Blog Post

Gen Zers Need A New Kind of Learning: Introducing the Digital Native Advancement Program

Doug Segers

Head of Original Content at Cornerstone OnDemand

Move over, millennials—the era ofGeneration Z is upon us. Born between 1995 and 2010, Gen Z isset to occupy 36% of the global workforce by 2020. Already, this generationis predicted to become the most diverse, entrepreneurial and educated generation of workers to date. These workers are digital natives, and they are more technologically savvy than previous generations since many don’t remember a time without the internet or when information wasn’t just a click away.

But being so digitally reliant has come at a cost: Many digital natives might lack the interpersonal communication skills they will need to succeed in the workplace because they spend so much of their time interacting with their devices instead of communicating with people face-to-face. In fact, 42% of Generation Z said theyinteract more with their phones than they do with other people. This can spell trouble in the workplace, where technological prowess is equally as important as knowing how to communicate effectively with colleagues.

So how can organizations take advantage of the digital strength that digital natives bring to the workplace while helping them improve professional skills like communication? It comes down to creating a learning program that has their unique preferences and needs in mind—one that provides resources to improve their interpersonal skills but delivers these resources in a way that resonates in the digital age. To that end, Cornerstone is introducing Digital Native Advancement, or DNA, an entirely new class of learning program. DNA combines the tenets of nanolearning—a new, shorter kind of learning format with a multimedia approach—with the preferences of Gen Zers to foster learning that appeals to this new workforce.

Gen Zers Need A Heightened Focus on Interpersonal Communication Skills

Despite Gen Z’s impressive technological capabilities and speedy pace of learning, certain soft skills liketeamwork andinterpersonal communication don’t come as easily to them. Having noticed this trend, Cornerstone designed its DNA program to include courses like "You: Online & Off," a set of lessons that teach employees how to communicate professionally while still being authentic and developing connections with others. For example, when responding to feedback on a recent project, an in-person conversation typically works better than a message sent via a workplace collaboration platform like Slack because it helps the employee explain their thinking, gather learnings from the feedback and, in effect, grow.

But many Gen Zers may not understand or see the value in this kind of interaction because they aren’t used to them or don’t know how to carry them out effectively. The DNA program teaches these digital natives how to approach or define different workplace interactions and why, in some cases, one is better than the other. By choosing a learning program that teaches and emphasizes the importance of these skills, companies can provide their incoming workforce with the interpersonal tools they will need to succeed.

Gen Zers Want A Program with Multimedia Courses

From Instagram and TikTok to YouTube and Candy Crush, multimedia communication and entertainment platforms have made Generation Z accustomed to engaging, lively content. Studies show that47% of Gen Zers prefer interactive learning apps or games when learning something new. It’s no surprise, then, that nanolearning is a natural preference for these workplace newcomers.

Drawing on the success of itsmicrolearning courses, Cornerstone took its content approach a step further, using nanolearning in its DNA program to create courses that feature mobile-first, interactive videos with on-screen graphics, emojis, sound effects and interwoven video testimonials that mimic Instagram stories. This kind of content is familiar to Gen Z, which is what makes learning delivered in this format so effective.

Gen Zers Prefer A Program That Delivers Information Quickly

Brief and fast-paced learning resonates well with the average digital native, perhaps due to shortened attention spans:Some researchers believe that growing up in a world of continuous updates, like three-second Snapchats and six-second Vine videos, primed Gen Zers to digest content quickly and with less focus. Others believe that growing up with so much digital content has given them a sophisticated, almost-expert approach tousing the internet and social media to find and process the information they need, and filter out what they don’t.

Regardless of what you believe about Gen Z, one thing is clear: They prefer content that’s fast and self-paced. With this in mind, Cornerstone’s DNA program tailors all of its courses to be two-minutes or less. DNA lessons also aim to hook the viewer quickly—ideally within the firsteight seconds—before diving into a two-minute discussion. After all, the average human attention span is eight seconds, so today’s content needs to strike a chord within those first few moments.

As Gen Z enters the workplace, companies would be wise to reconsider the best way to promote learning and development. This generation grew up in a different environment than the generations before them, but by understanding this group’s strengths and potential deficits, organizations can set up digital natives—and themselves—for career success.

Photo: Creative Commons

Related Resources

Want to keep learning? Explore our products, customer stories, and the latest industry insights.

