Area of Learning Might Be Best Place to Attract Millennials

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Standing amid millennials on the metro last week, I saw one woman reading The New Yorker magazine on her device and another listening to Hamilton on hers. What’s interesting about that is the content appears similar to what it might have been 25 years ago—a popular magazine and Broadway show tunes—but the how-we-consume has changed, of course.

That would lead one to hope that attracting millennials to your events, publications, webinars, etc., is a reasonable wish. And if two sources are right, it should be the learning where you have the most success. According to a new report from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR)—titled 2016 Attendee Retention Insights Part Three: Education Content that Builds a Loyal Alumni Attendee Audience—the biggest users of education sessions at exhibition events are young attendees, those in lower level job roles.

Lori Goler, head of HR at Facebook, said something similar in a recent Q&A in The Washington Post. Given that the majority of Facebook employees are millennials, she was asked if they are really so different.

“Facebook is the first Fortune 500 company founded and still led by a millennial, Mark Zuckerberg, so our culture really developed as a millennial culture,” she said. “I think it really embraces a lot of the things that are important to the millennial generation. Some of those things are being open, being transparent internally, being bold, having impact.

“Learning is also really important to this generation. It’s often misinterpreted as getting bored quickly, wanting to move on. It isn’t—it’s just wanting to learn more.

“The other thing that we see now that’s important for the millennial generation, at least at Facebook, is the sense of meaning and fulfillment at work and in your work,” Goler continued. “It’s something that we’re digging in to understand a little bit better, but it certainly isn’t an expectation that I had coming out of school—that I would find fulfillment in my work. It wasn’t the way that I thought about my career as a Generation X person.”

An article last year titled The Art of Marketing Wine to Millennials supported these ideas. Research indicated that young wine drinkers are more likely to listen to wine information from friends, store employees and advertisements than people who are older; they want to learn. And there was data that recommends that wine owners who show their brand's socially responsible side sell more wine—to all ages.

Writing on the Training Industry, Inc., site last year, Rafael Solis, co-founder, CMO & SVP of product at Braidio, addressed millennials’ affinity and desire for learning:

“Millennial employees want to know what they are doing and why they are doing it. To capitalize and instill passion in these life learners, businesses need to create a self-sustaining culture of learning and development…” Hopefully that includes sending them to conferences and training. 

Solis believes that “teams that are constantly learning and developing their talents will thrive in diverse and always-evolving environments. Training, educating and developing employees on subject matters such as diversity and inclusion, disabilities compliance, sales and customer service development, corporate culture, veterans in the workplace and leadership development is becoming increasingly important to not only enterprise corporations, but also to startups and small businesses.”

He also gets into what it takes to retain and develop young talent, calling it “one of the biggest challenges that organizations face today. Ultimately, what management teams just might find is that implementing a learning and talent development initiative, designed by millennials, for millennials, can be a benefit to both their company culture and bottom line.”

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…