The new grads now entering your workforce are among the first of about 67 million people, born between 1995 and 2010, who comprise Generation Z. Different from Millennials who came of age at the same time as the Internet, social media, and smartphones, Gen Z was born into a world where connected technologies were no longer novel but normal. Akin to the generations before them, Gen Z members are thirsty for information, even more adept with technology, and thrive in collaborative environments.
With 10,000 baby boomers reaching retirement age every day and unemployment at historic lows, Gen Z is beginning to fill huge gaps in the workforce. And that means that employers are already planning how to adapt training and development for this new generation of workers to keep pace in today’s agile work environments.
What’s guiding these emerging training and development strategies for a new generation? An understanding of how Generation Z learns.
To understand how Gen Z learns, we need only look at education trends over the past decade.
Shaped largely by innovative educators taking advantage of new digital technologies, teaching methodologies began to shift as early as the mid-2000s from exclusively traditional offline instruction via lectures and textbooks to today’s predominantly blended learning approaches that leverage digital media to make more time for active learning during class.
The quintessential example this is the flipped classroom. In the flipped classroom, teachers record videos of their lectures that they assign to students as homework before class. Class time is then used for active learning activities such as working through problems or class discussions.
Compared to previous generations, by and large, learning for Gen Z has been structured to be more active, incorporated more on-demand online learning tools, and been more collaborative.
Gen Z students are anything but passive learners. A recent report from Barnes & Noble College shows that Gen Z predominantly learns by doing and prefers active learning environments.
Theirs is a generation that thrives when given a challenging, fully-immersive educational experience in which they can work through problems and really test their knowledge. And they are very interested in steering their own personalized learning experiences and incorporating information from a variety of resources and materials.
(source: Barnes & Noble College)
Generation Z has grown up with more access to more information than any of the generations before them. As a result, they expect to be able to find and access a wider mix of learning materials the moment they need them, no matter the circumstances.
Half of the Gen Z students surveyed by Barnes & Noble College say seeing or listening to educational content is key to learning a new subject. Though for Gen Z, that means more than reading a textbook and listening to a lecture in class. Learning by seeing and by listening includes watching recorded lectures, watching other online videos, reading online study guides, and simply researching information on the web.
Gen Z has also grown up with YouTube, and are quick to turn to the site whenever they need to see something demonstrated or want to hear a complex idea explained with supporting visuals. A recent Pearson study showed that 59 percent of Gen Zers prefer to learn by watching YouTube videos, and 55 percent also say YouTube has contributed to their education, learning, and/or personal development in the last 12 months.
Nearly 80 percent of Gen Z uses YouTube, according to another study, and members of the generation watch an average of 68 videos each day across all social platforms. For Gen Z, video is what email or the telephone were for previous generations — an unmatched resource for both education and entertainment, and a cornerstone of many of their daily activities.
Of course, for many educators, YouTube is too much of a wild card to rely on, potentially introducing misinformation or simply distracting students from learning objectives due to its open environment curated entirely by its own algorithms. That’s why over the last decade most colleges and universities have invested in developing searchable video libraries in order to better provide students with video learning materials that meet their own institutional academic standards. The students at the University of Arizona, for example, now view more than 270,000 hours (more than 30 years’ worth) of classroom video recordings annually through the school’s private video platform.
Far from isolating themselves through technology, as some characterizations would suggest, Generation Z sees virtual experiences as a way to engage with others near and far. They are more connected than previous generations and incredibly social. Blended educational models that combine online discussions and in-class collaboration play to Gen Z’s social nature and have proven to be effective models for engaging them in learning.
Moreover, Gen Z doesn’t see a stark distinction between the offline and online world. Studies show they put a high value on face-to-face interaction and group learning, both on and offline. According to Pearson, 57 percent of Gen Z prefer in-person activities with classmates. And eight out of ten Gen Zers also prefer to study with friends, often virtually via Skype and other video apps, according to Barnes & Noble College.
Their sense of hyperconnectivity and desire to learn new things means they are extremely comfortable collaborating with others through technology. Another study found that 60 percent of Gen Zers are happy to share their knowledge with others online, whether it’s a broad forum like Reddit or within their close network of friends.
So what does all of this mean for training and development at your organization?
While Generation Z loves to learn, they won’t engage with your training and development programs unless they are flexible, collaborative, and give individuals the ability to practice and prove what they’ve learned. So to prepare for incoming employees from Gen Z, learning organizations are working to adapt their existing training strategies in the following four ways:
Gen Z expects to be able to do most things on their smartphones, from where ever they happen to be. This means training materials, learning management systems (LMSs), content management systems (CMSs), video libraries, and other digital learning tools your organization offers need to be easily accessible from a mobile device.
Generation Z wants to quickly find answers to problems, and they’d prefer to watch a 3-minute video than read page after page of text. Companies are already reworking training content to appeal to Gen Z by creating short YouTube-style how-to and explainer videos (sometimes called microlearning videos).
What many companies don’t have yet, however, is their own YouTube-like platform for sharing those videos. That’s why more and more organizations are sourcing video content management systems (or video CMSs) that plug into their existing knowledge bases.
Unlike traditional LMSs or CMSs — which are great for managing things like PDFs and Word Docs, but not videos — a video CMS is like a private YouTube for your organization that makes it easy to share video knowledge and to search the information inside your videos for any word spoken by a presenter or shown on-screen.
Gen Z isn’t content with simply checking a box or taking a quiz to certify they’ve mastered a new skill. They want the opportunity to practice implementing their new knowledge and prove that they understand what they’ve learned.
While learning leaders know full well the benefits of offering employees more opportunities for active, experiential learning, previous generations may not have been as thrilled with the idea. Leading organizations are now leaning into Gen Z and beginning to expand training and development to include experiential learning components such as role play and simulations, case competitions, design challenges, and other collaborative activities that let workers apply what they’ve learned to solve real problems.
Your youngest employees will naturally want to share their knowledge with others in your company, but it’s up to you to give them the tools to do that. Many companies have already adopted messaging apps like Slack or Zoom, and they’ve got systems for sharing and searching documents. What they’re still missing is a flexible video tool that integrates with its other social sharing systems for employees.
Video is second nature to for Gen Z, and many members of the generation would much rather record a quick explainer video on their phone than read a thick manual. Likewise, many would prefer to simply record a quick video walkthrough of how to do something than spend hours trying to write up a more formal document with all the required details.
Yet while videos may be easy to create with readily available apps and screen recording tools, the bigger problem is that most organizations don’t have a secure system for easily sharing those videos. As more of Generation Z enters the workforce, organizations will need to ensure they have the video software necessary to support rapid social learning and knowledge sharing at scale.
Employers who take a broad approach to training and development are already eager to tap into this next generation’s thirst for practical, hands-on, technology-driven education. And with some precision, it will help build more efficient structures for your more experienced workers as well, ultimately offering a valuable return on your investment.
A flexible video platform will help you optimize learning in your organization while also supporting the incoming class of Gen Z employees, whose preferred method of learning is watching YouTube videos.
Contact our team today to request a free 30-day trial and see how Panopto’s video platform, currently used to support teaching Gen Z in 21 of the top 25 universities, can help.