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What Generation Y – and Z – Want from Corporate Learning Programs

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Erin Cushing
on August 05, 2016

We like to talk about millennials a lot here, and with good reason – 50% of today’s workforce is made up of members of Generation Y, and according the Pew Center, 10,000 baby boomers a day are exiting the workforce. Young people are the current and future leaders of today’s organizations; are their employers investing in the right types of development to empower these workers?

It turns out that millennials, as well as the members of Generation Z which are starting to enter the workplace, have specific ideas about what corporate learning should look like to help them better grow their skillsets. Here are the elements that Generation Y and Z are looking for from their learning programs:

Informal Learning Opportunities

While large and enterprise organizations may never be able to fully disengage from using live courses, seminars, or conferences in their learning strategy (60.3% of organizations in our Continuous Learning survey rely on this form of learning), younger workers appreciate the opportunity to have less structured and formalized learning events. In fact, according to our millennial research from last year, nearly 45% of Generation Y participants preferred “informal instruction from colleagues” to formalized learning events.

This type of informal instruction allows employees to access information when they need it, facilitating a “learning on demand” culture. Furthermore, this desire to learn collaboratively allows you to use one of the greatest resources at your disposal: your more experienced members of the workforce. Pair them up with younger employees in a mentorship program; record them explaining specific elements of their job responsibility; make them available to the rest of the team through messenger apps; these are all informal learning opportunities for younger employees, and opportunities to develop and engage all the cross sections of your workforce.

Digital Learning Tools

It won’t come as a surprise that Generations Y and Z are comfortable with digital tools, and want their organizations to incorporate these elements into their learning programs. For example, the Generation Y and Z members of our study 2.5x more likely than those born before 1980 to prefer workplace collaboration through chat or message systems. However, organizations need to better incorporate these next-generation learning tools into their programs; only 40.3% of our learning survey participants use digital learning such as social networks, video, and podcasts in their learning programs, as opposed to the 60.3% using live learning events.  

However, 57.7% of our participants are finding ways to incorporate elearning or online courses into their learning programs, which is a start towards a digital learning platform. These courses also appeal to the informal, learning-on-demand set up that appeals to younger workers, who are trying to balance their workload with their career development tasks. The next step is to find ways to better incorporate social messaging and video to better facilitate collaboration and continual learning opportunities.

Continuous Learning Opportunities

Generations Y and Z are invested in developing their careers; for them, learning isn’t a “one and done” endeavor, but an ongoing process that helps them excel in their current positions and grow into new opportunities. Developing learning programs that facilitate this continuous growth offers a myriad of benefits. For example, 73.7% of Generation Z participants said that continuous learning and leadership development programs make them feel more engaged with their work and their employer, while 75% of Generation Y participants said the same, as opposed to the 64.2% of overall participants who feel engaged due to their learning opportunities. Engaged employees are better performers – and more likely to stay on with the organization.

Additionally, continuous learning works for younger employees. Almost 60% of Generation Z and 50% of millennial participants were able to attribute improvements in their work performance to their participation in a continuous learning program. This type of ongoing learning strategy requires a good deal of forethought, access to talent profile data, and the right technology partner, but in the end, the results speak for themselves. These programs help your current workforce excel and grow into your future leaders – facilitate that growth with the right learning programs.  

Want to learn more about our original continuous learning research? Download the full report here.

Interested in seeing how the right learning management technology can power continuous, collaborative learning programs that take advantage of your employees’ experience and prepares your younger generations for leadership? Join us on 08/09 to see PeopleFluent’s award-winning learning management software in action. Register here.

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