Getting Ready to Train Generation Z

Learning and development will never be the same again with this generation.

The exciting thing about Generation Z is they love to learn. You will find Gen Zers in high school, starting college, or just entering the full-time workforce. Born digitally connected, they appear permanently attached to some digital technology.

They are excited about gaining a college education. These savvy learners keep three things in mind when choosing a college to attend:

  1. The need for the education they finally obtain to help them get a career.
  2. Ensuring they have interesting coursework to study.
  3. Knowing their professors genuinely care about their students’ success.

Reportedly, many Gen Z students have already taken a class for college credit in high school. And their younger counterparts already plan on taking a course for college credit. In fact, Gen Z students like advanced classes as much or better than their regular classes. 

Gen Zers are used to more active learning through collaboration with other students. They also expect more on-demand online learning tools that they can explore and access whenever they need. Learning for them has been the flipped classroom experience where teachers video record lectures to be viewed as homework. They then use class time for active learning exercises, where they work through problems together or engage in class discussions with their peers.

Using Connection to Maximize Learning

Most of these students prefer studying with friends because they feel studying together makes learning more fun. Respondents to a recent Barnes and Noble College study cited Skype as the most frequently used online tool to study with friends. It is meaningful to most Gen Z learners to help their friends learn, too. You’ll find that Gen Z learners enjoy studying with friends, whether in person or online.

While Gen Z learners are independent and technologically savvy, you will find that Gen Zers value face-to-face interaction and collaboration. In fact, 53 percent of Generation Z students prefer face-to-face communication. Is it any wonder you find Gen Zers using FaceTime to create virtual face-to-face communication, particularly in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Generation Z loves to learn most by doing. More than half of respondents (51 percent) indicated they learn best hands-on, while 38 percent said they learn best by seeing. 

That said, classroom lectures are still meaningful to Gen Z learners. What they find most beneficial is when students work together through case examples and when they work through problem-solving situations with other people.

Capitalizing on Gen Z Motivations

If there’s one thing that will make learning and development exciting for incoming Generation Z employees, it is exceptionally engaging and interactive learning experiences. This is where all of us in Learning and Development (L&D) must shine to develop and keep Gen Zers in our organizations.

You will find Gen Zers want empowerment to make their own decisions about what they learn. They expect learning technology to play an important role in their learning new knowledge and skills. Learners from this generation expect access to Websites with study materials and lectures ahead of time—in fact, available 24/7. Make sure online videos and learning Websites are ready to roll. Set a standard that any trainer delivering lecture presentations also must use smart boards and refer to digital textbooks.

One way to capitalize on the motivation of Generation Z employees is to show them how learning and development can help advance their career development and improve their financial earning capacity. From an entrepreneurial side, it might surprise you to know that more than one-third of Gen Z students own their own business, or at least plan on having one in the near future.

Don’t neglect the opportunity for mentorship to sustain knowledge transfer from mature employees to Gen Zers. And remember to use reverse mentorship, where your new Gen Z employees can teach older staff technology, which the younger employees are so adept at using.

Another way in which you can foster ongoing learning and development is by enabling Gen Z employees to plan and create the education they want with their peers. We know them to be a sharing generation who love to exchange ideas with one another. You’ll see that designing their own learning and development path is a meaningful responsibility for them that becomes an experiential reward.

Tips to Keep in Mind

Generation Z wants full immersion in learning as part of their everyday life on the job. Be prepared to have employees who want to take charge of creating their own personalized learning experience. Make sure you provide access to a variety of information, learning technology, outside resources and reading materials, and the latest online learning. 

Some tips to keep in mind for your future learning and development planning include:

  • Gen Zers are a visually oriented generation, so use mixed media to the fullest.
  • Provide flexibility for them to access learning materials when needed.
  • They love to learn together, so create connections and chances to collaborate.
  • Stay current with technology, resources, and materials, or you will lose them.
  • Generation Z is mobile all the way, so learning must be available on all devices.
  • Their visual and sound-bite world requires microlearning content.

Prepare now for Generation Z to lead learning and development in a whole new direction.

Roy Saunderson, MA, CRP, is author of “GIVING the Real Recognition Way” and Chief Learning Officer at Rideau Recognition Solutions. His consulting and learning skills focus on helping companies “give real recognition the right way wherever they are.” For recognition insights, visit: For more information, e-mail him at or visit

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