Generation Z Are Not the New Millennials: How to Train Them

Debbie Wooldridge
Posted: June 26, 2019

The first wave of Generation Z (born between 1995 and 2012) — also known as the iGen, Gen Tech, Gen Wii, Net Gen, Digital Natives, and Plurals — is entering the workforce, making them the youngest group behind Millennials to join your organization. According to research from Bloomberg, Generation Z will surpass their well-known predecessors by the end of this year as the most populous generation. In other words, of the 7.7 billion people living on the planet, 32% of them will be part of Gen Z. There are currently 61 million in the U.S. alone! Is your training organization prepared to meet the needs of this newest generation?

Generation Z vs Millennials

The differences between Gen Z and Millennials couldn’t be more glaring! These opposing characteristics will impact how you build training solutions to support this newest part of your workforce:

Generational Differences

Key Gen Z Concepts for Learning Organizations

Technology

Of the differences listed above, one in particular will have a major impact on how you design training programs for this generation: Gen Z is the first real group of digital natives. Most of them can’t remember a time before smartphones and tablets, or even social media. Some have joked this generation was practically born with a tablet in-hand.

According to The State of Gen Z 2018 study, this mobile-dependent generation is reliant on their smartphones for everything and views them as an extension of themselves. In fact, the study found that over half of Gen Z respondents use their smartphone five or more hours per day, and 26% use it 10 or more hours each day!

But while Gen Z indeed grew up with technology at their fingertips, 53% of them still prefer in-person communication over other methods like instant messaging and video conferencing. Gen Z wants both constructive, skills-based feedback and personal check-ins as part of their ongoing professional development. Ensure that your training organization is prepared to equip your managers with the skills and tools necessary to offer this type of skills-based, personal feedback.

This doesn’t mean that all your training needs to consist offace-to-face interactions. Gen Z also expects training programs to utilize technology in new and unique ways. Consider encouraging collaboration through online forums, group discussions and Q&A sessions.

Intrapreneurs

Members of Gen Z are highly self-motivated and truly embody the intrapreneurial spirit. They’re self-starters who aren’t afraid to take control of their careers. They want meaningful jobs where they can jump in quickly and make a difference. Jobs where they can innovate and have some autonomy. And as digital natives, they have access to more resources than ever before and are already well-versed in using technology to network. If your company isn’t doing all that it can to support their desires, this knowledge can significantly improve their chances of joining another company that will!

This is where learning and development organizations can excel. Design your training curriculum to keep Gen Z engaged through meaningful opportunities for self-improvement and growth within the organization. Devising an effective strategy to provide mentorship, sponsorship, and one-on-one guidance from leaders is an important part of supporting and retaining this generation.

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Inclusivity

Gen Z has a huge focus on diversity and social issues. Likely, they’ve already reviewed your company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) statement. And if you don’t practice what you preach — they will know it! Training initiatives within your organization must live up to your CSR.

You could have the most amazing CSR statements on your website and career page, but unless you’re willing to walk the walk, your Gen Z employees won’t stick around for long. Take a hard look at your training program. Is corporate social responsibility reflected only as an introduction to the company in your new hire program? Or is it embedded throughout all training materials in meaningful ways? A review of all your training initiatives might be in order to ensure that they reflect your company’s stated values.

Individualism

Gen Z learners enjoy a higher degree of self-study and autonomy. Giving them flexibility and freedom in their professional development, when appropriate, is the key to increasing motivation and self-confidence.

One of the biggest challenges facing corporate training departments is how to design training programs around the fact that each employee has unique goals, training gaps, experience, learning preferences, communication preferences, and work responsibilities. Luckily, technology is helping us find new solutions to better allow for customization and autonomy in professional development. Many learning management systems offer the ability to integrate outside learning opportunities. There are also many great and easily accessible corporate learning platforms (such as Lynda.com) now available to ensure your employees have a variety of professional development opportunities at their fingertips. Make use of these resources to help fill out your training and development programs for all your employees.

Training Generation Z

Remember: 61 million members of Generation Z are about to enter the U.S. workforce and radically change it forever. Gen Z is the first generation to intrinsically fuse the digital and physical worlds. From now on, the digital experience will be synonymous with the human experience.

Is your training organization ready to provide what this generation needs to be successful in your company? If not, we are here to help!


Contact me for information about how we can help your learning organization meet the specific needs of this newest generation of employees!


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