3 Trends Poised to Shape the Gen Z Worker

Trends in collaborative learning, technology and flexibility are likely to become more entrenched as Gen Z enters the workforce.
gen z worker

Think Generation Y disrupted traditional workplace norms? Now comes Generation Z. Those born roughly after 1996 are just now entering their college years, meaning this generation is only a few years away from entering the workforce. Much as Gen Y — also known as millennials — did its part to transform corporate America by bringing a more collaborative, creative style to work, Gen Z is poised to enter the working world with its own notions on how to get things done.

Here are three trends poised to shape the Gen Z worker:

1. Flipping the Classroom

While prior generations learned through a traditional, lecture-driven style in the classroom, more recent generations have transitioned to more of a blended structure. Gen Z is currently learning through a flipped classroom model, where students watch online lectures on their own time before formal classroom time. This provides more room for discussion and application through group projects and collaboration in class, according to Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education research institution in Washington, D.C.

The trend is likely to lead to an even more collaborative workspace, with small teams of students huddled together working on projects. “It seems only natural to me that that’s where students are going to be most comfortable [at work],” said Ryan Coon, a program officer for The Sprout Fund, a nonprofit supporting a network of educators and innovators called Remake Learning in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Such a flipped-classroom model is also poised to change Gen Z’s conception of how teachers and managers should function, Coon said. For instance, as more teachers are becoming co-collaborators with their students instead of lecturers, managers should change their style from corner-office supervisor to in-office coach, co-creating with workers as well as guiding their progress.

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2. Added AI Intelligence

Thanks to the advent of “intelligent assistants” like Siri, Cortana and others, Gen Z is coming up in a world where answers to nearly every research question imaginable are on-demand. This means Gen Z is less likely to focus on skills like memorization and put more emphasis on application of information, said Alexandra Whittington, adjunct professor at the University of Houston’s College of Technology contributing author to the book “The Future of Business.”

Added technology of this sort doesn’t necessarily mean Gen Z isn’t fond of traditional face-to-face interaction, however. According to a 2016 study by Randstad, Gen Z and millennials said in-person communication was by far their most preferred method.

3. More Creativity

Even as companies place emphasis on the need for more workers with hard technical skills, Gen Z is learning in ways that also promotes high doses of creativity, said Ajay Kapur, president and CEO of Kadenze Inc., an online learning platform for creative arts education based in Valencia, California.

Consider the recent efforts by the Rhode Island School of Design to officially designate the letter A in the STEM acronym — science, technology, arts, engineering and mathematics. Students are likely to benefit from having creative education when it comes to building creative virtual products like an online game, website or virtual reality experience.

Creativity is critical in learning technical skills, Kapur said, because it forces learners to think of their own solutions to problems instead of relying on someone else to tell them how to solve it. “When you train people where they learned the whole time to just copy and repeat, you get people who you have to tell what to do,” Kapur said.

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Students coming up in an age of on-demand learning, collaborative classrooms and enhanced creativity are poised to expect these things in their professional work as well. Executives planning for the Gen Z workforce should continue to build on these elements through the evolution on Gen Y and expect that they will continue to flourish in the generations ahead.

Lauren Dixon is an associate editor at Talent Economy.

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