with them into the workplace. Smart business leaders are taking the time to learn exactly what this generation is looking for, as they became the majority share in the workforce in 2015.

A key component of millennial employee love is corporate learning and mentorship programs. Different from previous generations, millennials crave coaching and continuous learning opportunities at their place of work. This is especially important as employees become increasingly time-starved, and as the workforce gets flatter and more mobile, there is a great desire for on-demand learning opportunities that can be done where and when it’s best for the learner.

Harvard Business Publishing is one organization that has been on the forefront of workplace learning for the past two decades. For the last 25 years, the Corporate Learning unit has been delivering virtual leadership development solutions to client partners around the world.

I interviewed Rob McKinney, Director of Product Management at Harvard Business Publishing, to learn more about LeadingEdge, the latest business leadership platform from HBP and what his thoughts are on the future of the millennial workplace.


Jeff Fromm: Where do you see the online learning space in 2020?

Rob McKinney: Online learning in 2020 will continue to change and develop as the business world increases in complexity. There are a number of new technologies and approaches that we are experimenting with in partnership with our clients. For example, we’ve worked with an increasing number of clients on developing large cohort solutions including intra-corporate MOOCs: massive online courses closed to the outside world but designed to help companies engage and develop large groups of employees and cascade learning throughout their organizations. And of course, we believe the need for on-demand, trusted content will certainly not go away and will likely increase, highlighting the need for curation and linking content to the organization’s context.

Fromm: What other online learning brands inspire you?

McKinney: When I think about brands that inspire me, they are likely not ones you would naturally consider as being related to learning. For example, many public libraries, such as the New York Public Library, are innovating the way that patrons interact with their vast collections of content and artifacts, both in the physical and digital space. They offer multiple entry points to meet the patron where they are and help them choose how they want to interact, either by searching or through discovery.

Another brand I admire is Netflix, which offers an easy-to-use interface to the extensive collection of TV shows and movies. This makes it easier than ever for users to discover and consume program content that they might not have been exposed to otherwise. I also think of Amazon, which is a company that combines virtually unparalleled access to a world of products, and a recommendation engine that leverages the power of data analytics to serve up exactly what we need, whether or not we knew we needed it. Increasingly, all learning interactions are being compared to and judged against these types of consumer experiences.

Fromm: What are the biggest barriers affecting workplace relationships with millennial employees today? How are businesses overcoming those barriers?

McKinney: Companies need to create a learning environment that encourages millennials to develop their skills and grow on the job. Millennials are wired differently than generations that preceded them. They are hungry to learn and collaborate to drive team success. Learning programs can appeal to a learner’s intrinsic motivation by giving them control over their experience, establishing connections with others, and promoting different levels of achievement. Companies need to ask, “How do we create a need to improve? How do we get learners to want to do an activity – to want to apply a new skill or to value a new behavior?”

A few key ways to break down barriers and empower millennial employees include:

• Engage emotions – Stories from experts, practitioners, and their boss can spark this connection.

• Enhance feelings of autonomy – Give them control over their experience.  Let them select what areas they want to develop, and what learning challenges to pursue; let them design their own learning paths.

• Enhance feelings of belonging – Through collaborative group tasks or competitions, learners feel they belong to a community.

• Enhance feelings of competence – By revealing successes to and recognizing achievement at various stages and levels, learners see their progress and want to continue.

Fromm: What do millennials expect from their office leadership? How is this different from previous generations?

McKinney: As organizations have flattened and now run lean, millennials strive to play an increasingly important role in seeing that an organization’s vision and strategy are executed successfully. As part of this, they value coaching and mentoring over direction. They crave feedback and opportunities to both assess their current skills and stretch them over time. Upper management should tap the skills of millennials to allow this key group to make critical decisions that in the past would have been made by the executive team or later in a new manager’s career.

With increased responsibility, there is a greater need to accelerate the development of leadership skills among millennials. Organizations can no longer direct all of their attention to their most senior executives, or to those stepping into management ranks for the first time. They’re now recognizing the pivotal role that millennials play and the importance of developing this key group as leaders.

Fromm: How does office culture (hierarchy, seating, etc.) affect millennial sentiment in the workplace?

McKinney: Millennials want to work in an environment of mutual interest and respect – not structured hierarchies. Shifts in organizational design—including fewer management layers, matrix structures, shared services and outsourcing – have reduced opportunities for steady promotion as a key aspect of career development.

Unstructured hierarchies provide an opportunity for managers and supervisors to communicate openly, effectively and frequently with their millennial leaders. Managers exercise profound influence over an employee’s desire to remain with a company – and it’s no different with millennials.

Fromm: What are the biggest drivers of millennial leaders today?

McKinney: Working with organizations around the world, we have found that new managers—especially the millennials now stepping into management positions—are eager to embrace a level of responsibility and take on business challenges far earlier in their careers than previous generations. Millennials seek meaning in their work and have a strong focus on collaboration. Further, millennials want to be plugged in and connected to their organization’s strategic purpose. They want to play an important role in achieving that purpose, and they want this acknowledged through training and development, opportunities to take on challenging and important assignments and exposure to the organization’s senior leadership.

Fromm: What are the biggest changes we will see in the workplace in the next five to 10 years as millennials gain more leadership roles?

McKinney: Succession planning will become a major priority as millennials gain additional responsibility and assume leadership positions within their organizations. Identifying and building the talent pipeline and managing succession planning for the aging workforce will be of the utmost importance. As the boomers retire, and with wide variations in learning and communication style, there will be accompanying implications for knowledge and expertise transfer to the new generation.

Fromm: What do businesses need to know to retain millennial talent when the average tenure for a millennial is two to three years?

McKinney: You can try to fight this trend or your can embrace it and leverage it for mutual advantage. I recommend embracing it, which may seem counter intuitive, but I’ll explain.

LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman and his two coauthors, Ben Casnocha and Chris Yeh, in their article inHarvard Business Review, talks about a new compact between employees and employers – one that focuses less on stability and more on adaptability. Born out from what they’ve experienced in Silicon Valley, the primary message of the compact is that we’re moving away from a “lifetime” contract in employment. Employees are not looking for permanent employment, and there is less expectation that employers will provide it. Instead, it’s in the best interest of both to recognize that employee tenures will be short, yet seek to build trust anyway. The new employer/employee contract is about building a mutually beneficial alliance.

A key element is the understanding that organizations are hiring for defined “tours of duty,” meaning that they are aware that one employee will not give them lifetime loyalty – this holds especially true for millennials, who want broad experience at the beginning of their career, and who are constantly looking for guidance on how (and when) to advance in their organizations. The key is identifying additional tours which align with the goals of both the individual and organization.

Lastly, organizations should make an effort to take a fresh approach to development programs by going virtual. Millennials are digital natives – they expect to use social networking, instant messaging, video-on-demand, blogs and wikis in the workplace. When combined with traditional workshops and sustained learning programs, millennials will develop the knowledge they need to be successful – now and in the future.

 

 

Source: How Harvard Business Publishing Is Embracing The Millennial Mindset At Work – Forbes

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