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Gen Z and Leadership Development

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Gen Z and Leadership Development

Our clients often come to us with questions like, “How to do we engage our newest employees?” or “Our current leadership development program seems to miss with our younger team members, what can we do?”.

Gen Z and the younger portion of Millenials have a different expectation of how people should work together and how learning should happen. It’s essential to understand what makes this group different from older members of your teams and leadership.

Let’s dig in.

First, Gen Z is the first fully digital generation. They are the first digital natives, and arguably reality is broken for this generation. For Boomers, reality had no or little digital aspect. Want information? Go to the library. Augmenting reality meant putting up a sign in the street. Gen X was introduced to computers at an age where finding information was mainly physical, and as they entered late high school and college, digital information became available. Again augmenting reality did not exist, and reality remained intact.

Enter Gen Z. All information is available at any time given a suitable internet connection via WIFI or cellular service. That ability to get information at any time has existed for them since they were born. As they have aged, it’s become easier to access, first via phone browser, then voice and now just augmented reality.

Think about that.

Let’s compare a Gen X experience with a cellular phone to a Gen Z.

Gen X: Non-touch screen, no internet access, expensive, poor coverage.
Gen Z: Touch screen, internet, cheap(comparatively), excellent coverage.

Hand a Gen X first device to a Gen Z and that device in perfect condition appears broken. Why won’t the screen work when I touch it? Why can’t I find the browser? Where are the apps? It’s a broken device.

Translate that to reality.

Gen X Early Reality: All analogue, slow introduction of digital billboards, information is not constantly available, no GPS on Phone or Car. No overlay of digital on top of reality. (Pokemon Go, GPS direction through a phone camera)

Gen Z Early Reality: Digital and analogue mixed, digital billboards, kiosks, phone, voice assistant, etc. Digital integration and overlay on top of reality, improving it and adding context to it. Games become part of the world; directions are not just on a map but viewed as part of the reality you see through your phone camera. The list goes on.

Ordinary analogue reality appears broken, for Gen Z reality becomes useless like a Gen X cell phone.

Why does this matter?

First, think of the level of instant collaboration this generation is used to. In a recent study, 94% of Gen Z say they frequently use collaboration tools, including Google Docs, GroupMe, and Facebook Messenger when at college to complete assignments. They instantly reach friends, immediately plan what to do, instantly see schedules and share it. This generation can organize hive minds naturally and quickly. Imagine the frustration a meeting holds for them. The time it takes to get everyone in a room is the same time they can communicate and solve the problem, and you have not even started talking about it yet in your old analogue style meeting. Your meeting reality is broken.

That does this mean the elimination of face to face work, no. It means technology is expected to speed the collaboration process and that meetings are more one on one or for small groups. The majority (90%) of Gen Zers want their weekly one-on-ones to occur in person, the report found.

Second, consider the impact of having any type of information available but not the context to make it useful. That’s where mentorship comes into play. You can forward a meaningful article to your team and then discuss the impact of the concept or idea. This allows you to add context and experience to the information for them. Use your time not for information dumps, but for interaction and discussion. 75% fo Gen Z expect to learn from peers on the job, not online programs. Online programs need to augment learning, not replace peers and group learning. This generation is collaborative, which means they want to be together, not alone.

Third rethink your Leadership Development program, understanding that it might move slow for them. When information can be accessed in any fashion, at any time, do you need to spend hours in the class? Or can some of it be digitally accessed ahead and then group time used for collaboration, discussion or experiences that help them use the new information and embody it. (Full Disclosure: We’d like to you help with this piece).

Forth give them tools that are accessible at the moment of truth. The moment they need it most. What do you do in [blank] situation? I’m about to do a peer review; how is it done? You need to have those answers readily and easily available.

If you’re looking for help developing an entire development journey through all stages, talk to us at Learn2, we’re changing the way the world works by changing the way the world learns.

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