Gen Z at Work: Rethink Learning for the Incoming Generation

  • September 20, 2022
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Gen Z grew up in the digital world, where they constantly interact with various platforms and devices. The influence of modern information technologies allowed this generation to understand the world differently from the generations before them. With this, they bring new expectations, learning styles, and skills as they enter the workforce. As a result, companies must rethink their learning and development (L&D) programs and how they can tailor them in the same hyper-personalized way the young professional’s favorite apps do.

Career growth and opportunities to learn motivate Gen Z

According to LinkedIn’s 2021 Workplace Learning Report, 83% of Gen Z want to learn new skills to perform better in their job, and 76% believe that learning is the key to career success. The percentage of Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers who believe that learning is the key to success in their careers are 61% (Millennials), 56% (Gen X), and 55% (Boomers), respectively. As these young professionals have grown up using technology, they turn to the Internet for quick answers. From implementing an Excel formula or cooking a new recipe, Gen Z relies on the Internet. To them, this fast-paced learning style is linked to success as they complete assignments and accomplish tasks.

The younger generations affiliate learning with success and maintain this mindset as they enter the workplace. They have learned quickly and conveniently throughout their lives and expect this learning style to continue. Training videos should be easily accessible and grouped according to career paths, from project management or business analytics. However, having the Internet at their fingertips can also be a disadvantage; digital natives may be more comfortable searching for answers than retaining information.

Training should contain real-life scenarios that mimic the workplace so young professionals can reflect on their actions, mindsets, and how to improve their approach. Programs should discuss how each behavior can impact their co-workers, clients, and themselves differently. Consider using digital software or Virtual Reality (VR) to make training as realistic as possible and immerse learners through technology.

Gen Z wants training programs tailored to their individual career goals

Gen Z wants customized, tailored learning to help develop their career path. For example, in an online shopping environment, every time you click on an item, there are recommendations of “more like this” or “frequently bought together,” where you can browse through related items. All that data is based on what you have recently purchased and information about what other shoppers have purchased together.

In another example, music applications offer daily and weekly playlists curated for listeners that contain suggested songs based on their music preferences. These platforms use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to customize experiences based on individual data. Companies can take this level of customization to their learning platforms by using AI to recommend training based on learners’ career interests, industries, goals, and past learnings. Learning systems should also recommend training for in-demand skills in the marketplace for young professionals to continue learning and upskilling.

In a LinkedIn survey, “62% of Gen Z stated that hard skills had changed faster than ever...” Raised in a digital world, Gen Z and Millennials have adapted to new products, iterations, and features as technology has evolved. They understand that technology makes everything move faster, so they must learn quickly to keep up with it.

Gen Z craves social learning and connection at work

L&D departments have an opportunity to foster connectedness through learning. The future of work includes hybrid or virtual workplaces. Human beings are social, so young professionals look forward to connecting with their co-workers and attending social networking events as they start their careers. Many young professionals have participated in online school and internships. They appreciate flexibility but miss the engagement offered by in-person events and face-to-face interactions with peers. As a result, there should still be opportunities for social interaction and the ability to learn together, even in virtual environments.

L&D departments can leverage social features, such as group chats or shared files, where learners can recommend training, certifications, and skills to other trainees. Organizations can run live learning sessions for groups to learn and work with each other. Organizations can also invite managers and directors to discuss their career paths and share advice with young professionals through a presentation series. This may allow young professionals to learn from leaders in higher-level roles while asking questions and meeting potential mentors. This strategy will bring more human connection to virtual or hybrid work models, maintaining the social aspects that young professionals desire.

Differentiate from competitors with learning opportunities

Young professionals are eager to learn as they believe personal and career growth is crucial to success within their careers. Organizations must provide an abundance of opportunities that strengthen their talent and development. As Gen Z has grown up with digital platforms that understand who they are and what they want, leaders can implement the same customization to training platforms. And finally, use social characteristics to offer opportunities to learn and connect with other people in the company.

As more digital natives enter the workforce, it’s increasingly crucial to redefine learning strategies to attract and develop top talent. This will signal to young professionals that their employer cares and wants them to reach their full potential by investing in their growth. Tailoring learning to young professionals will allow organizations to remain competitive and become desirable places to work and stay.

The rapidly changing workforce underscores the need for human-centric, digital-forward solutions for organizations in all industries. Our Workforce Readiness Consulting practice helps drive organizational success with future-focused talent and change strategies. Learn more about how we help our clients thrive on the human side of the business.

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Mia Robben

Mia has experience in instructional design, creating and developing eLearning content and reference guides. Internally, she co-leads the NEXT practice monthly meetings for early-career members to receive updates and professional development advice, hear from company leaders, and build the practice community. Mia enjoys collaborating with her teammates to complete deliverables and think of creative ways to bring value to her clients and NTT DATA.


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