5 Unique Generation Z Characteristics & How to Train Them

Debbie Wooldridge
Posted: January 3, 2018

It’s happening! Just as we are finally starting to recognize and make changes in our companies to ensure we attract and retain Millennials — Generation Z has officially come knocking at our office doors!

“Also known as iGen, Centennials, Gamers and Founders, the oldest members of this emerging generation are 20 years old,” says Jason Dorsey, generational specialist. This diverse generation will soon overtake Millennials as the fastest growing group of employees. Today, they make up just 1% of the American workforce, but by 2020 are projected to comprise 7% of workers — yes folks, that’s just two short years away!

By 2020 Gen Z will make up 7% of the workforce! Click To Tweet

Companies that have started hiring this generation are quickly learning that Gen Z thinks and acts VERY different from their Millennial predecessors.

Here are some key traits that set the “iGen” apart from previous generations…

Generation Z Characteristics

  1. Gen Z is already the most influential group of technology trendsetters. They “embrace technology at work to enhance collaboration between peers and to support innovation within their teams. While gadgets and technology may pose a distraction for many workers, Gen Z has leveraged the digital landscape for education, communication and efficiency from very young ages.” — Kara Simon, Maritz Motivation Solutions
  2. Gen Z will want diverse career opportunities. Simon also notes that, “Mentorship and personal development go a long way with Gen Z employees. They want to improve their capabilities and appreciate social and gamified reward programs to receive appreciation for their contributions at work.”
  3. For them, health benefits will be a great incentive — be sure your company’s employee benefits match this need!
  4. Gen Z is driven, but their aspirations differ from those of Millennials. In the 2015 Way To Work survey conducted by Adecco, 32% of Gen Zs want to find their dream job 10 years from now, whereas 34% of Millennials are more concerned with achieving financial stability.
  5. Gen Z will be just as focused in their career goals as Millennials but, as Fortune points out, their definition of a “good employer” will vary in some important areas. Today’s college students ranked the following as the most important aspect of their first job:
    • Career growth: 36%
    • Fulfilling work: 19%
    • Stability: 19%
    • Friendly work environments: 10%
    • Flexible schedules: 7%
    • High salary: 6%
    • Other: 3%

So, what can learning and development leaders do to help their organizations prepare for this newest generation in the workforce?

How to Train Generation Z

Here are few suggestions:

  1. Because Gen Z has grown up with tremendous amounts of visually orientated technology, ensure that your training programs are heavily image-based. Create content that is visually stimulating and use mixed media messages. Bullet point PowerPoint presentations will not capture the attention of this generation!
  2. Microlearning will no longer be just one option for your training programs — it will become an expectation from this generation of learners to maintain their interest.
  3. Over the past few years, personalized learning has been discussed and adopted by educators. This means that for many Gen Zs, they know no other way of learning. They are inherently used to having a high degree of self-study and autonomy in their education. Giving them choice and freedom in their training program, when appropriate, is the key to helping develop motivation and self-confidence. Generation Z will expect corporate training to have the same flexibility and self-direction that they are used to from their previous educational experiences.
  4. While Gen Z learners will likely need less training on technology, they may require considerable support in their development of offline interpersonal communication. They are also used to freely expressing their opinions online, so make sure you encourage collaboration between them through forums, group discussions, and mentoring.
  5. Clunky workplace training systems that have limited navigation and out-of-date technology will be a frustration to this generation. Gen Z expects that their workplace technology will be on par with the personal technology they interact with on a daily basis. Ensure that your training systems and programs are intuitive, accessible, and easy to use.
  6. And yes, this generation will expect that your training will be offered on any device. Being tied to a desktop computer or classroom is truly not going to work for these employees. According to Brian Solis in his 25 Disruptive Technology Trends 2015–2016, “Generation Z is mobile first and mobile only.” Therefore, it will be critical that your training is designed for and available on mobile devices!

Related: How to Develop a Mentor Program for Millennial Employees

Related: The Five Guiding Principles of Effective Microlearning

According to Simon, this newest generation has “taken the baton of expectations for flexible, creative and challenging work environments from the previously pressing demands of Millennials. The youngest generation also maintains a typically strong social awareness of cultural and ethnic diversity and has led this generation to not only accept, but expect diversity in the workplace.”

Gen Z may be the youngest, but they bring new approaches to work that could truly revolutionize your company culture. I believe that attracting and retaining employees will be the one trend to have the biggest impact on companies this year.

Our recorded webinar, New Year New Trends in L&D, will help you steer your company in the right direction to stay ahead of the curve and rise to the top when many others are struggling.

Watch ttcInnovations webinar recording — New Year, New Trends in Learning & Development

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