I don’t have to tell you that workforce training has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. Ever since we caught up to the potential for web-based and interactive training, we’ve moved so quickly that it’s almost impossible to keep pace. If you compare 10 years ago (or 20, if you dare) to now, you’ll see that the shift has been seismic. We’re not just using new formats; we’ve changed the very nature of training.
Who creates training? How is training delivered? What skills are we training? How do we determine who trains on what? What are the leading learning theories? The answers to these fundamental questions are dramatically different today from 10 years ago.
And during the last 10 years, another important shift has been happening around us. Generation Z is coming of age, and now they’re finally starting to join the workforce. So, what are we going to do about them?
Fortunately, we’re ready. All this new technology? It’s just what the doctor ordered for Gen Z, and just in time, but we need to keep a few things in mind about these newest recruits.
Namely, Generation Z is NOT “Millennial light.” They have different needs and motivations. They want to learn — it’s their raison d’être — but they want to do it on their own terms. And just as they’re arriving… the technology to cater to Generation Z learning preferences arrives with them. It feels somehow that it’s all been leading to this moment.
Here are four powerful trends in training that have arrived in the nick of time.
Trend #1: Soft-Skills Training
In many ways, Gen Z is ahead of the game. They’re tech-savvy, entrepreneurial, and have a realistic view of work and careers. If they do have a gap, though, it’s most noticeably in soft skills. According to a Southern New Hampshire University study:
“In nearly every category from soft skills (communication, critical thinking and working with others) to technical capabilities, employers said the graduates lacked those skills by a wide margin compared to how Gen Z graduates viewed themselves.”
Gen Z may not think they need soft-skills training, but they probably do. Face-to-face communications and even phone calls are becoming more and more rare as texting and online forums have become the norm for younger generations. Luckily, soft skills are all the rage in training talk. And these important skills will enhance your entire organization, not just Gen Z. If you’re not on the soft-skills train yet, it’s time to get on board.
Trend #2: Self-Directed Training
The Southern New Hampshire University study also cites a LinkedIn survey showing that 43% of Gen Z respondents prefer self-directed learning. This cohort has grown up with the internet, and they’re accustomed to figuring out not only where to find information but what information they need in the first place. Self-directed training can be a boon to workers whose jobs aren’t neatly categorized or those of us who just like to learn and don’t want to be bound by company conventions — in other words, workers like Generation Z. If you haven’t explored the miracle of self-directed training, now is the time.
Trend #3: Personalization and xAPI
The advantages of xAPI are too numerous to list them all in this blog. But the potential for personalized training in xAPI allows workers to select where and when they learn (taking mobile learning to new heights) as well as what they learn (even from sources you’d never imagine). Yet again, Gen Z is the perfect audience for this new technology. And xAPI gives them the ability to take their training record from job to job, company to company. Gen Z has no illusions about obtaining the “job for life” some of us have coveted in years past.
Trend #4: Integrating Training into the Workflow
Most corporate training departments are trying to play catchup to Google. Why would workers use your platform when they can simply Google the answers they need? As a trainer, you CAN integrate search-engine-style systems into the workers’ flow, but you’ll need to get moving now if you want to remain relevant. Gen Z has never NOT had Google. They want quick answers, and they don’t want to fiddle around with logging in to a new platform to get them. Fortunately, the technology is here — again, just in time — to help you be their Google.
It always seems that every new trend or technology is the one you absolutely must have to survive in the modern world. Some stick around, others not so much. But one thing is certain: Gen Z is not going anywhere. They’re a big part of the future of work and the future of training. Embracing new ideas that cater to the next generation will define the next 10 years — and we’ve only scratched the surface of the technological and philosophical advances to come.
If you’re looking backward, it’s time to break off that rear-view mirror and throw it out the window. What’s ahead of you — ahead of all of us — is a brave new world in training and education, and it’s just starting to appear on the horizon.