I’m a rule follower. I color between the lines, follow a schedule, know my boundaries. But that’s unusual for my generation. An Ethics Resource Center report on generational differences in workplace ethics found that millennials are the most at-risk generation in today’s workplace. I believe it. Gen Y take big risks in their personal and professional lives (but not financially). They’re entrepreneurial daredevils. This can be a red flag for employers, but there are ways to make hiring millennials rewarding, not risky.
I interviewed Jimmy Lin, vice president of product management and corporate development at The Network, a risk-mitigation vendor, who believes mitigating millennial risk starts with training, and it’s a new type of online training you didn’t need to offer previous generations. Below are excerpts from my interview with him.
What risks are associated with millennial employees?
Lin: Reputation and brand damage, download of unauthorized content that may result in a security breach and the communication of sensitive data are some of the risks associated with millennial employees. Millennials are particularly active and comfortable with real-time public communication, including social media, which exposes the risk of miscommunication of the brand of the company they represent.
Millennials also demand security privileges and administrator rights to install software on their computers, as they are impatient and want information and tools at their fingertips. However, this combined with their tech savvy, may allow them to download potentially dangerous content that can result in compromised data. Downloading and using public cloud applications that they use at home for use at the office poses the risk of exposing confidential information on an unsecure platform.
Finally, they may unknowingly share sensitive information through the various communication channels they participate in and think nothing of.
What kind of training is required to lower those risks?
Lin: Millennials must be trained on the business risks associated with each of their actions. It's particularly important to cover social media and what is appropriate to share, the risks of data breaches and the risks around using public cloud software. Furthermore, an important aspect of training programs that is sometimes overlooked is that the people who manage millennials must also be trained on how to manage them and on the kind of controls to put in place around tools that can be used on work computers.
How receptive are millennials to this kind of training?
Lin: Millennials are typically known to have short attention spans. However, shorter courses that are interactive, impactful and engaging are more effective at generating better reception. In terms of tone, the training should approach the topics from the perspective that most of the audience will already know what social media is, and not be too elementary.
We find that learning delivered through multiple methods is more effective for millennials. Training methods can include in-person training sessions, one-on-one conversations, traditional awareness materials, short video vignettes and full-size e-learning courses, among others.
How can you make sure they’re engaged in it?
Lin: Engagement can be encouraged by offering reminder videos, running campaigns and conducting in-person focus groups that regularly generate awareness. It’s very similar to how you would market a product. You need to ensure that the training catches their attention and the information is processed and stored subconsciously. Retention isn't achieved by saying something just once.
Is the same kind of training required for all generations?
Lin: Regardless of generation, everyone is trying to get more done in less time. Therefore, offering shorter training courses that are highly interactive and engaging on multiple media platforms is a necessity, and provides information in the way that each employee wants to consume it.
How will this training change as technology progresses? Should companies provide more of it? Make it more of a priority?
Lin: Training will have to adapt to changes in the technology environment. Training is all about providing information, and the channel used to provide that information will change as technology changes. For example, we have moved from offering printed books to interactive digital content as technology as evolved.
Training has to be a priority as a company’s workforce must be educated in order to be productive and a source of competitive advantage. Companies should focus more on providing small chunks of training with more reminders. Small chunks of training will ensure attention from the employee while reminders will reinforce and promote information retention. Small chunks also allow employees to proactively fill in the gaps on their own knowledge, without forcing them into an extended-length course to find out how to do one thing.
Ideally, training should be made available on-demand to allow employees to continue to educate themselves and provide more value to the organization.