How Millennials Prefer to Learn at Work
Updated: Apr 30
Learning by doing often provides an opportunity to actually test learnings.
Millennials are often stereotyped as curious, career-minded and team-oriented. They like to stay connected, and rely on online courses and materials to improve themselves.
Stereotypes may not always be true, but these are good traits to have for a working professional, and constant learning can support these traits. Curiosity will drive people to learn, and with more information and knowledge, one could be a great team contributor, and potentially find openings to advance their career.
Millennials like to stay connected, and rely on online courses and materials to improve themselves.
The Best Way to Learn
So what exactly is the best way to learn? Reading is probably the first thing to come to mind. In fact, research shows that millennials like to read – 79% of Singaporeans aged 20-29 years old read regularly . After all, books and materials can be found both online and in libraries, and even the workplace has plenty of reading material for new hires to refer to.
But reading can be tedious. Slower readers, or those who are busy with work, could take weeks to finish one book – and by then, they might have already forgotten what they read in previous chapters.
Plus, millennials absorb information in a way that is very different from previous generations. Nowadays, everything is digital, including news and information. 69% of under-35s access news through their smartphones, be it through news apps or social media . But there is a huge variety of content on the digital space. While surveys have shown that millennials prefer to only engage with content they find meaningful , given how much there simply is out there, sifting through everything might take up valuable time.
Besides, is reading really the best way to learn? It is common to see students frantically re-reading stacks of personalised, written notes in preparation for their exams. But rote learning has been called out for being less effective than believed, with research showing that the repetitive memorisation of information could lead to some details being added, changed or even removed altogether  – which then defeats the purpose of trying to memorise things in the first place.
On the other hand, common tips for effective studying include doing questions, creating visual mind maps to connect different concepts, and teaching the materials to someone else.
There is one thing all these tips have in common, and that is they involve doing. Rather than just forcing the brain to re-read and process information that was seen numerous times before, it would be easier to remember ideas and concepts when one is given the opportunity to actively work with it.
Learning by Doing
So, what is so good about doing? ‘Learning by doing’, or experiential learning, revolves around the idea of hands-on learning to make ideas or complex material easier to absorb and understand, therefore increasing the chances that they will be remembered.
Millennials can likely relate – as expectations rise and jobs become harder to find, many are turning to internships and practical work experiences to give them a competitive edge over their peers. Universities like Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Management University and the National University of Singapore all encourage their undergraduates to take up internships, providing placement support or allowing the internship to count towards credits so that students can get some practical work experience.
In one survey, 78% of millennials said they had actively searched outside of school for opportunities, with 80% even indicating they were willing to give up their personal time to gain skills for future jobs . The reason lies here – slightly more than half (56%) of the millennials surveyed felt that what they were learning at school was insufficient.
Learning by doing often provides an opportunity to actually test learnings. The Finnish education system, often regarded to be one of the best in the world, utilises experiential learning by allowing children to play, and therefore unconsciously learn concepts such as math and science. Through this method, people can learn on the job and link the new knowledge to an actual event or memory, rather than just black and white words on a page.
Plus, learning through hands-on methods is usually more enjoyable than simply reading off materials. Gamifying learning, for example through tests, pop quizzes and flash cards, is often used in learning apps like Duolingo and Kahoot. Seeing a question get answered correctly can in itself be a satisfactory reward.
By the time you have read till this point, you might be wondering how best to apply experiential learning to your work. After all, it is not always feasible to dive head-first into a project and hope to learn along the way.
That is where going online can help. Online courses or online training can help one learn on the go, be it at work, at home or while commuting. The only things needed are an internet device, a good Wi-Fi or data connection, and possibly headphones when out in public. Besides convenience, there is also no need to worry about rescheduling if one falls ill, or if they have an urgent appointment, meaning greater flexibility with one’s time and how to spend it.
There are useful online training platforms out there which make use of a smart algorithm to track learners’ strengths and weaknesses before providing questions to match their level of understanding. Users can search for their preferred topics and learn through a question-based curriculum, crafted by people with knowledge in that particular domain – this way, knowledge can be delivered more efficiently, and be retained better as well.
There is nothing wrong with not wanting to read to learn. There are multiple ways to gain and remember knowledge, and reading is just one of them. Give learning while doing a try – who knows, it might just be your new favourite way to learn.
By Dawn Chan
 Adeline Lee, “Physical and Digital Reading Habits of Adult Singaporeans”, Journal of Library Administration, 58(6): 629-643 (August 2018)  http://www.digitalnewsreport.org/survey/2019/how-younger-generations-consume-news- differently/  https://blog.prezi.com/the-state-of-attention-2018-infographic/  http://learnmem.cshlp.org/content/21/7/342.short  https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/education/future-proof-their-jobs-millennials-go- beyond-school