Just when you thought you understood everything there was to know about millennials in the workplace, in marches Generation Z. If it seems like that happened really fast, it’s because it did. Generations are shaped by major news events and developments that they experience as a group, and since technology has advanced rapidly in terms of connecting people globally, today’s youth are affected by more major events than any budding generation in history. This has shrunk the span of incoming generations.
Put simply, if you remember the Challenger disaster and 9/11, you’re Generation X or older. If you can remember 9/11 but not the Challenger, you’re Generation Y (also known as Millennials), and if you can’t remember either, you’re Generation Z. While one or both of those life-altering events may seem like yesterday to you, the oldest members of Generation Z are already entering their 20s, which means they’re entering your workforce.
Understanding generational differences can provide powerful insight into the learning styles of young people from different age groups. Use these key differences between Millennials and Gen Z to effectively reach your target learners.
Millennials are idealistic optimists. Gen Z are practical cynics.
Most millennials grew up in the 1990s, a period of economic surplus and prosperity in the United States. When it comes to career goals, they are motivated by purpose, finding their dream job, and making their mark on the world. Members of Generation Z want those things too—who doesn’t?—but they’re also more realistic. Growing up during the 2008 recession had a big impact on the importance they place on money and job security over chasing their dreams.
To tap into these qualities in a millennial-dominated workplace learning environment, focus on the deeper value and meaning to the content you’re teaching. How can learning these skills help your millennial employees excel at their dream position and change the world for the better?
If your company is shifting to a primarily Generation Z composition, try clearly communicating the practical value of your content. Members of Gen Z want to learn skills that will be applicable across disciplines and help them achieve financial security. What concrete skills will this training give them to succeed?
Millennials developed the internet. Gen Z hardly remembers life without it.
Most homes, schools, and workplaces these days make frequent use of the internet. Millennials can remember a time when this wasn’t the case, and many of them had a hand in creating the code, websites, and communities that made the internet what is is today. They blazed the trail for Generation Z, born into a world where frequent internet use is the norm. They were playing computer games in their Kindergarten classes.
Surprisingly, this difference leads us to the same conclusion about both groups: millennials and members of Gen Z alike prefer blended learning environments. Millennials accept and appreciate the use of technologically enhanced learning experiences; Generation Z values the opportunity for face-to-face collaboration since they’re so adjusted to highly impersonal online learning experiences—like watching how-to videos on YouTube, for example.
Millennials appreciate instant gratification. Gen Z expects it.
Millennials likely spent their childhoods waiting for their parent to get off the phone so they could wait for the computer to dial-up in order to wait for their friends to log on to AIM. In short, they grew up in a world where using high-tech methods of connecting meant a lot of waiting. They’re used to it.
Generation Z’s experiences were a little different. As kids, if their browser window didn’t open within a few seconds, they might have closed it and begun troubleshooting their internet connection. They expect technology to work quickly and seamlessly because quick, seamless technology is all they’ve ever known.
In both cases, well-designed, up-to-date digital learning courses are the best way to grab and keep your learners’ attention. The difference is that your Gen Z employees will expect nothing less than the best.
Millennials believe it takes a village. If Gen Z wants it done right, they’ll do it themselves.
The open-concept, collaborative workspace is nearly a millennial cliché at this point, and for good reason. Young people in the workforce are notorious for working together across departmental boundaries, shunning hierarchies, and appreciating minimalist design.
Those who study generational dynamics are expecting Generation Z to be more focused on independence and helping themselves in the workplace. After all, they are the generation raised on WebMD self-diagnosis and the online video tutorial.
To cater to these two different styles, consider allowing individuals to self-select independent learning courses and also offering a more collaborative option. You may even find that your employees who self-select more independent learning experiences don’t fall cleanly along generational lines; it’s safe to say we all do our best work when we’re allowed to choose what works for us.
Regardless of your industry or workplace dynamic, you’re bound to see an influx of Generation Z employees in the coming years. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that they learn and engage the same way as their slightly older millennial counterparts. Accommodate their desire for practical, responsive, high-tech learning experiences and you’ll have some of the world’s most innovative, globally-minded individuals at the helm of your workforce.
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