How to engage Millennial employees in your LMS - written from the perspective of a Millennial.

Full disclosure: I am a millennial. I’m one of the group of people who became an adult in the new millennium, who is intensely tied to technology, has had a smartphone since college, who barely remembers a world before 9/11, and who is currently the largest share of the American workforce.

My formative years were characterized by economic instability, huge technological advances, and the ability to read about it and respond immediately in any number of very public forums. Every generation has their defining features (and their features that the previous generations really hates), and the unique aspects of millennials particularly reflect the world we live in today. A 2015 study¹ showed that 53% of hiring managers report difficulty finding and retaining millennial talent. The study also found that 58% of millennials expect to stay in their jobs fewer than three years. Training and retention thus must be a huge focus.

Millennials became the largest share of the American workforce in 2015, surpassing Gen X. Some even go as far as to say that “your ability to attract, develop, and retain young leaders will make or break your company in the coming years.²” While I don’t believe you have to cater to millennials in any way that changes who you are as a company, following these five rules will help your LMS reflect modern digital tools and trends, creating a professional, engaging presence for your millennial employees.

Wisetail LMS employee Courtney shows off her favorite Ramones record.
Wisetail LMS employee Mike shows off his new skis.
Wisetail LMS employee Ali writes notes in her work notebook.
Create and maintain a tight, consistent brand message

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see these colors? For my generation, this immediately makes us think of Facebook. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and their associated apps are social sites with scientifically designed levels of brand messaging. They have become ubiquitous, with branding so powerful and pervasive that they can appear in any place and format and still remain totally recognizable.

As a millennial, my digital space is so carefully crafted and curated by so many brands, that to see one site that doesn’t nail it is incredibly jarring. If you want your millennial employees to view your LMS as the kind of site they visit and interact with regularly, it needs to have a strong sense of branding and continuity. Many of the sites that don’t follow these guidelines feel unprofessional (think myspace) or untrustworthy (any scammy-looking site, especially with flashing banners). Research shows that “companies wishing to engage [Millennials] should also rethink use of the web in terms of interactivity, visually appealing interfaces, and opportunities for personalized interaction and co-creation³”.

There are several easy ways to ensure your LMS maintains great branding. First, a style guide is invaluable. Whether it’s a classic style guide or has rules about certain language expectations on your site (we don’t allow videos with foul language, we always refer to customers as ‘clients’, etc) this can be really helpful for both content creators and users generating content. Start minimal and only make rules as needed. You want to create a guide that makes people feel confident that their content will look and feel awesome on the site, not a guide that makes people worried that their content will never be able to meet all the requirements.

Second, it’s very powerful to have one point of contact for content, a guardian if you will. This is one person (or a team of people) who have a strong handle on your brand and mission, and probably even helped create it (so they have a sense of ownership). They will be the ones who create modules, tests, announcements, banners, and non-user-generated content that has a consistent feel and message, or the ones that edit and finalize content created by others. If you have a training department you probably already have these people (just make sure they’re on the same page). If you don’t, it could be worth it to have a designee. The Wisetail system makes it easy to manage your brand through group permissioning, and tools like only allowing user-generated content to be posted after approval by an admin.

Smart Phone = Smart Content

You can make great eLearning content. It’s easy. The tools are already in your hands. Check out our video for how you can make amazing videos by using only your smart phone.

Gamify yo’ self

There’s been some fantastic research and discussion about games and learning. A paper by Landers and Callan¹¹, states that “Videogames in general are highly motivating to college-age students, and recent estimates indicate at least 70% of college students play them…” Games in many forms have existed for millennia, it’s just recently that they’ve gone digital and accessible anywhere. My generation grew up surrounded by games of all types, each one teaching developers more about how to keep players engaged. Take advantage of this research and this big part of the millennial psyche.

When including gamification in your LMS, focus on what motivates your employees. Landers and Callan say that “Motivations to play games vary, but challenges and competition, within what is often a highly social context…are among the most commonly reported reasons”. For me, social context is huge. I don’t (occasionally) beat my husband in Mario Kart because there’s a cash prize, or because I’m consciously working on my hand-eye coordination, but because my character standing on the podium at the end means I’m the best. Don’t underestimate the psychological desire to win.

