How to Engage Generation Z in Workplace Learning & Development


Gen Z has high expectations for learning in the workplace. Dave Weisbeck, CSO of Visier, details how to use analytics to help adapt learning programs for the new workforce generation.

As the workforce continues to “age-up”, Baby Boomers are either preparing for retirement or reducing their work hours, Millennials have taken the reigns as the largest cohort of mid-level employees and meanwhile Generation Z (Gen Z) are already beginning to replace the Millennial generation as the new source of co-op students, apprentices, interns, and new grads.

This new generation, born in an age of rapid technology development and adoption are eager to grow their skills and prove themselves at organizations.

However, as Gen Z begins to make a real impact on the labor market, learning and developmentOpens a new window leaders will find that what worked before may no longer hold true for this next crop of young employees. Meanwhile, Gen Z has high expectations for learning in the workplace, with a recent Deloitte survey reporting 44% to believe that on-the-job training will be more valuable than what they learned in school.

In order to adapt training programs Learning & Development leaders should be tapping into learning analytics to provide in-depth analysis to develop better early-career professional training programs. In doing so, not only will this help engage and retain the younger generations, but it may also discover insights that drive better initiatives and outcomes for all your employees, regardless of their age or tenure.

Here are some ways that utilizing analytics can help adapt learning programs for the new workforce generation.

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Dig deep into ongoing training initiatives

Having a training program in place from the start, that helps guide a potential employee along multiple career paths is attractive to any new employee, especially Gen Z. 

In studying the analytics resulting from these programs, organizations have an opportunity to determine whether their programs are as effective as they could be and whether they are providing the company the highest return on investment.

Take for example an organization that is onboarding new hires, some of which are Gen Z. L&D leaders can offer a range of learning options like online, in-person, self-directed or instructor-led to different generations and see how each performs. Think of it like A/B testing for learning to determine what method of training is most effective. More effective training ultimately helps in bridging a skills gap, retaining new hires and in fostering a more engaged workforce.

Analytics can go further, and help direct employees to career paths that will help them achieve their career goals, or identify roles that will have anticipated shortages that can impact business results. This can help create better-targeted learning programs to address either critical and scarce roles or those in high demand or need. By taking an analytical view of current and anticipated career paths, and what anticipated skills gaps exist to advance to future needed roles, learning organizations can increase their value to the company by addressing critical needs for talent, while also helping employees build their career and so their sense of value within the organization.

Continuous learning from onboarding programs

Workplace engagement begins the minute an employee is hired, and onboarding programs are a great opportunity to tie an employee to a company’s values and begin to seed their skills development.

Strong onboarding is critical to developing new talent, as research has shown that 69 percent of employees are more likely to stay for at least three years with an organization if they’ve experienced good onboarding. This is particularly true with Gen Z, who are more likely than any generation before to change roles when they don’t feel the organization is a good fit.

Consider variable onboarding experiences for different cohorts. For example, at Visier our onboarding for co-ops is different than for more seasoned professionals. Co-op’s are put through a one month program that includes certifications along the way, ensuring we’re providing the right base level training for them to be successful in our corporate environment. By specializing we not only make the content more relevant and beneficial, but it also demonstrates a commitment to the development of our new hires, and ensures they are able to start working on more complex initiatives quickly. 

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Make Diversity & Inclusion a critical business driver

Gen Z is one of the most diverse generations to enter the workforce, and what they expect is to see themselves in the workforce, and so to see diversity and be included. Gen Z is also more socially aware of topics such as gender and racial equity, and so this makes Diversity and Inclusion critically important to Gen Z hires.

Beyond, engaging with Gen Z, there is a direct financial impetus to having a diverse workforce. A recent study from McKinsey found the top quartile of racially and diverse companies were 35 percent more likely to report higher returns than the industry average. 

Particularly with D&I topics, we are all prone to bias and belief. What analytics can do is bring data and insight to level the playing field and help organizations uncover unused potential that, with the right skill development, can address a talent-gap. Analytics can ensure your learning programs are available to all, it can highlight how different training techniques and styles work for different audiences, or it can uncover a skill development need that is desired by a particular sub-group of employees. By using analytics to measure D&I success within learning and development, organizations can ensure they are providing the same support and opportunities to all new hires, regardless of their age, gender or ethnicity.

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A focus on Gen Z means a better experience for all

Gen Z is not a generation that stands drastically apart from previous generations; the important elements to engaging with Gen Z still apply to their older counterparts, they just personify them more than ever before. By paying close attention to how to engage with Gen Z, and create a strong corporate learning environment, you’re setting up new employees to succeed and creating an improved working environment for the larger organization in general.

By utilizing the data derived from learning programs, not only can you inform improve training strategies but generate a successful workforce and business initiatives across the entire organization. 

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