In just under two years, your whole training plan may be obsolete. Generation Z is almost here, and as the first generation to really grow up with social media, texting, YouTube, and more Justin Bieber than Michael Jackson, most of us have no idea how to train them.
Gen-Z? Those are the millennials we’ve been hearing so much about for years, right? Not quite, Generation Z is also known as the post-millennials (born mid-1990s to mid-2000s), and they’re coming in hot on the heels of the Millennial Generation that’s changed so much about the modern workplace already.
Generation Z training is a new exciting challenge, and well worth the effort to master. Generation Z is characterized by their emotional intelligence and media-awareness, and we’ve got six practical tips on how to make the most of their considerable potential through training.
1. Understand Generation Z Core Values
The golden rule of Generation Z training may as well come down to these five words: Don’t patronize, but don’t pander.
Listen, we all think that our generation was the best one. There’s something innate in all of us that makes us want to believe that younger people today are more selfish, absent-minded and lazy compared with how we were in our day. But this approach really serves no one and has very little truth.
Recognize who Generation Z is and what they can offer that’s unique, but also don’t make the mistake of assuming that everything they want is new and flashy. Instead, try to get a genuine understanding of what interests them, and the value those interests can add if respected.
Many people are surprised to find that Generation Z core values are actually easy for older generations to respect and relate to:
● Frugality. Generation Z has been shown to especially value a good deal. And who can’t relate to that?
● Social equality. Gen Z has no patience for racism, sexism, unfair treatment or any kind of glass ceiling associated with these legacies of the past. They’re also known to be more outspoken about these issues when they witness them in real-life.
● Innovation, uniqueness and originality. They know what makes them special, and want to know why your organization is special, too.
These values mean that it’s more important than ever to emphasize your business’ mission, vision, values and purpose, and how employee training will help you achieve that purpose.
Generation Z training not only needs a heavy emphasis on the purpose of the training itself, but how their development in their role helps the organization to achieve a mission that serves society.
The frugality of post-millennials may seem irrelevant to Generation Z training, but it’s worth keeping in mind.
Post-millennials are more open than ever to Bring-Your-Own-Device workplaces, and this can change how you design training, and even what Learning Management System (LMS) you choose. They also value their time – so show that you value that time by communicating the intended outcomes of learning very clearly upfront.
2. Be Authentic
One of the stand-out traits of Generation Z in the workplace is that they’ll integrate their work and personal lives in ways that Millennials and Generation Xers have avoided. This thanks to their habits of constant contact through mobile phones and social media.
This means that a Generation Z employee is making a bigger commitment to your company and training when they choose to engage with it. They’re willing to say “my work is my life”. They need to feel that their work and workplace represent them and gel with them as people.
If your corporate identity, as communicated through your Generation Z training, is too manufactured and produced by the study of focus groups and surveys, it’s likely that marketing-savvy, brand-wary, Gen Z employees will perceive it as as smarmy and fake.
Instead, bring in personality, but make sure it’s authentic, rooted in real and relatable people and situations, and includes a representation of the newest Generation – not only Gen Xers and Millennials.
Consider this when you create training scenarios, team-building activities, choose external speakers for seminars and workshops, and when you create characters to use in your eLearning content.
3. Create Opportunities for Collaboration and Competition
Social learning is one of our most natural forms of learning, and any workplace would do well to incorporate it as part of their learning strategy. But it’s even more important when talking about Generation Z training.
Generation Z employees don’t only come from an environment of frequent social interaction through social media. They also value community and the opportunity to co-create the culture of the company they choose to work for.
When planning your training, make sure that you create frequent opportunities for both on-the-job and formal social training. This creates opportunities for Generation Z employees to problem-solve, brainstorm, and form relationships with employees from older generations, such as Millennials and even Generation Xers.
You already know that Generation Z values authenticity, social equality, and innovation. So let them find these values in their interactions with other employees, especially during training. Use training to remove social barriers, as well as create the potential for mentor- mentee relationships.
Another way to make the best of social learning opportunities, even when using eLearning and online training, is to incorporate gamification features. Healthy competition between employees of different generations not only boosts morale, but also improves your training ROI, as learners compete to meet or beat the benchmarks set by their peers.
4. Mobile is Bigger Than Ever
If you asked yourself, “what device would Generation Z training focus on?” you’d probably be right on the first guess. Because this one should come as no surprise.
Mobile (i.e. smartphones) is the preferred mode of engagement across the board for Generation Z employees, including for entertainment, shopping, research, and learning.
Millennials made the need for mobile-compatible eLearning clear, but Generation Z training will require a shift in focus to mobile-first design that can be accessed by everyone, everywhere, at any time.
Make sure to choose an LMS that supports mobile compatibility for iOS and Android, so that Generation Z employees can access their training in the way they like best.
5. Embrace Change, and Build in Adaptability
If you’re thinking about your Generation Z training now, you’re thinking ahead, and that’s a habit you’ll have to keep up going forward.
Trends like microlearning, and the overall digitization of education can cause a bit of a panic when you first hear of them. But if you’ve got a forward-looking, adaptable learning strategy, you never need to be in the position where you’re delivering training that is obsolete for your workforce.
Start researching trends like virtual reality and artificial intelligence and see how they may apply to your training style and needs. For example, in the eLearning scenarios and assessments you design, consider making use of emerging technologies like virtual reality and artificial intelligence for feedback and encouragement.
Managing Generation Z in the workplace will rely on a fine balance of training that is social-focused, and training that makes the best use of digital resources and technology. Keep an eye out for new tools, but remember not to jump into technology simply because it’s trendy.
You could even nominate one or two members of your training (or management) team to stay up to date with and report on developments in educational technology. You know, so you’re not caught off guard by game-changing advancements.
Get Ready for Generation Z Now
Authentic, purpose-first, technically compatible training is good for everyone, not just Generation Z. Start preparing now, and you’ll not only capture the attention and interest of the coming generation, but you’ll provide a better training and workplace experience for all employees.
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