Everyone’s still talking about the millennial generation, but a new generation is entering the workplace this year: Generation Z.
The age range of this generation is still up for debate, but its members were born after the millennials. That means the oldest Gen Zers are (depending on your definition of millennials) graduating from high school or college this year. Either way, that means you’ll probably be hiring them soon, if you haven’t already.
Who Is Generation Z?
According to Katherine LaVelle, managing director of Accenture Strategy, Talent and Organization, Gen Zers have more in common with their Generation X parents than with millennials. Accenture’s 2017 U.S. College Graduate Employment Study surveyed 1,000 U.S. students graduating in 2017 and 1,000 U.S. students who graduated in 2015 or 2016. The responses demonstrated a “return to more traditional workplace values,” including the desire for a clear, stable career path and, surprisingly, a preference for talking face-to-face rather than online.
That said, Generation Z is the first truly digitally native generation. Steve Braund, marketing manager at DTL, says they “typically … interface with five or more devices/screens each day” and, thanks to their “ability to absorb information from multiple sources without being distracted from a primary task,” their attention span is eight seconds long.
Not only are they digital natives, but almost three-fourths of 2017 college graduates have taken a digital or computer science class, according to Accenture. In an interview with SHRM, researcher David Stillman pointed out that “this is the first time we have the youngest generation as an authority figure on something really important.” Generation Z’s expertise in technology can and should be leveraged by organizations using knowledge-sharing tools.
Training New Graduates
Over half of 2017 college graduates expect on-the-job training at their organizations, and 49 percent are looking for formal training. LaVelle says that they know “they still have much to learn and are enthusiastic to do so.” They’re excited to advance in their careers, and they want to work for organizations that invest in both technology and their employees, Braund adds.
While they’re comfortable with technology, LaVelle says that “ongoing training in soft skills will be important.” They want to become better at communication, problem-solving and management – skills that the older generations can teach them. Braund adds that they’ll need to learn how to “engage with older generations and a mix of colleagues with different attitudes to life and knowledge of the digital world.”
While mentoring and coaching will be important, the rising popularity of e-learning will also benefit Generation Z, who is accustomed to consuming educational content online. In fact, a 2014 report by sparks & honey found that 52 percent of teenagers used social media sites like YouTube for school research projects. Braund says that a good approach is to use “online training complemented by classroom learning and hands-on learning, especially in industries where practical skills are vital.”
As with any generation, learning and feedback for Generation Z should be continuous. Braund recommends a “pre-course assessment, a blended approach to learning … and post-learning reinforcement.” For this generation, though, the move away from the annual review may be even more critical. “They are conditioned to receiving … instant results and feedback via social media,” he says. “Using digital technology to interact with Generation Z trainees and to provide frequent feedback and rewards will help to retain their attention and loyalty.”
Technology can also help create individualized L&D plans, which LaVelle says “can be the difference between retaining and losing digital talent.” Allow employees to provide input into those plans so that you leverage the skills they already have and provide the opportunities they need. “Show them your company invests in their advancement by providing multiple, different experiences early in their career,” and you’ll be rewarded with engaged, loyal Generation Z employees.
Of course, there will always be pessimists complaining about “kids these days.” It happened when the baby boomers were entering the workforce, and it will happen when Generation Z’s grandchildren leave school. But, while each generation presents new challenges for training professionals, it also presents new opportunities for organizations to grow and succeed. With the right development, Generation Z is poised to do just that.