Despite the endless cavalcade of online think pieces about millennials, there’s a new generation that demands our focus and attention. Generation Z, born after 1995, is starting to grow up, with the oldest members of the cohort now approaching 21 years old. Millions are now entering the workforce, with another 60 million or so to follow over the next two decades.
Employers, still grappling with millennial whiplash, will once again have to adapt. Learning and development professionals should get a head start on understanding the defining characteristics of screenagers, grown up.
According to new research from LinkedIn, workers under the age of 24 view their careers differently than those who came before them. About 80 percent say they would consider switching careers, either function or industry. More than one-fifth of them have already had four or more full-time jobs in their lifetime, and they are more likely to change jobs throughout their careers, compared to baby boomers. Similar to millennials before them, they tend to value learning in the workplace more than previous generations, which means that tailoring learning opportunities can provide a lever for both development and retention.
Generation Z, as it turns out, also appears to experience learning differently than older generations. From watching movies on Netflix to finding answers on Google, they are used to receiving things on demand. According to LinkedIn Learning’s “2018 Workplace Learning Report,” many prefer to learn at the point of need. Unlike millennials, who might remember a time when computers were not commonly found in the living room or home office, members of Generation Z are true digital natives. According to Ryan Jenkins, an expert on generational changes, 40 percent of Generation Z would rather have working wi-fi than working bathrooms. They are not only technically savvy, but also expect technology to be a natural — and frequent — part of learning and work.
This means that companies need to ensure learning is both mobile and social. By making learning social, companies can deliver a more personalized, relevant and continuous learning experience to this generation. Savvy executives would be well served to post helpful articles and content through social channels and other online platforms.
Another major difference: Where millennials valued teamwork, Generation Z is more likely to value independence. While it’s sure to be a valuable asset, this independent streak could pose a challenge in organizations where collaboration reigns. Perhaps with good reason, one-third of managers believe that members of Generation Z will be more difficult to train than current employees. Business leaders should take this tendency into account by crafting learning experiences that cultivate soft skills such as communication and effective listening that encourage teamwork among learners that are naturally inclined to complete projects on their own.
As always, companies should collect and make use of metrics that can identify any learning and cultural shifts in an organization. As more members of Generation Z enter a company, keep an eye on those shifts and adapt learning and development practices accordingly.
By designing experiences tailored to their learning style and goals, companies can connect with this new generation of employees in a way that not only encourages their individual development, but also ensures they become valuable members of the team.