3 Reasons Why Professional Development Motivates Millennials

Younger employees put a premium on career advancement

Ann Parker ATD

Today's workforce is comprised of five generations, each with distinct qualities that can be profoundly felt in the workplace. By 2020, the Millennial generation -- those born between 1980 and 1994 -- will comprise 51 percent of the Western workforce. 

As you may know well know, members of the Millennial generation often aren't motivated by traditional compensation and benefit perks that more easily secured the loyalty of prior generations. Instead, they seek organizations that champion values they hold dear, including sustainable practices, flexible work, and employee development opportunities. 

Why is it so important to champion Millennials' professional development, and how can you begin to do so today?

1. If you don't engage Millennials, someone else will. For many Millennials, professional development goes hand in hand with engagement. They are not interested in merely punching the clock at the office or putting in their time until retirement. If they do not find their work meaningful or are not loyal to your organization, they will have no qualms about walking out of the door.

According to "The Frustrating World of Employee Engagement," in the Spring 2016 issue of CTDO magazine, the acronym MAGIC represents five key engagement metrics an organization should invest in:

Do individuals have meaning in their lives? 
Do employees have autonomy in their jobs? 
Are your people growing?
Does your talent have impact on the organization in the work that they do? 
Do employees have a connection to the organization? 

Are you actively measuring your Millennials' engagement levels? If not, how can you begin doing so today? 

2. Millennials desire a purposeful work experience. As described above, this generation is not interested in the nine-to-five grind to which their parents grew accustomed. Instead, they desire for their work to contribute to the organization's strategy in a meaningful way. They also want to take ownership of their roles and enjoy the tasks set before them. 

How can you meet these needs? Play to Millennials' strengths.

In an effort to engage Millennials in purposeful and meaningful work, it's important to treat them as individuals, especially during the goal-setting and performance-appraisal process. Ask each person in your agency how she works best, what workplace benefits she values most, and what her broader career goals are. Build employee goals around these stated strengths, interests, and preferences and demonstrate how their goals contribute to the organization's success. When employees feel that they are valued as unique individuals, and that their work matters, they will grow more engaged and loyal. 

3. Millennials love to learn. This generation has grown up discovering ideas from Google and YouTube, and their hunger for knowledge is insatiable. Offer opportunities for this generation to develop their knowledge and skills. Ask them what strengths and skills they want to develop, and provide them with professional education and offsite conference opportunities. 

Above all else, involve employees in their own learning and development plan from their first day on the job. Ensure all employees are aware of the opportunities available to them to grow their careers within your organization. If employees voice interest in a particular open position or next rung on their career ladder, work with them to build steps toward specific career goals. 

Investing in your Millennial workers' professional development is always worth the effort and cost. You will retain engaged, loyal, and motivated employees who are eager to contribute to your organization's mission and bottom line.

Ann Parker is manager of the Human Capital Community of Practice and the Senior Leaders & Executives Community of Practice at ATD. Prior to this position, she worked at ATD for five years in an editorial capacity, primarily for TD magazine, and most recently as a senior writer and editor. In this role, Ann had the privilege to talk to many training and development practitioners, hear from a variety of prominent industry thought leaders, and develop a rich understanding of the profession's content.