How To Engage Millennials: 5 Important Moves

Ever wondered why young trainees complain about today’s training materials, especially when these training materials have been developed by seasoned and mature training developers? Why, despite being a state-of-art eLearning course, its learners do not meet the learning achievement expectations?

In this article, we share a recent research on learning habits of millennials and a proposed teaching strategy for them.

The digital generation of today is affectionately called the millennials. This generation is also referred to as generation Y – they were born between the early 1980’s to around 2000. Christy Price, EdD, a psychology professor at Dalton State College, became interested in millennial learners when she discovered a performance and expectation gap between the learners and their educators. (Price, 2009).

She noticed that this group of learners utilized technology differently than generation X – their predecessors. Technology is intimately embedded in their lives, in fact, it is almost an extension of their bodies! Creating training experiences that become a part of their lifestyle was her main goal.

So, she created her famous 5 Rs of engaging these millennial learners. Training managers and eLearning developers can benefit from these 5 Rs to create a millennial-centered learning environment.

How Do Millennials Learn? The 5 Rs

Research-based methods

Millennials prefer a broad spectrum of learning strategies. The concept of learner-style is more pronounced in this generation. They prefer learning materials that are delivered to cater to their visual, auditory and even kinesthetic needs.

They need to experience change in delivery formats to maintain interest. Their attention spans are shorter – they quickly move on to other forms of learning. Their ideal learning environment involves less lecture and more collaboration with peers. Group-based projectsthat emulate the work environment (authentic assessments) are ideal for these learners.


Millennials are aces at “googling” and discovering information. They do not value a piece of information for its own sake, rather for its relevance to their lives. Trainers will find millennials engaged in hands-on or application-based case studies, where new knowledge is discovered and synthesized actively between group members.

The goal for trainers here is to connect the eLearning environment to the performance context of these learners to convince them of its relevance.


Baby boomers or generation X-ers respond well to an authoritarian teaching style. They follow orders for the sake of complying with commands. On the other hand, millennials were raised in a less authoritative environment – where decisions and actions were constantly justified. Flexibility and recognizing the socio-emotional rationale behind new ideas and processes are expectations of millennials. When trainers and instructors provide the rationale behind policies and regulations in a learning environment, these young learners are more likely to respond positively.


Think “laid back” when you conduct your training sessions. Millennials prefer a relaxed learning environment, with minimum pressure, more freedom to complete assignments and also more freedom for personal expression and creativity.

eLearning course mentors need to create a warm, empathetic, “no wrong answers” collaborative environment.


Millennials strive on personal relationships. When being raised, they had complete attention from their parents. They are used to older adults showing more interest in their lives. They prefer and appreciate instructors showing a personal interest in their training and development plans and achievement goals.

These learners also perform better at work and in the classroom when instructors connect with them on a personal level.

How Do Millennials Learn Best: Engaging Millennials In The Workplace

The workforce is quickly being replaced by millennials. Training managers need to modify their teaching strategies and course delivery methods to rein in the potential and the learning styles of millennials.

Still wondering how millennials learn? Incorporate these 5 Rs in your course mentoring strategies to weed out those that did not work well in the past. Ideally, train your trainers on these 5 Rs so that they experience a rewarding teaching environment.


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