Gen Z: Training The Next Generation In Corporate America

Summary: Generation Z. They make up over one quarter of the United States population and they’ll be knocking on corporate doors in about two years. You may think it might be too early to think about developing training for this generation, but it’s never too late to be prepared.

Training The Next Generation In Corporate America

Millennials, iGeneration, Plurals, Homeland Generation or Post-Millennials: The next generation in corporate America or Generation Z were born between the mid to late 1990 and 2010. While Millennials grew up with computers and keyboards, Generation Z grew up with touch-screens. And they have never not known what it’s like to live without the internet and social media either.

Here are a few more tidbits:

  • Generation Z reaches for a tablet or phone every 7-8 minutes during an average day.
  • While Millennials initiate text messages as a norm, Generation Z prefers communicating through images, icons, and symbols.
  • While Millennials worry about their growing social status and their “likes” on social media, Generation Z worries about the economy and world ecology.
  • Generation Z values money less than Millennials and would rather fulfill their purpose and learn.
  • They are more interested in quickly finding answers to problems and do not have the patience for slow processing (as many of us all do, but this is even more so).

Just give it a thought for a minute. Think about the Millennials that have taken your courses. Have you had the opportunity to gain feedback from their perspective? If you have, you are truly ahead of the game. Now not a lot of developers and designers get the opportunity to know their audience all that well. I urge you to get to know your audience and think in terms of generational learning as well. Visit my article on this to gain some tips on getting to know them better. Sitting in on an existing class or sitting with them on a self-paced eLearning for 5 minutes can really help give you a sense of where they’re coming from. Understanding how different generations think will help you plan new teaching strategies to maximize engagement and retention in the eLearning or classroom.

When we first think of how Millennials learn, they enjoy being engaged and trouble-shooting. Technology is a big motivator as well. They are motivated by being involved; hence why eLearning that is progressively interactive and instructor-led courses that have digital problem-solving activities have such a high learning retention rate.

So now let’s get to how Generation Z are motivated to learn. Some people think, just add some “miracle grow” to Millennials and you’ll have a lot of it covered. But I’ve done a lot of research, and Generation Z are not an extension of Millennials. Now that they are in colleges now, I have had some solid results to go by which I have determined to be quite advantageous for you in the Instructional Design, eLearning, and facilitation realm and have identified them here in this article. And based upon the college findings, corporate may need to re-think their training development in order to keep these learners motivated to learn.

When it comes to Generation Z, variety, technology, engagement, and flexibility really seems to be the key. Because social media is such a staple in Generation Z lives right about now, they truly enjoy being tagged, given awards, and name recognition, and above all, they like others to know that they are succeeding. This brings to mind gamification in the corporate eLearning world. I believe we need to look at this area further and really hone in on highly engaging self-paced training that tells a story with gaming to reinforce their learning along with leaderboards and badges posted on the Learning Management System. Along with this, think about Learning Management System’ chatting and perhaps create a social media site specifically for each class where their leaderboards reside. This is something that covers variety, technology, engagement, and recognition.

Also, another topic for increased thought is virtual reality (VR). Right now, VR is exceptionally expensive; from the cost of the systems to run the programs on to programming the virtual environment into the application itself. But as time goes by and as technology in this area becomes increasingly popular with more demand for it, we will see this avenue take a turn for cheaper applications that’ll take up less and less memory. Isn’t that the way technology always works in the end? Ultimately, we may be seeing the beginnings of utilizing this technology in corporate classrooms and quite possibly just in time for Generation Z. Who knows? But my prediction is that VR will take off in corporate training. And take off sooner than we all think.

Generation Z Motivators In Learning

Here are some points to think about in how Generation Z are motivated to learn. These are based on recent documented research from a variety of colleges. This will give you a glimpse into what to expect when Generation Z reaches corporate America’s cubicles in a few years. I believe this information could be especially helpful for induction and new hire training (any Generation Z that gets hired in corporate starting in two years from now will almost always be coming into a new hire training).

For additional information, you can visit some of the sources I have identified in this article and explore the “why” these are learning motivators for Generation Z.

  • Understand how much they embrace technology by incorporating computers and other devices into the training (for instance, research).
  • It’s important to them to know why they are having to perform the tasks you are asking of them and they want to see the bigger picture of how your lessons fit into their learning requirements.
  • Mini-objectives will be a very good motivator, as well as timed exercises and quizzes.
  • Provide extra work for fast finishers.
  • Regularly step back from the textbook in instructor-led settings.
  • Allow for an official “digital’ break to give learners time to check their phones, etc. (about 12 minutes). Some may think this is absurd, but by doing this, you can gain a lot of credibility and additional respect because you respect their needs.
  • Do provide them with work to perform in groups, but also try to connect them with other learners who have or share similar interests.
  • When developing training, have them make use of the internet and digital resources wherever and whenever possible – again, this will motivate them to learn more and engage them more.
  • Understand that they do believe that education is to be treasured.
  • Allow for self-directed learning and critical thinking but only when they feel what they are learning is important or valuable.
  • In the next five years, the most effective professors will be doing tasks right along with the students and showing them that it is OK to make mistakes. Think about transferring this into corporate training and facilitators becoming more involved in this capacity.
  • Give the learners a choice of topics or project execution to choose from.
  • Job shadowing is another way to give employees well-rounded training and give them a greater understanding of the overall company and encourage growth within the organization.
  • Despite this concern, many learners (36%) are more focused on the opportunity for growth rather than salary when it comes to work (many college sources have stated this).
  • It’s helpful to inject variety into lessons.
  • Include opportunities for learner reflection (such as recaps before assessments).
  • Provide training that incorporates active learning.

In summary, Generation Z will be a very interesting generation when they enter the workplace. You will see a lot of focus on individuality, entrepreneurship, task oriented with personal meaning, passion to follow through with an idea from evolution and inception to tangible impact, self-direction, and as corporate shifts more to a virtual work environment, they will be first in line.

Hope you keep these ideas and points in mind as you develop and train through the next few years; since Generation Z is the future of corporate America and you will be planting the seed for them to grow within it.