Sync Learning Up for Gen Z

Developing a learning program or delivery method can take a while, which means learning leaders might want to get a jump on designing for the next generation now.

After all, Gen Z is coming, and it wants mobile learning.

“These people are not in the workforce today, but they will be, and change takes time,” said Denise Lage, vice president of channel sales and strategic alliances with Condeco Software. “If organizations aren’t planning for this now, they could be behind and have to catch up.”

The next wave of employees are digital natives, a term tossed around to describe the generation born with devices in hand since they were toddlers. Lage said learning leaders have focused on Gen Y’s penchant for using an average of two devices at a time, but they need to get used to the idea of future employees having even more equipment — phones, tablets, smartwatches, etc. — that sync up and can be used simultaneously.

Therefore, don’t assume that generation will be happy with the same programs its predecessors received.

Clare Dygert, senior instructional designer at learning design firm SweetRush, said its time to move away from the idea that mobile learning is the same as e-learning on a smaller screen — a screen that’s accessible anywhere. “We can leverage the context that the learner is working in as part of the learning experience. The place where the Gen Z learner is will become an integral part.”

SweetRush’s lead instructional designer, Shauna LeBlanc Vaughan, said learning leaders have to recognize that generations differ in how they navigate content, not just how they want it delivered. Typically, baby boomers navigate things linearly, while millennials — and likely Gen Z — want to explore through open navigation.

They also want the ability to use mobile technology to participate in conversations and social learning. Robert McMillan, founder of the Next Gen Leadership Institute, said the upcoming workforce will rely on more introverted forms of expression through social media, and that learning should reflect that.

“Rather than having the one-on-one conversation, people go to social media engines and post something in terms of how they feel or what needs to change,” he said. “That’s something the Zs will have to manage and control.”

But in the hustle to accommodate employees not yet submitting their résumés, learning leaders shouldn’t alienate other generations currently on the payroll. That’s easier than it might seem. Sometimes all it takes is communicated the options and the benefits for each.

“These are some things that older generations always wanted to have but couldn’t because the technology wasn’t available,” Lage said. “If different learning tools are implemented, people will embrace it because it’s seen as positive — as a way to drive collaboration, educate people in the workforce and help people step up their own game.”

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