Gen Y and Z want ‘continual development’, but what does a good development programme look like? Andrea Pattico discusses the future of graduate learning and development in 2018.

So you’ve read the latest article picking apart the psychological profiles of Generation Y and Generation Z, assigning stereotypes and warning you to shake things up or be left behind.

Well, don’t tear up your learning and development plan just yet.

Effective L&D plans are still largely driven by what People professionals have known all along: everyone learns and processes information in a different way. Marketeers have been writing lots of articles about how these generations absorb information and how they behave as consumers.

While we should be careful to understand that this might help with how we communicate L&D options or even evaluate success; it doesn’t necessarily mean we require a different L&D plan dependant on an employees age bracket.

No matter the generation, new recruits want continual career development and opportunities to grow both personally and professionally – don’t we all?!

Here are six things you should consider when assessing if your learning and development programme is ready for the graduates of 2018.

1 Learning Styles

Schools and universities are still not as progressive as we might like when it comes to tailoring education to suit different learning styles. Therefore as employers, a great place to start any L&D programme is by helping individuals understand their preference for learning and communicating, how to adapt learning using different styles and what that means for them in making their mark in the workplace.

It’s great if your plans are already tailored for different styles, but if you haven’t taught graduates about learning styles and helped them to identify their preferences, we are as guilty as the school system.

In addition, discussing what credibility means for your business is so important and by that, I don’t just mean the company values. Values are super important, but so is an individual really understanding how they need to develop their character and thinking about how what it means to be authentic in the workplace. Particularly for graduates who may be embarking on the first job of their professional career, giving them the opportunity to consider how they wish to ‘show up’ rather than leaving it to chance can give them some great perspective on what it means to be an effective part of any company.

2 Digital Transformation

Review your People Tech stack and embrace solutions that help drive effective development and keep a record of objectives, feedback and progress. It’s also sensible to figure out how to celebrate accomplishments in a way that is more personalised.

Advancements in technology and an increased understanding around how to genuinely engage employees has led to some great L&D software development. Many of these platforms are using gamification, where points lead to something meaningful to the individual.

3 Blended Still Works

That said, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water and let digital take over entirely. Learning should be accessible anytime, anyplace and anywhere, but it should also be in the most relevant format! There are many companies who are completely abandoning face to face training and other forms of non-digital, collaborative learning and replacing that all with a digital learning suite.

Though Gen Z has been born into the digital age and Gen Y have adopted digital tech, it doesn’t mean they have no regard for interpersonal communication. In fact, they still seem to crave collaboration and opportunities to discuss, question, challenge and seek to understand – pretty similar to most other human beings.

It’s also worth remembering that graduates have usually just left environments where they are still used to sitting in a lecture hall or attending tutoring sessions, so expecting them to immediately subscribe to all learning through digital methods is bonkers!

Speak with your teams and find out what type of blend will work for them and most importantly, understand why.

4 Work to Strengths

Make sure your content is tailored to the job at hand so your graduates’ learning is tied to clear business impacts. This means they hit the ground running and see results. Equally, it’s important that individuals can easily identify opportunities for personal growth.

Research has shown that we need a balance of stretching our strengths and reducing our weaknesses in order for us to be successful. So, one thing that will be different for L&D for future generations is the fact that we no longer have to obsess over improving our weaknesses, but can continue the shift towards building on our strengths.
I’d argue that strength based development is for everyone. I hope in time, for future generations, we don’t have to work as hard as we do now to help individuals understand why we focus on strengths as well as weaknesses.

5 Clear Pathways

Does your plan consider the entire employee life cycle, from graduate to manager to leader? Are there ways for hungry learners to remain engaged, and technical specialists to feel like they are progressing?

As businesses grow, upward progression gets harder, so redefining what career options are available in your business and how individuals can grow their career should ideally be agreed as early as possible, not just when it becomes a problem.

Graduates entering the workforce for the first time have a big picture in mind – they’ve just spent years at university in order to build a career, not just land a job. Make sure your programme enables them to build a career plan then craft a personalised development plan around their goals.

6 Employee Experience

Does your plan integrate with the rest of the business, and line up with what your managers and leaders are learning about managing their people? New starters will undoubtedly direct most of their questions to their line managers, and it’s vital to the overall employee experience that your managers are supporting your L&D material in practice.

The Future of Graduate L&D

I think it’s clear that a good L&D programme will always be based on building a personalised experience that gives each individual an equal chance at success. L&D plans should be continually reviewed and refined with the latest industry research and developments, not completely changed each time a new generation enters the workforce.

What does intrigue me is how companies continue to focus on graduate recruitment and development when a lot of people simply can’t afford to go to university these days.

Perhaps the question we should be asking ourselves is how businesses can work better with schools and colleges to build relevant development plans that help prepare young people for the future of work, rather than waiting until they get there!