Posted March 15, 2021 by Mark Perna
According to a new LinkedIn study, Gen Z wants to learn their way up the career ladder—and smart companies are providing the rungs. Mark’s article, “Why Skill And Career Advancement Are The Way To Gen Z’s Heart,” published at Forbes.com on March 2, 2021.
If we’ve learned anything from 2020, it’s how fast we can learn when we have to—and how much more there always is to master. Continuous learning is no longer just a stopgap to cope with the rapid changes overtaking the workplace; rather, it is fast becoming the resting pulse of companies embracing the new reality of work.
LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report 2021, released today, demonstrates this seismic shift in the way that companies are prioritizing learning & development—and in how workers themselves are approaching their careers.
Reskilling and upskilling are increasingly important in 2021, with 59% of learning & development professionals ranking them as a top priority. And this is just fine with Generation Z, who find themselves right at home (often literally) in their efforts to learn new skills.
Though newcomers to the professional world—the oldest Gen-Zer today is just pushing 24—Gen Z is highly motivated to grow their careers, with 76% seeing learning as the key to their advancement.
In a world that is changing faster than ever, this thirst for knowledge is creating a significant competitive advantage.
Amid the multifaceted data of LinkedIn’s report, Gen Z stands out as a cohort that is wholeheartedly embracing continuous learning at work. Sixty-seven percent of Gen Z learners spent more time learning in 2020 on LinkedIn’s platform than they did in 2019. Altogether, they logged 50% more hours watching online courses than learners from any other generation.Gen Z is highly motivated to grow their careers, with 76% seeing learning as the key to their advancement. Click To Tweet
“This investment in themselves is both fulfilling and a competitive advantage,” says Amy Borsetti, Senior Director of LinkedIn Learning.
From an early age, this digital-native generation imbibed the value of lifelong learning—and today, it’s the way to win their hearts, minds and effort at work. “They have always been connected, and have been exposed to endless perspective and opportunity,” says Borsetti. “They’ve also been raised in a world that is instant with businesses like Uber, making them more entrepreneurial-minded.” Seventy-two percent of older Gen-Zers want to start their own business—and believe lifelong learning is vital to that goal.
“Upskilling and reskilling is part of life, and changing direction a few times over the course of their career is what success looks like,” says Borsetti.
Gen Z’s innate curiosity about the world—the impetus for their nickname ‘Why Generation’—also plays to their advantage in a world increasingly driven by information.
“Curiosity allows Gen Z to see creative solutions that may be missed by others, make wiser decisions and increase their influence,” says Borsetti. “As Becki Saltzman puts it in her reframing LinkedIn Learning course on the topic, ‘only curiosity inspires the questions that generate the answers we don’t yet have access to. Without curiosity, new answers will cease to exist.’”
Curiosity is a trait that every generation should cultivate at work. “Most of us have not necessarily thought of curiosity as a must-have skill—yet,” says Borsetti. “Curiosity, used strategically, can not only improve the way we work, but it can also transform the way we think.”
Lazy, entitled, phone-addicted employees who are ready to jump ship at the earliest opportunity—the younger generations have been slapped with a lot of negative stereotypes. And they’re proving them dead wrong.
The study found that, far from being complacent and unmotivated on the job, 83% of Gen-Zers want to learn skills to perform better in their current role. “We speak to learners all the time that are still in college, learning new skills on LinkedIn Learning to start their own businesses or turn their side hustle into a full blown, full-time gig,” says Borsetti. “They are not only defying their stereotypes, but they’re turning them on their heads.”83% of Gen-Zers want to learn skills to perform better in their current role. Click To Tweet
Nor is job-hopping GenZ’s default setting—though they’ll move on if they have to. “They’re the most agile generation on record, and they are putting positive pressure on organizations to actively invest in their development,” says Borsetti. “As organizations shift their learning model to more effectively upskill and reskill, Gen Z-ers should be on their radar to build internal champions, building demand from the bottom up.
“If they don’t feel invested in, they’ll leave.”
Gen Z is also on record as the most diverse generation to date—a fact that a majority of U.S. employers (73%) is recognizing by placing emphasis on diversity and inclusion programs in the workplace. Borsetti notes that even prior to the pandemic, 89% of talent pros said a multigenerational workforce makes a company more successful, with 56% recently updating policies to better appeal to all ages. “This generation will not only change what the workforce looks like, but also put more demand on employers to create an inclusive culture where everyone can thrive and feel like they belong.”
For all generations in the workforce today, evolving with the role has become the prerequisite of success. The ability to continually absorb new information and translate it into productive, inventive work is of paramount importance. “While Gen Z has grown up in a world where learning is an ongoing process and offers opportunity and freedom, it’s important to recognize that this secular shift in our industry is not solely driven by this generation,” says Borsetti. “The pressures over the past year have forced all generations to think differently about what it takes to stay relevant and stay ahead.
“Businesses—and their employees—are depending on a strong culture of learning to navigate the new demands of work in a more agile, fast-paced world,” says Borsetti. “It’s the employees that are eager to hone in-demand skills and be deployed to do a variety of tasks and jobs that will see outsized rewards.”
Companies must pivot to deliver an environment where employees—young and perhaps not so young—can continually up their game. “Learning and creating a culture of agility and continuous learning is a full-blown competitive advantage,” says Borsetti. “Those organizations that seize the moment, and get this right, have a higher likelihood to outpace their competitors.”
When employees are continually learning, employers will benefit. “What organization doesn’t want better products and solutions in the market, improved internal mobility, higher retention rates, higher likelihood of attracting a diverse pool of talent, and happier and more engaged employees?” asks Borsetti. “It’s not just about learning itself, it’s also about the outcomes.”
And Gen Z is here for both.
At work, the future belongs to those who learn it. With one eye on career advancement and the other on their online course, Gen Z is poised to grow fast—and take both their skills and careers to the next level.At work, the future belongs to those who learn it. Click To Tweet