8 Tips for Avoiding “O.K. Boomer” and Designing Training for the Impatient Millennial

Boomer according to Urban Dictionary is, “A slang term for Baby Boomer, often used in a derogatory manner.”

If you have ever had a young person respond to you with the slang phrase, “O.K. Boomer,” you know that the disconnect between young workers and people who fall into the age of Boomers is often as wide as the Grand Canyon.

By far, the toughest job of a trainer is to reach this audience. Pacing content. Developing modules for learning when needed. Creating activities and content that enhances rather than distracts. Engaging through a screen.

Your workers do not have time to waste, and millennials and younger need everything presented in both a timeframe they can handle (very short) or mode that is right for them (on a device).

Traditional training to this audience is often a huge waste of time and money. Trainers use old-fashioned deliver methods that are at an indulgent pace for the trainer that tends to drive young people crazy. It also sucks up a lot of time and fees.

Why doesn’t it work? Well, much of the traditional training tends to create fillers to stretch the training time. “Get to know each other” exercises. Unrelatable team building tactics. This is especially irrelevant with e-learning where sitting in front of a screen gets old quickly.

As a college professor, I have learned that participants are capable of learning at a fast pace. Teaching 18 – 20 year olds in either a classroom or online setting is a challenge I would present to any trainer. Their attention span is literally 8 seconds before they start to daydream.

Here are some key tips for making training work in today’s work world.

  1. Keep training short. Yes, short. The younger workforce wants to learn but in the easiest and fastest way. Adding fillers, long introductions, old-fashioned style of team building most often sours the millennial to the training. The term used is “O.K. Boomer” training, meaning it was designed by a boomer and means nothing to the young person.
  2. Make as much training as possible on-demand: Time is precious to this audience. Let’s face it, time is valuable to us all. Allowing young people to complete training on their own time gives them control over their time. That said, a deadline for completing the training is critical for on-demand training. As is some way of checking if they truly completed each section. Which leads me to the next tip.
  3. Prove it: Build into on-demand training proof points that both demonstrate that they went through the module and that they understood it. “Check Yourself” points where trainees can quiz themselves before allowed to move onto the next module is one effective way to ensure they actually pay attention.
  4. Break up Training into digestible chunks: As a professor, I understand how to design learning that builds key performance indicators (KPIs) within short, easy to understand modules. Most times, that means through some device and with easy to understand learning that are less than 20 minutes each. Even that length can be challenging for this age, but if done right, works.
  5. Mix up the training: Every person, young and old, have different styles of learning. Recognizing that some are visual learners, some need to be shown, and others want to read directions. By interjecting techniques that address the main learning styles, chances of engagement by the entire team goes way up.
  6. Gamify training when possible. This does not mean you have to develop a computer/video game to keep them interested, but it does employ some gaming ideas familiar to young people who grew up playing video games. Several software options allow for gaming to be added to training with little effort to develop.
  7. Consider an on-demand hybrid option: Offering on-demand sections that are followed-up by a live discussion with the trainer is highly effective for this audience. It forces them to gather at one time to review the training so they can then discuss it either in a live online option or in person. These discussions are value to solidify the key points in the on-demand learning by bringing it to life with examples and discussion.
  8. Train and Repeat: training is ongoing. Offering a progressive program of training through a series of on-demand or live e-learning courses, does several things:
    1. Keeps each module focused on the KPI of the course
    1. Allows trainees to learn by focusing each training more thoroughly
    1. Fits with the style of learning most young people are used to from college.

No matter how you train, on-demand content that lives on perpetually trains. It is easily updated to keep current as well. The more you can record live e-learning or in persons learning sessions for on demand training, the more people it each training session touches. Even using a hybrid of manager-led on demand training is impactful.

Final note, to better understand the O.K. Boomer slang and what it means to millennials, take a look at this article by Vox.

“OK boomer” isn’t just about the past. It’s about our apocalyptic future.