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Training 20-somethings: Learning approaches for Generation Z

Generations come and go, each with their values and lifestyles that shape markets, companies, and schools. Studies have identified four cohorts, each with their own sets of professional and personal values, and – that goes without saying – with their different approaches to learning: Baby Boomers (born between 1944 and 1964), Generation X (born between 1965 and 1979), Millennials (born between 1980 and 1994), and Generation Z or Globals (born between 1995 and 2015).

Read more: Is your company ready for the iGeneration?

Gen Z is a recent challenge for employees, trainers and facilitators, as their values are quite different from those of the previous cohorts. Obviously, interaction with technology is the main differentiator, given the exponential progress over the last decades, but others are equally important.

Generation Z’s life experiences have been shaped by powerful events like 9/11, they are willing to take quick action for things that matter to them (see #NeverAgain and kids’ involvement in gun control) and studies show that this is one of the most diverse cohorts in our history.

Let’s see what defines Gen Z and how the learning process should be adapted to their needs and expectations.

Digital natives, not digital immigrants

Gen Zers are tech-savvy, they are the digital natives that we have been reading about. Baby Boomers, Generation X or even Millenials use technology daily, but sometimes they might struggle with all the apps and screens out there.

On the other hand, the average Gen Zers grew up using their mobile phones and tablets (or their parents’), and have always lived in a hyperconnected world. They prefer a smartphone for personal and professional communication and spend an average of three hours on mobile devices.

Is it only for entertainment, as their parents might think?

Not quite. The Center for Generational Kitetics found that “85% of Gen Z watched at least one online video in the past week to learn a new skill.”

So, virtual training becomes a natural solution, as it offers them more freedom to choose the best schedule, the most interesting learning materials, and the most suitable trainer or facilitator.

Adopt a blended approach, and include multimedia materials for your classes. Webinars and short videos are an excellent solution to deliver your content in a dynamic manner to which Gen Z attendees can easily relate during their learning process.

Read more: 4 Things to consider when training Generation Z [INFOGRAPHIC]

Practical, not idealistic

“Keep it short, but sweet” is the new motto in training Gen Zers. “Keep it short, but sweet and practical” is even better. Engage them with short, upfront applicable and practical materials. In a traditional approach to learning, knowledge is only a means to an end, while a blended approach focuses more on skill-building as a milestone in a lifelong learning process. Design practical classes, which can lead to quick skills acquisition easily applicable in everyday life.

Feed their curiosity, by creating more personalized mentorship programs, but keep in mind that their business icons might not be the same as the ones Baby Boomers admired. While Baby Boomers or Generation X might look up to CEOs like Jack Welch, Lee Iacocca, or Louis V. Gerstner Jr., Generation Z’s business icons are most likely those who become successful online, like Mark Zuckerberg, Tony Hsieh, or Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin. Quite typical for a digital native, isn’t it?

Read more: Discovering 3 new faces of mentoring

Help them thrive by allowing them to become more independent and build entrepreneurial skills, such as grit, a risk-taking attitude, and a “think outside the box” mentality. According to a Sparks & Honey survey, 78% of Gen Z high schoolers want to start a business and 61% percent want to be an entrepreneur, rather than an employee. Build on that and create the new generation of entrepreneurs with the right set of tools for success.

Final thoughts

Generation Z is not worse, nor better than its predecessors; it’s just different. Find out what makes them tick and help them thrive! When you train Gen Zers, keep in mind a wise Chinese proverb that fits like a glove:

If you want happiness for a lifetime, help the next generation.

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