Whatever ideas one might have about Gen Z (those born between 1997-2012), exhaustive research done by Roberta Katz, senior researcher at Standford University's Center for Advanced Study in the Behavior Sciences, has uncovered interesting traits that safety professionals should be aware of.
In fact, a previous study from talent recruiting firm Bridgeworks found that 40% of Gen Zers want daily interactions with their boss and think they’ve done something wrong if they don’t have these interactions.
This face-to-face preference might be derived from the more collaborative way Gen Z employees work, which presents an advantage for savvy safety managers, who tend to be older than their employees and are more comfortable with in-person interactions. Katz offers this advice: “Both the older and younger colleagues can learn from the other, in each case by listening with more respect, appreciation and trust. The older colleague can learn some helpful new ways of getting a job done, while the younger colleague may learn good reasons for why things have long been done in a certain way.”
We can see examples of this two-way learning process as emerging technology, such as video and augmented reality (AR), is being used by safety leaders to bridge the generation gap to enhance training efficiency. I have spoken with several employers who have found that by using these techniques, older colleagues feel appreciated that their knowledge is being codified this way, while younger colleagues appreciate the opportunity to learn through video.
Experience-based learning, as opposed to classroom learning, is the route preferred by Gen Zers. In a study conducted by Barnes and Noble College, 51% of Gen Z respondents said they learn best by working through examples. Seeing things done was the preferred learning method for 38%, while only 12% chose listening to a lecture.
And learning on the job is important to Gen Zers as well. A study done by ECMC Group of 5,000 high school students, conducted between February 2020 and January 2022, found that students are moving away from the traditional route of waiting to work following the completion of a four-year college degree. They are often opting to complete training that requires less time or on-the-job training. And when choosing an employer, they will often opt for one that offers reimbursement for four-year degrees.
Here are some specific findings of that survey:
- Nearly one-third of teens prefer that their post-high school educaion lasts two years or less.
- More than half of teens are open to something other than a four-year college, and nearly half believe they can achieve success with education attained in three years or less.
- Most teens prefer learning hands-on skills either in a lab/classroom or through on-the-job experiences.
- Most teens understand the importance of gaining marketable skills and learning throughout their lifetime.
This group not only understands the necessity of lifetime learning but uses it as a criterion when choosing employers, according to research from Robert Half. “Gen Z professionals are highly motivated by development and learning opportunities,” the Robert Half study concludes. The survey found that the top three reasons Gen Zers chose an employer are:
- Career development opportunities.
- A manager they can learn from.
- Professional development and training.
Technology of course is how this generation prefers to gain access to knowledge. In a survey by Kahoot, when asked what training tools they wanted at their workplace, 65% of Gen Zers said mobile apps, 48% said online learning tools, 39% said videos, and 34% preferred social media.
This generation’s emphasis on learning might prove, once and for all, how truly smart they are. And it’s good news for safety professionals looking for the best ways to their workers are actively engaged in the training process.