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Dave Evans


Managing Director

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Forget Millennials, Prepare to Train Generation Z


A lot has been written about millennials in the workplace. Often, they’re observed like some kind of alien species, and discussed as if they’re all a single organism: They’re narcissistic and entitled, they want feedback that’s as instant as the gratification they demand. These strange and foreign creatures operate well within a structured chain of command. They want the boss to set clear expectations for them. They want workplace fulfilment.

And we talk as if that’s shockingly different from what everyone else wants from their careers. In reality, the only difference between today’s millennials and their older colleagues is the use of technology.

But move over, folks. A new generation will soon be entering the workplace, and when it comes to training, they really are the ones to watch. We’ll call them Generation Z – because marketers haven’t yet settled on some catchy name yet – and by 2020, they’ll comprise 20% of the workforce.

How will that affect training?

Who are Gen-Z?

It’s time to get to know your new and future colleagues. Here are the key stats and facts about the next generation…

  • Born between 1995 and 2010
  • Serious and faintly insecure thanks to recessions and global terrorism
  • Knowledge derived from Internet (because a quick Google search solves all)
  • True multi-taskers
  • Connected
  • Cautious/Risk-averse
  • Hard-working
  • Rule-followers, not rule-breakers
  • First true ‘digital natives’

Gen-Z’s impact on training

You’ve no doubt heard all about the importance of technology in training when millennials first entered the workplace. Well, if you thought that particular cry was over-cooked, wait ‘til Gen-Z employees take up residence in the cubicle next door…

As the first true ‘digital natives’, Generation Z grew up with easy access to the internet. It’s always been there, for as long as they can remember. That means putting technology front and centre of any training you intend to offer, whether that’s expanding or focusing on eLearning courses or simply offering ways to manage their own training online. Consider this: In 2015, the Apple Store offered over 1.2 million apps – and 10% of those were educational apps aimed at students. This generation, then, are completely switched on to learning via tech.

Conversely, this is a generation who won’t simply learn how to do something. Overall, there’s no need for certain abilities when the answers they require are online. Given that, Gen-Z training must apply a secondary component – a practicality or a usefulness beyond a single course or particular topic. If Gen-Z’ers can just Google it, they will, rendering training useless in their eyes.

But there is a solution to this.

Hard work and security

When you consider that more than 80% of these relentlessly hard-workers would choose the ideal job over the ideal relationship, the answer to this conundrum becomes clear: Training that empowers career-building skills.

So, if they’re to remain an attractive and useful pursuit, training courses must reflect the generational preference. There’s a strong desire across the generation to obtain the best possible education (81% believe a degree is necessary for career advancement). Education – and, indeed, any sort of training – offers a clear path to the sort of decent careers that offer the much-needed security that Gen-Z seek.

After all, we’re talking about a generation whose parents are Gen-X’ers – a cynical crowd who grew up in the age of Watergate, national strikes, energy crises and gave birth to kids who witnessed the rise of terrorism and two global recessions less than a decade apart. Where millennials and their baby-boomer parents chose optimism, the new generation is far more pragmatic and practical (and typically avoid any sort of risk). You would be, too, if you grew up in this uncertain, post-9/11 world.

Learning habits

Interestingly, their learning habits differ to previous generations. Gone is an emphasis on team-work and the millennial mentality of ‘everyone gets a medal’. In Generation Z we’re seeing the rise of go-getters and hard-grafters; principles similar, in fact, to the mindset of their grandparents.

Gen-Z prefer the individual, hands-on approach. And while generally, they enjoy working alongside others, that doesn’t mean they necessarily want to form a partnership with peers. This is an entrepreneurial generation, who have seen folks like Zuckerberg single-handedly get rich and want in on the action. Little wonder, then, that entrepreneurial studies is already being rolled out around schools, colleges and universities across the country. Expect a strong level of independence here; tailor training to suit that.

But, perhaps the biggest indication of the future of training is Gen-Z’s to follow the rule book, rather than rip it up. What Generation Z desire most is guidance and strong leadership – and that’s precisely what all great training courses provide.

Dave Evans is MD of accessplanit – the training management software house. 

Author Profile Picture
Dave Evans

Managing Director

Read more from Dave Evans

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