Much has been written about the millennial generation and the way they like to work and learn. But soon to follow on their heels is Generation Z, those born between 1995 and 2010. They are already starting to enter the workforce as interns and entry-level employees. This demographic never knew a world without high-speed Internet, Google or Facebook. The way in which they consume information and learn is fast, very fast. But they also get overwhelmed and distracted easily. Understanding their development needs is essential for any business.
Overwhelmed. Distracted. Impatient. These are a few of the words that leading analyst firm Bersin by Deloitte uses to describe the modern learner. And they should come as no surprise. Technological advances, increasing customer demands, stiffer competition, and rapidly changing products are transforming the traditional workplace- along with what, and how, employees need to learn.
And that was just the millennial generation. Consider the implications for Generation Z workers, who typically connect via smartphones and other portable devices. They have grown up with constant streams of data and instant access to information. Instant gratification is their modus operandi. They don’t like it if they have to wait for answers from anyone, including management.
This ability to find whatever they want, when they want it, and often without the help of intermediaries, has made Gen Z more independent and self-directed than previous generations. But it also makes them more impatient too. An American study put their average attention span in 2015 at 8.25 seconds- officially less than a goldfish, which comes in at nine seconds!
That’s a scary thought when you consider Generation Z workers are essentially the future of our companies. How then should we be grooming them to lead our companies? By joining modern learners on their own turf and adjusting for shorter attention spans, increasing job demands and information overload, modern trainers can engage modern learners in new and more effective ways. Here’s how:
1. Go on demand
Gone are the days of scheduling training sessions at a single time and location. Web-based eLearning apps that modern learners can access from desktops, tablets or mobile phones make it simple to participate in training whether they’re in the office or working remotely. Making learning accessible anywhere and anytime also means employees don’t have to travel to training sessions to get the information they need to be successful in their jobs.
2. Go short
“I don’t have time!” is a common complaint from learners who believe training takes them away from completing important job functions. Offering online training in short five-minute bursts each day means employees can increase their knowledge on an ongoing basis over time without feeling overwhelmed and without impacting their regular job duties. Chunking training information into bite-sized pieces also makes it more manageable for learners to digest.
3. Go personal
Employees learn differently, at their own paces. Using adaptive eLearning technology provides individuals with the training information they need at the time they need it. This eLearning technology also allows content to adjust according to learners’ roles and competency levels on various topics. Depending on how learners answer questions, the material changes to either re-educate them on certain subjects or reinforce information they already know. By creating a personalized knowledge map, this type of eLearning technology can track learners’ progression over time and also help them master topics that are integral to job performance.
4. Go interactive
Traditional classroom-based training or online course delivery requires employees to do a lot of listening. The large amount of material covered, combined with increasingly short-attention spans, results in learners not retaining enough information to apply it on the job. More than 90% of the material they learned will be forgotten in as little as a month. Technology that allows modern learners to take a more active role in their learning (by asking them to click on answers to multiple choice questions, fill in the blanks or match responses) drives participation, engagement and long-term memory. It also reinforces the information in the brain so learners have a lesser chance of forgetting the material completely.
5. Go fun
Mention training and you’ll likely hear a lot of groans. But make it fun and learners are much more receptive. Taking advantage of eLearning technology that applies game-based learning techniques is a great way to connect with modern learners in an engaging and entertaining way. eLearning technology that incorporates gamification is key to making the learning experience enjoyable and drives high participation.
6. Go long-term
Training sessions can’t make a positive impact if learners cannot recall and apply the information after they have learned it. Turning to eLearning technology that incorporates repeated retrieval -the practice of learning a concept, testing recall of that information, reviewing the concept again and then testing recall again- ensures modern learners maintain their knowledge and solidify it in memory over the long term. Additionally, eLearning technology that uses questions to challenge learners to recall information at different intervals (e.g. days, weeks, months, etc.) increases information retention. Research shows memory retention improves as the time intervals between the information increases, stimulating the brain to remember.