Posted on 7th August, 2018 by Kathryn Nixon
Today’s learners are always-on, hyper-connected consumers. Find out how to meet the needs of the on-demand learning generation in this blog.
It’s projected that by 2025, Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce 1. Alongside them, ‘Generation Z’ (who are just entering the workforce now) will also be in the early stages of their careers.
This presents a challenge to L&D teams, who will need to deliver learning that meets the needs of this new, more youthful, workforce.
Meet the on-demand learning generation
What do we know about these learners? Well, some have termed them consumer learners.
With on-the-go access enabled by smartphones and 4G, both Millennials and ‘Gen Z-ers’ expect to be able to instantly access and consume content online. Whether it’s Snapchat, YouTube or Netflix, engaging content should be only a few taps or clicks away.
Statistics, too, show that these expectations feed into how this part of the workforce prefers to learn. They’re the on-demand learning generation: they know what they want and they’re used to getting it, whenever they want and wherever they are.
Here are three key stats about today’s consumer learners:
1) The on-demand learning generation is more self-directed
Research suggests that younger learners in the workforce have a much stronger idea of what they want to learn.
Towards Maturity’s 2016 report, The Learner Voice2, notes that of their survey group, 83% of learners under 30 said they had a clear personal plan of what they want to learn and why, compared to only 62% of those aged 51 and over.
The incoming workforce are also more likely to be self-starters, committed to their own development. Generation Z have been noted for their entrepreneurial spirit. And in light of young Instagram influencers and YouTube stars earning vast fortunes, it’s easy to see why.
With the on-demand learning generation, L&D can expect a workforce that is ready and willing to learn.
2) The on-demand learning generation value development opportunities
Millennials value career development. In LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report3, 87% of Millennials surveyed said development was important in a job, compared to 69% of non-Millennials.
It’s also been reported that Gen Z-ers want the opportunity to have multiple roles within a single place of employment. This new workforce are hungry to develop skills across many areas, perhaps with an awareness that adaptivity is likely to serve them well in a rapidly-evolving employment landscape.
Towards Maturity’ research4 also demonstrates the ambitions of today’s younger employees: 64% of under-30’s said they are motivated to learn in order to be eligible for a promotion, compared to just 22% of learners aged 51 and over.
3) On-demand learners will prefer mobile-optimised learning
Ofcom’s 2018 Communications Market Report5 makes it painfully clear just how dependent we all are on our smartphones. The report highlights that 62% of people say they could not live without their mobile phone, rising to 78% among 25-34 year olds.
The younger generation also prefer to use smartphones to access the Internet – 72% of 18-34 year-olds in the Ofcom report said their smartphone was the most important device for accessing the Internet, in contrast to just 17% of over-54s6.
Millennials have wholeheartedly embraced the arrival of smartphones, while Gen Z-ers have barely known life without them. This heavy reliance on mobile devices is likely to influence this generation’s preferences in the workplace, too.
How to meet the needs of on-demand learners
These insights suggest that to meet the needs of Millennials and Gen Z-er’s, learning strategies need to focus on enabling on-demand learning.
This could be described as more of a ‘pull’ than a ‘push’ approach. In the past, L&D has tended to focus on pushing out courses to learners at a set time and frequency. Consumer learners will prefer a more agile, ‘always-on’ approach that can support their development and embed a continuous learning culture.
This approach could feature the following learning strategies:
A) Learning at the point of need
This is fundamental to meeting the needs of a workforce that are used to accessing content and information as and when they need it.
Whether this is ensuring learning works beautifully on mobile devices or making sure that learners have the resources they need to develop at their place of work, learning needs to be easily accessible.
B) Content curation
When learners are self-motivated and engaged to learn, building a learning portal featuring a broad mix of content enables them to dip in and out of learning at a time that suits them.
C) Effective blended learning
The insights in this blog suggest that the incoming generation will be much more likely to prefer digital learning.
Millennials are known for their reliance on digital communication tools, but Gen Z-ers actually say they prefer face-to-face communication with colleagues.
So while it may be tempting to rely on a digital-heavy learning strategy, a more blended approach is likely to provide greater success.
A blended learning strategy can also be designed to feature the most effective learning modes at the right time or context.
For example, after a phase of more self-directed learning, a face-to-face workshop could be an effective way to bring learners together to explore key learning points or behaviours.
Engaging the on-demand learning generation
Ultimately, the key to engaging consumer learners successfully is much the same as any other learner group.
Take the time to understand their needs and preferences, knowledge and skills levels, and their motivations. Then design a learning strategy that meets them exactly where they are.
To find out how LEO Learning can help you design and implement on-demand learning strategies, contact us today.
1.(2018 ) LinkedIn, Workplace Learning Report 2018, p.27↩
2.(2016) Towards Maturity, The Learner Voice Part 3, p.7↩
3.(2018 ) LinkedIn, Workplace Learning Report 2018, p.27↩
4.(2016) Towards Maturity, The Learner Voice Part 3, p.10↩
5.(2018) Ofcom, Communications Market Report, p.59↩
6. (2018) Ofcom, Communications Market Report, p.68↩