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Featured discussion: Millennials and Training

Updated: Feb 11, 2022

On top of traditional training, how to spin the program to engage with participants nowadays?

Alisa: The first key to engaging participants is relevance. Adults tend to learn when they have an experience to “pair” with knowledge. The training topics and materials should be linked to their jobs, by making all information relevant participants are more likely to retain the information or knowledge and are able to apply it directly to their job or function.

Andrew: I’d also emphasise knowledge transfer. If participants are unable to translate knowledge into a performance change or training ROI, this is likely to impact the participant's view of future training as well as limiting results.

Alisa: Also, it must relate to the learner's style, if they are of a more traditional mindset, they may not respond well to overly interactive or discussion-based learning.

Andrew: The ATD put out some research about 4 years ago showing approximately 80% of training has no measurable impact on performance, as lots of training gives data or theory, whist actual the application is left to individual learners. I believe that the purpose of corporate training is to improve performance rather than purely to give information on models. Our focus should be on making participants more capable, competent and effective in their roles.

The digital generation of today is affectionately called the millennials. During facilitation, how do you engage with Millennials? Is there a strategic or expectation difference in them?

Alisa: Millennials, also known as Generation Y or simply Gen Y, now aged 18-33 are a major workforce demographic today. Millennials grew up on gadgets, PCs, WI-FI, and Smartphones. They feel comfortable with E-learning, or global mobile learning, so it may be easier if there are some self-learning materials for pre or post-training. The class duration has to be bitesize, which should be fast and straight to the point. They can’t concentrate for a long time.

Andrew: As trainers, we need to be more precise and specific rather than address concepts in a philosophical way. interactivity - roleplay, games, e-learning, video etc, would make the training more interesting; leading to a higher rate of participation and discussion. We should also take millennials opinions as valuable and listen to their experience, so that we may learn from them. As the phrase goes: We have 2 ears and one mouth and should use them in that ratio.

Alisa: That’s true, and I agree with Andrew, being a facilitator we have to be open-minded and flexible. Especially myself not being a Millennial, and I also have to learn the way to engage with and understand them. So, keeping in mind an open way, listen and observe, which are also the primary techniques in facilitation. There is no one-way facilitation, only by taking responsibility for participation could make the training fun and interactive. I agree completely, we need to adapt our training style to our participants.

Andrew: What’s horrifying as I mentioned before, is that approximately 80% of training does absolutely nothing. A complete waste of money with zero impact. A potential challenge may be how some organisations view and metric soft skills. Those pieces of training are not easily measurable and very often, they are viewed as an abstract, in ethereal terms. Especially areas such as communication, presentations, engagement, and even leadership. It’s difficult to understand what they actually mean to clients or how gaps are measured, as well as what that means to the individuals in the room. One way to overcome this challenge, especially with millennials is to engage them in pre-training focus groups and/or alignment sessions to ensure that we, as training professionals can engage them by addressing their issues, and adding genuine value.

In terms of training, do you think intentionality or intuition more effective?

Alisa: Depending on your experience, knowledge and understanding of the training group and topic. The facilitator should be well understood and develop the training with intentional preparation. Like Andrew mentioned, during the training, the facilitator also must be flexible and using intuition to respond to the spontaneous reaction from the participants.

Andrew: Training should be structured to an intended outcome in terms of takeaways. As a trainer, we need to rely on our intuition and the best way to achieve those outcomes rather than ‘force’ the direction of the training. The conversation in the room is always more important than the conversation on the PowerPoint.

Alisa: Agree, the intention should use when preparing the training, setting the tone and flow of the facilitation, while during the training, a trainer needs intuition to respond, as we do not predict the participants’ response or reaction, the participants generally respond intuitively.

Side question - if you have a superpower, what will it be?

Andrew: Read minds. So that I may genuinely understand people. Especially my baby daughter. I’m a huge fan of authenticity, and knowing our weak points helps us and allows us to address challenges. Additionally, miscommunication causes so many problems. I read a study that analysed approximately 30% of medical malpractice cases have been linked to ineffective communication rather than clinical skill gaps.

Alisa: Energy - so that I won’t be tired. I am exhausted recently, too much to work and too much to focus, so I want to sleep less and do more.


Mr. Andrew Edwards is a Professional Coach and Training expert with over 10-years extensive corporate training experience in Hong Kong. He is a passionate advocate of learning transfer and is a firm believer that training has a simple intention: to make people smarter, more capable and more effective both in their professional and personal lives.

Ms. Alisa Chan has University teaching and in-house training experience in MNC organizations. She had a corporate training background having spent over 15 years in the aviation industry, focused on leadership and service skill training, specialized to create learner-centric and activity-based learning experiences that result in behavioural change

This discussion was moderated and edited by Karen Mui and Yan Lam, recorded on 25/9/2019. The above is merely a personal opinion for reference.

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