The Modern Workforce Favors Flexibility and Digital Collaboration

Blog Post

The Modern Workforce Favors Flexibility and Digital Collaboration

This is the third in a series of articles we’re doing around our annual State of Workplace Productivity survey. Read a summary of the full survey here . And for our findings on extreme workloads, click here. The always-on, always-working mindset has caught on, largely due to the rise of technology and the demand for more flexible workplaces. While initially introduced to boost employee satisfaction, flexible policies and technology use actually have a greater impact on productivity, and ultimately business performance. The environment in which people work affects how productive they are. Nearly two in three employees think a flexible and remote work schedule increases productivity, according to a recent survey by Cornerstone OnDemand. The most productive work environment is an enclosed office, followed by partitioned cubicles, open desk layout and working remotely, accordingly. While working in an enclosed office is the most promising for productivity, a good chunk of employees — 19 percent — say working remotely is the most productive environment, likely due to the fact that they can control the distractions around them. Forty-three percent of employees say impromptu visits by colleagues are distracting, according to the survey. Digital Communication Enables Remote Workers Even though some employees prefer work from home policies, only one in five are allowed to work remotely. True, employees can’t communicate with colleagues in-person, but the majority of workplace communication happens digitally anyway. Nearly two in five employees believe emails and instant messages allow them to be more productive than having in-person or phone conversations. The percentage of employees that prefer in-person collaboration compared to digital collaboration is decreasing — 63 percent this year compared to 71 percent last year. But there’s a fine balance for using online communication to boost or destroy productivity. Some employees find emails, social media alerts and instant messages to be distracting, so be sure that employees know what kind of communication their colleagues prefer. The key to high productivity and flexible work schedules is arming employees with the right technology. Almost two out of three employees agree that given the right technology, in-person meeting can be replaced completely. Digital natives are demanding a more flexible workplace, and companies are listening and changing accordingly, but more need to put their employees first and do so faster. To read more findings from The State of Workplace Productivity Report, click here. And take a look at our infographic on how workspace matters:

Preparing Your Workforce for Digital Transformation

eBook

Preparing Your Workforce for Digital Transformation

Make talent development a priority in the age of digital disruption Ready or not – digital transformation is here. With technology developing more rapidly than ever, the way we do business is changing and it affects everything from customer acquisition and our product offerings, to our tools and processes, to our workforce and work environments. To succeed in a rapidly changing market, organizations must adapt their talent management practices to reflect new digital innovations and processes. Constellation Research discovered that industry-leading companies' ability to adapt to digital disruption was a key factor in their long-term success. As many organizations begin to radically reimagine how they leverage technology and processes, a need for a new talent development strategy arises. No organization wants to be left behind because they failed to adapt well enough or fast enough to the changing digital landscape. So, how can organizations disrupt their talent development strategies to help succeed in the age of digital transformation? How to futureproof your organization in the age of digital transformation It's a sobering fact: Talent development strategies that worked in the past may no longer work in the near future. Human Resources (HR) and Learning and Development (L&D) teams must become true business partners and create a continuous, hyper-connected development experience for people that aligns to the ever-shifting goals of the business. This eBook offers research-backed strategies that will show you how to create a digitally centered, learning-focused talent development environment that will help your organization keep its competitive edge in the era of digital transformation. You'll gain insights into: Determining your organization’s level of digital transformation preparedness Coaching strategies to prep your workforce for digital transformation How to champion a culture of learning to enable ongoing employee skill development Download our eBook to discover the talent development best practices you – and your people – need in order to futureproof your organization while putting your people in the driver’s seat of their own experience.

5 Tips for Crisis Management in the Digital Age

Blog Post

5 Tips for Crisis Management in the Digital Age

Crisis management is a tool many leaders keep in their toolkit, but secretly hope they never need to use on a grand scale. While minor situations arise regularly in the course of business, larger scale issues can end careers and destroy entire corporate profiles if handled incorrectly. We need only look to Equifax and their epic data breach, which called for the release of their CEO and launched a Department of Justice investigation, to see the sweeping impact of poorly handled crises. Many of us might say what we "would" do if we were in such a situation, but until it happens, we really have no idea. This is where crisis communications becomes incredibly important, and HR plays a pivotal role. It's been said failure to plan is planning to fail, and never is this old adage more true than ensuring a strategy to handle a large-scale public relations disaster. As we now live in a time now where cloud-based technology is more prevalent, the digital realm is the new marketplace, and crises of this magnitude and type will happen more frequently, leadership must be prepared in advance to manage crisis in the digital age. Establish Personalities in Advance of the Crisis One of the benefits of social media and the 24/7 news cycle is that it provides opportunity to raise the public profile of anyone and everyone. While it's not necessary that all corporate leadership be incredibly active on social media from a personal perspective, it is extremely important that the company be proactive in building trust from the beginning. Get your leadership in front of your customers and communicate frequently across traditional and social media. It creates a personal connection with your company and shows there are people behind the issues. Gather Around the Message Immediately When the world of communication works on a 24/7 cycle, so must your leadership team. Have emergency communication protocols in place and ensure that they're followed. Your team must get on board with a strategic, unified message immediately and follow your crisis communication plan, which should be in place and reviewed every 3-6 months. Communicate with Employees Your best course of action is to communicate immediately and to arm all those involved with everything they need to communicate that not only are you on top of the matter, but that it won't happen again. This not only encompasses conversations with external media, but also includes conversations with your employees to ensure they can pivot with the leadership team and remain connected to your overall vision. Deploy Your Leadership Brand An established leadership brand is one of the greatest corporate assets during times of corporate strife. Your leadership brand usually emanates from your CEO, but it's more about what your leaders are known for in your organization, and it informs how your employees should act at all times. It also means that individuals at all levels instinctively know how to conduct themselves in a crisis because it's ingrained in the corporate culture and everything they do. They put the customer first, they protect the corporate identity and they remain focused on the cause. Practice Humility Finally, one of the greatest assets in our leadership arsenal is also the oldest in the book: be humble. In this fast-paced world, mistakes are bound to happen. Admitting fault and owning up to one's mistakes quickly is something that separates great leaders from those who inevitably fail. Photo: Creative Commons

Schedule a personalized 1:1

Talk to a Cornerstone expert about how we can help with your organization’s unique people management needs.

© Cornerstone 2022
Legal