It is also a powerful way to think about how your organize your content. Think about your training in terms of missions, maps, or levels. There should be a flow that (most importantly) helps people find and complete all content important for their current position. Second most importantly, they should be able to find content that applies to where they want to be someday. Content that can help them “level up”, if you will. Many millennials are wildly ambitious, and you will get fewer left-field demands for promotions or pay raises when the path to that promotion is transparent and accessible to everyone. Use gaming terms like “mission” and “level” throughout your LMS — The cool thing about those terms is that though any generation understands the concepts, it can be especially powerful for millennials, speaking the language and increasing the interest and engagement of the age group that’s the up-and-coming backbone of your workforce.

learning management engage at the wisetail lms headquarters
Create and release content regularly

Consistent content is the new normal. Millennials may be stereotyped as having minuscule attention spans, but in reality, that’s a result of the world we live in. Millennials have high standards for what is considered fresh content. They won’t stay engaged with content they feel is outdated. If your content dramatically ebbs and flows, there’s no reason for (really any of) your employees to consistently log into their LMS, because they will quickly learn that usually, there’s nothing new. Incentivize interaction by having great, new content as the reward, every time they visit.

The back end preparation and planning it takes to have a consistent flow of content is not particularly hip or easy. We’re talking about having a content calendar. Having a stockpile or content market you can pull from on a regular basis. Planning out a series of videos where one will go out every two weeks into eternity, without repeating yourself or becoming stale.  It’s a lot of hard work, but if you want engagement, that’s what you have to offer. A consistent flow of information brings comfort and a sense of power over circumstances. Don’t overthink this too much — just aim for even-keeled consistency.

Wisetail LMS (Learning Management System) employees Juniper and Cece.
Wisetail LMS (Learning Management System) employees Matt and Evan.
Wisetail LMS (Learning Management System) employees Ember and Anne.
Connect with humor

Don’t be afraid to be funny! Many studies have shown that “humor in the classroom can have positive effects on the attention, engagement, and motivation of students… Teachers and professors who use humor strategies as engagement and motivation tools also report that students take more ownership of in-class work and assignments…and have higher rates of return on homework and other out-of-class activities²²”. Comedians like Chris Rock, Louis C.K., and Tina Fey have built careers on comedic styles that mix serious social commentary with comedy, so don’t worry, we’re used to laughing while we learn.

One of the most effective ways to mix humor into your LMS content is with pop culture and parody humor references. You don’t have to be a standup comedian to connect with your audience. Referential humor is the backbone of series like Family Guy, Archer, and New Girl (all three do it in different ways). Keep abreast of the news, watch a buzzfeed video a day, look at the trending topics on Twitter, and soon your employees will love your LMS more than Kanye loves Kanye.

Enable and encourage personalized, public praise

Every millennial has been told that they’re a special snowflake that deserves more than everyone else, for less work, right³³? Well, whether you believe that or not, personal recognition is great for everyone. This is less about what you put in your system, and more about how your company uses it. Encourage managers of all levels to use the system to offer personal encouragement and praise to their people. It will underline the fact that they are aware of day-to-day activities, and that they care when good things happen. Model this from the very top down, and you’ll create a cultural movement. Plus, who doesn’t love logging into Facebook to see that you have messages from friends, likes on posts, and photo tags? Imagine the incentive for employees to log into your LMS when they know they will regularly see honest, personal praise and public recognition.

Great content in your LMS will help you retain and train your best Millennial employees, growing your talent pool and increasing the diversity and skills of your workforce. Every generation has their strengths and weaknesses, so make your team stronger with powerful content to train employees and draw out their strengths.

1) https://www.upwork.com/press/2014/10/29/hiring-managers-say-millennials-surpass-prior-generations-in-several-key-business-skills-new-study-reveals-2/
2)  http://www.forbes.com/sites/joshbersin/2013/09/12/millenials-will-soon-rule-the-world-but-how-will-they-lead/#6842a3b72d7b
3) Millennials and the World of Work: An Organization and Management Perspective
(Andrea Hershatter, Molly Epstein)
11) Casual Social Games as Serious Games: The Psychology of Gamification in Undergraduate Education and Employee Training

22) Humor in Higher Education: A Research Brief
(Michael Lovorn, David Augustine, Lauren Dutton)
33) Seriously, read this:

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