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General Interest

Does Your Organization’s Training Strategy Fit Gen Z?

Today’s generation of young employees, comprised mainly of millennials, is extremely dynamic. This dynamism is expected to intensify as the proportion of post-millennials (Generation Z) in the employee mix increases steadily. In his article, “What to Expect from the Generation Z Workforce,” David Galic, content lead at Humanity, estimates that more than 30 million people born in the mid-1990s to mid-2000s will become a part of the global workforce by 2019. This will lead to a substantial increase in the share of knowledge-hungry young players in the global employee base, from the current less than 10 percent.

Young Generation Traits and Apt Organizational Approach

Members of Generation Z are seemingly more short-sighted about learning as well as growth opportunities, and want to better themselves at every step of the way. A survey of students by Adecco Staffing USA reveals that a majority (83%) of them consider three years or less as an appropriate tenure for the first job, while a substantial segment (27%) consider one year or even less as sufficient. Cristine Comaford, an executive coach and director, states that Generation Z seeks to accumulate an award-winning work experience by developing the tools / skill sets needed to win; how they advance at work is of pivotal importance to them. Accordingly, they are more receptive to training, mentorship, on-the-job guidance, continued learning opportunities, and chance to expand their skill sets.

I believe employers can leverage their younger employees’ quest to learn and succeed to bring the best out of them. Therefore, organizations must focus on frequent, effective, and well-defined training initiatives that attract and influence this workforce. Post-millennials need to see organizations investing in their development through structured learning and career growth programs. By offering an effective and well-defined training plan, employers can use this important function to not only retain employees but also support them in developing into empowered professionals.

Learning Focus for Enhanced Appeal

Organizations should focus on a long-term learning path that provides development opportunities at each stage of an employee’s career. Each employee’s learning curve generally spans over developing foundational skills; domain and technical skills; managerial skills and executive development. The key is to offer continuous and adaptive learning opportunities that ensure on-going domain and technical development. For this, a well-defined training initiative is critical in the first 3–5 years of any employee’s tenure in an organization.

Organizations normally tend to offer a steep to flat learning curve, wherein learnings are high in the first 6–9 months and then stop until a supervisory position is attained. What about the time in between? That’s the gap that organizations need to fill by focusing on highly structured skill enhancement training related to employees’ job profiles. Since the value added by an employee is expected to increase with experience, it is only logical to expect that organizations offer relevant training to facilitate the progress.

Focus on Technical Trainings

Adaptive and innovative training is important, both in the context of domain and technical skills. Regarding technical skill enhancement, training programs should target workflow efficiency, process automation, and intuitive presentation of research analysis. Such training programs can develop new capabilities to create a positive impact on employee quality and productivity.

Focused technology training initiatives also help drive business by making employees more innovative as well as client and industry oriented. The fact is, when we train domain experts with technical skills and vice versa, we open doors to more innovative ideas – which can drive future growth by offering a whole new bundle of customized and innovatively engineered services. Organizations should embrace an adaptive learning culture. In the research world, it is imperative to teach all employees to not only undertake manual work efficiently but also deliver intuitive insights (for example by using advanced analytical tools to deal with big data).

Coming back to Generation Z, as the Forbes Coaches Council states, this generation is all about technology. Its members are technologically proficient and therefore will be better able to adapt to increased technology use within organizations. To be a workplace of choice, organizations must leverage upon and add to their tech savviness in the long run. Depending on the nature of an organization and its requirements, the focus of technology training programs could be on:

  • Use of platforms and applications for greater productivity and better project management (robotic process automation takes away high volume, non-value-adding, and repeatable tasks from employees)
  • Big data and cognitive analytics (to harness the power of big data, organizations must focus on data mining, storage and management, cleaning, integration, analysis, and visualization)

Shaping Robust Training Initiatives

A well-thought-out and efficiently implemented learning and development program can act as a growth and retention engine. This makes it imperative for organizations to have a dedicated training function comprising trainers with significant experience in various domains.

Further, organizations that operate from multiple centers should share and combine the knowledge present in each to enrich their learning function. Training experts should never work in silos. They must share their expertise, perspective, and experience through frequent connects. A centralized plan can go a long way in institutionalizing an organization’s learning function and making it iterative. The training function should adopt a collaborative approach so that employees benefit from best learning practices across centers.

It is also imperative that training and development functions are in sync with changing industry requirements. An understanding of emerging trends and the ability to usher them into the organization through training programs, either internal or external, is a must. The key is to implement the required changes within the training construct and observe the results through regular feedback.

Benefits of Timely Acknowledgement

Aside from focused and planned training, the young generation expects to be commended and awarded more frequently for their good work and contributions. Organizations must imbibe timely acknowledgement and rewards as a part of their culture. To keep up the learning momentum, top employees can be selected on the basis of their performance in measured training programs, contribution to the training and development of colleagues, and proactive steps for self-development. The young generation seeks attention and wants to know that their hard work and contribution will not be overlooked.

In a Nutshell

Generation Z comprises approximately 2.52 billion adults; the oldest among them have started entering the workforce. Any organization that wants to attract Generation Zers must move away from the “hire and instruct” mode, to focus on a “teach and support” approach. In view of the unique characteristics of the new generation, such an approach is estimated to develop more successful individuals who will positively contribute to organizational growth in the long term.

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