Millennials Part 3: An Age of Accelerated Learning

Young employee explaining

The story so far…

In the first millennial blog we explored why it’s so difficult to separate generational stereotypes from millennial reality. Specifically, we examined the two key events that have truly shaped millennial attitudes and behaviours, namely: the economic recession and the technology boom.

In blog 2, we looked at what to do about the millennial myths that aren’t true. The stereotypes. This is important because when it comes to culture a little thing like truth doesn’t stop something having a big impact.

The value of learning

In this final blog of the series we are focusing on one thing that really is different about the millennial generation: learning.

Research suggests that millennials place greater value on continuous learning than previous generations.1 But why is this the case? Why do they value learning more? Do millennials learn differently or have a different learning style to other generations?  Furthermore, what action can and should businesses be taking on the learning front?

Why do millennials value learning more?

To be honest there’s not a lot of research out there on this. Personally, I think it all ties back to technology and the internet; there is just so much knowledge out there now, all only a few mouse-clicks away. Millennials have grown up seeking, sieving and synthesizing vast amounts of content available online, so with learning now easier than ever it’s perhaps not so surprising this generation values it more.

For millennials: if you’re curious about something you can literally just Google it.

Do millennials learn differently/ have a different learning style?

Firstly, it’s important to clarify the concept ‘learning style’. Historically, there’s been a lot in the literature about there being three main broad cognitive learning styles: visual, auditory and kinaesthetic but over time research has failed to find any evidence for this theory. 2,3,4 So no, I would put a question mark next to the concept of ‘learning style’ altogether and definitely wouldn’t link a certain style to the millennial generation.

With regards to whether millennials learn differently, I’d say in some respects no, as the way we learn as humans hasn’t changed, but in some respects yes, as expectations and learning platforms have changed.

What hasn’t changed: the way we have evolved to learn and take on new information hasn’t changed; storytelling is still the most powerful way to pass on a message and lodge it in someone’s long-term memory. TedTalks are a modern day tribute to this cave-man practice. Furthermore, research shows how lecture style presentations are still as effective as ever in getting the lesson across, when supported by worked examples and deliberate practice.5

What has changed: Technology. Technology has shifted both expectations and facilitation options.

As mentioned before, millennials have grown up trawling the internet to find stuff out. Consequently, they expect to use technology when they learn. Furthermore, they are familiar with simulation-based virtual settings, appreciate the distribution of knowledge across a community and expect learning experiences to be personalized to individual’s needs and preferences.6,7

And make no mistake, the market is responding to these shifting expectations. Blended learning approaches are becoming an ever popular part of development academies, mixing high-impact face-to-face with continuous digital learning.8 Possibly the most advanced digital option of all in this space is VirBELA, a system that allows learners to take on virtual avatar, attend workshops, lectures, experiences and meetings whilst also interacting with other learners.

What action to take on the learning front?

  • Move learning & development opportunities up the value proposition to attract the best of the millennial crop. Then retain that millennial talent by carrying out internal learning & development audits to check opportunities and promises are being delivered on and expectations met.
  • Use coaching and mentoring to offer more regular learning touch points to employees. These established practices will not only help demonstrate how much the business values and supports learning but will also encourage employees to take ownership of their development.
  • Integrate digital learning into face-to-face programmes. Millennials expect to learn using technology and it can be a really impactful way to embed and maximise learning opportunities.


For more information on how to integrate technology effectively into a skills programme please look out for our next white paper. Technology can open the door to delivering much more for much less in terms of learning, but only when done well. After all, if there’s no learning, there’s no value.




1. Lester, S. W., Standifer, R. L., Schultz, N. J., & Windsor, J. M. (2012). Actual versus perceived generational differences at work an empirical examination. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 19, 341-354.

2. Kolb, David. (1984). Experiential Learning. Englewood Cliffs, NJ. Prentice Hall.

3. Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2008). Learning styles: Concepts and evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest. 9, 103-119.

4. Suh, J. K., & DArch, J. H. (2016). An Interdisciplinary Approach to Develop Key Spatial Characteristics that Satisfy the Millennial Generation in Learning and Work Environment. Transformative Dialogues: Teaching & Learning Journal, 8.

5. Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2008). Learning by viewing versus learning by doing: Evidence‐based guidelines for principled learning environments. Performance Improvement, 47, 5-13.

6. Dede, C. (2004). Planning for “neomillennial” learning styles: Implications for investments in technology and faculty. Harvard Graduate School of Education.

7. Dede, C., Korte, S., Nelson, R., Valdez, G., & Ward, D. J. (2005). Transforming learning for the 21st century: An economic imperative. Common Knowledge, 399.

8. Clark, R.C., & Mayer, R. (2011). E-Learning and the Science of Instruction. Pfeiffer Books.