Adapting Your L&D Strategy For The Next Generation Of Learners

An effective learning and development (L&D) strategy aligns with company goals, particularly in meeting key benchmarks to upskill or reskill employees to fill organizational job needs. Yet many L&D attempts fall short: lackluster training, skillsets unmet, hiring and retention left struggling.

A common concern has to do with training younger employees. Ideally, these younger or newer team members would become long-term, stable employees, even the next generation of managers. Specifically, L&D professionals voice difficulty training the next generation of learners.

However, it can be done: you can create an L&D program under which Millennials and Gen Z thrive. You might just need to adapt your current plans.

Pivot your program, let’s say. Here’s how.

Know Your Audience: The Next Generation Defined

Who are these “next-generation learners”?

Who we call “younger,” of course, has to do with our own age. But generations are also defined, in part, by certain mindsets. Importantly, these attitudes and viewpoints might apply to people of any age, and might not apply to people of the same age.

Still, it might be helpful to consider these generational terms.

In general, Millennials are individuals born between 1981 and 1996. The oldest Millennials are, therefore, already reaching 40 in 2021. The youngest Millennials turn 25 in 2021. So while that 15-year range might not seem like much, if you look at those years in terms of development, there can be a big shift in experience, life circumstances and attitudes during those ages.

Pew Research puts Gen Z starting at 1997 birthdates, which means Gen Z has also started entering the workplace. They might also have already graduated from college or professional training programs.

Key Appeals to the Younger Learner

For some purposes, grouping by age may be helpful, but it’s more important to see learners as individuals. As a matter of fact, that in itself is a key characteristic for effective L&D strategies and younger learners: individualization.

Younger learners, in general, have had easy access to technology all of their lives. Just consider their tv viewing, compared to prior generations: today, we stream what we want, when we want it. Older workers might remember planning their schedule around a “television viewing event” (similar to how the Super Bowl still operates). They remember first recording television programming, or even the radio in order to make mixed tapes.

Today, people access music from any era in musical history, from any country of origin. Learning should keep pace by being individually tailored to the student!

Thus, learning can:

  • Utilize technology, particularly for learners already very comfortable with digital interactions. E-Learning generally works well for younger learners.
  • Adapt to individual scheduling, allowing learners to study both where and when they best learn.
  • Keep learning short and to the point. “Bite-sized” learning works well.
  • Get interactive, providing instant encouragement and feedback, which the next generation of learners often appreciate.

Adapt Away from Passivity in L&D

Occasionally, stereotypes of young people seep into the workplace--such as seeing avid cell phone users as somehow being inactive or disengaged.

Be wary of stereotyping in L&D planning.

While the next generation of learners might “live on their phones,” they do also tend to be highly engaged. They enjoy learning by doing, instead of lecture-style environments.

An effective L&D strategy can capitalize on these characteristics by:

  • Allowing students to “turn and talk,” learning by teaching each other.
  • Provide ample opportunity for application of knowledge.
  • Creating a robust mentorship program.

By engaging with learners the way that they wish to learn, an L&D strategy can adapt to younger learners.

At Arist, We are Fluent in Modern Learning

Let’s be honest, Gen X, Baby Boomers, and even older all like technology, for the most part. They use social media and smartphones. They get on YouTube and binge-watch shows on Netflix.

Every age has more in common than not.

So there’s no need to abandon an L&D program when some of these adaptations can make learning strategies so much more effective.

At Arist, we can help. Contact us to take learning to the next level.


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