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Just as we’re finally starting to feel comfortable working with and training Millennials, a new generation is knocking at the door: Gen Z. Born after 1995, the first members of Gen Z are trickling into the workforce. To get ahead of the curve, start planning now for how Gen Z will fit into your multigenerational workforce. The better you understand how Gen Z behaves at work and what they look for in a workplace, the better you can prepare.
It’s tempting to compare Gen Z to Millennials. The two generations share important commonalities, chiefly that they grew up with technology and represent a disruption to traditional workplace norms. But Gen Z is more defined by its differences from Millennials than by its similarities. If you try to apply the same practices you’ve developed for Millennials to Gen Z, their integration into the workforce will be every bit as messy as it was for Millennials.
If you thought Millennials were tech-savvy or even technology addicts, they’re nothing compared to Gen Z. While Millennials were digital pioneers, Gen Z is the first generation of true digital natives, learning to use touchscreens and apps before they lost all their baby teeth. They’ll expect the latest technology to be available to them in the workplace—and in training. For a generation that grew up Googling every “What if” or “But why” question that popped into their heads, technology and learning go hand-in-hand.
Growing up with smartphones in their palms, Gen Z is used to being accessible 24/7. While Millennials were protective of the boundaries between work life and home life, for Gen Z those boundaries are a lot more blurred. They might pull up a work project while watching TV at night or fire off a couple emails while waiting for their order at Chipotle.
This means Gen Z employees might not work in the same highly-focused blocks of time as prior generations—but don’t assume they’re not taking their work seriously. In their minds, work time isn’t limited to the 8-hour work day. Explore online training options that provide engagement while allowing employees to complete modules at their own discretion.
Gen Z were kids when we went through the Great Recession, and many of them saw parents lose jobs or struggle with money. While Millennials are known as idealistic employees, driven more by purpose than a paycheck, Gen Z is more pragmatic. They want to feel passionate about their work, but when looking for job perks, 401k matching and good medical benefits mean more than in-office kegs or napping pods. Create clear connections between the work Gen Z employees are doing and specific outcomes within the company—the impact their contributions will have, and how their success will help them advance.
Gen Z’s world is structured around social media. Making friends, learning, following the news—all of it is facilitated through social media platforms. Social learning strategies are an proven model for learning and development, but they’re more important than ever when it comes to Gen Z. Both on the job and in training, make sure to provide plenty of opportunities for Gen Z employees to collaborate and connect. Use training to remove social barriers amongst team members, especially between levels of seniority.
Bring the Train-the-Trainer for the Social Learning Age workshop onsite to discover more strategies to design training that engages Gen Z and Millennial employees.