The cloud is ubiquitous. Millennials, the generation who have grown up with Facebook, Google and Twitter in their pockets, take the cloud for a given. So it’s no surprise that organisations are realising that it is far easier to engage, motivate and develop their future leaders via cloud-based solutions than via the traditional classroom style training of the past.

In addition to this significant shift in preferred learning style of these future leaders, there is also their underlying motivation when it comes to the WHY of working for a particular organisation. It is no longer enough to be a valuable, but somewhat invisible part of cog in the successful team. Millennials need to feel that they are directly contributing to the organisation they work for, as well as having purpose and meaning. Denise Restauri describes this well in her recent article for Forbes in which she said ‘Millennials are committed to making the world a better place –both at work and in the causes they support’.

This generation of workers aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo and are boldly taking the power to learn into their own hands, both at work and outside of it too.  They are utilising a global information network from which to choose what they learn, when they learn and how they learn about it. They are also conversing and sharing their knowledge, experiences and findings with their global network of peers. It’s pretty powerful stuff once you start looking into it!

The ‘Millennial’ approach to learning

The learning style preferred by Millennials is unlike anything we’ve experienced in the past and as a result, can present a challenge to HR and learning professionals whose experience lies in more traditional approaches of the past.

At GWYGA, we conducted a recent study into how the millennials we work with prefer to learn. We found that they are:

  • naturally social
  • impatient
  • non-hierarchical

This is particularly challenging for those learning professionals who are used to the ‘Follow My Leader’ approach. Millennials simply won’t buy into that approach anymore. For them, they need an environment which will enable them to grow and develop, to have the ability to bring ideas to the table, even if they are just the office junior, and to have the potential to change the way the business works for the better.

Millennials also tend to benefit from less face-to-face evaluation, preferring to have their work judged for quality, rather than their face judged for wrinkles!  It can sometimes be daunting for millennials to sit with very senior colleagues, so much so that they might not fully express themselves, even though they want to. Doing some of this work online, helps ameliorates this issue, whilst also building confidence.

Stepping out of the classroom and into the cloud

People only learn 10% of their work knowledge through classroom-based training.  In contrast, a massive 70% comes from actually ‘doing’. Giving people the opportunity to get knee deep in real life situations that challenge their understanding is one of the key motivators for millennials when selecting an employer to work for.

The cloud can help facilitate this more liberalised approach to learning and development by providing a tangible record of any non-classroom based training. Integrating practical projects and experiences with online materials (video, audio, workbooks, forums and progress logs) can help to deliver the crucial 360 degree approach that millennials will thrive on.

It can also help facilitate learning outside of the normal working hours. Millennials like to have the freedom to learn and develop at times that suit them. The GWYGA database has over 140,000 people registered for our various projects and learning-based programmes and we have noticeable spikes in people logging on between 7.30-9.30 and 4.30-6.30. Cloud-based solutions that enable remote access from home or via tablets and smartphones on the move can ensure that they remain engaged in programmes, that fit around their work commitments.

I’ve made this all sound very simple, but I appreciate that this is often a daunting task for organisations who are facing the cloud for the first time. The great thing is it doesn’t have to be done on a massive scale to begin with. Although millennials are impatient, they are also smart when it comes to understanding that change can take time and as long as they see progress, they will be happy. Even if you communicate a five-year plan, the most important thing is that they can see change starting to take effect. Starting small will give them the confidence that you are committed to evolving your training and development plans to better match their personal aims and objectives, whilst giving the organisation time to adapt and accommodate this new approach to learning.

Mighty oaks grow from small acorns

Organisations wanting to embark on a cloud-based solution would benefit from exploring outsourced solutions that can simply bolt on to existing programmes and processes. There are lots of different approaches out there depending on the desired outcome, including skills-based giving to charitable projects.  Charitable projects in particular are a great way to develop business and leadership skills outside of the working environment, whilst also helping to provide a ‘holocratic’ working environment where the junior and a CEO are on a level playing field, something Millennials will love. This work dynamic is very difficult to achieve authentically in an office environment!

In summary, integrating cloud-based solutions help all professionals learn better leadership skills, but it’s not going to be an overnight fix. The format needs to be authentic, meaningful and the impact needs to be communicated to all parties. It also needs to be sustainable, as introducing an idea only to abandon it after the first year will be detrimental and demotivating not just for millennials, but for the whole organisation. Starting small will enable organisations new to the cloud to dip their toe in the water and get to grips with how such solutions can enhance the development, engagement and productivity of employees, whilst also demonstrating a commitment to evolving and adapting leadership development programmes for the new generation of future leaders.

About the Author

Ami Bloomer is CEO of Give What You’re Good At, the intelligent volunteering organisation that helps large, medium and small organisations to train their people, save money, boost morale and make a big difference in the community. More than 5,000 companies worldwide already have employees volunteering with Give What You’re Good At. For more information visit