Must Read Blog July 11, 2023

Back to the Future of Work: the Age of Millennials and Gen Z 

As is the case across many industries, it seems like it’s always conference season. Tyton recently joined thousands of practitioners and providers at the Association for Training & Development’s (ATD) 2023 Conference and the Training Industry Conference & Expo (TICE) to connect with leaders and key providers operating at the intersection of education and workforce. 

Across these two events, participants were eager to unpack what the future of work holds for their organizations and employees, and how providers can help them get there. Below, we outline a few themes that emerged from these conversations, as well as some relevant deal activity. 

The next generation of L&D

The Learning & Development (L&D) industry is currently focused on the next generation of workplace learning, where self-driven training and development improves employee engagement, bolsters skill building, meets critical retention needs, and addresses important differences in how younger generations learn. 

Conversations with attendees at recent conferences highlighted consistent challenges faced by today’s corporate leaders to address timely workplace needs. Firstly, L&D leaders are struggling to tackle low engagement among employees in the context of worker burnout, hybrid workplaces, and increased options for job mobility. At one conference session focused on the ‘challenges of L&D’ with an audience that extended into the hallway, participants discussed the complexity of employee engagement while balancing some employees desiring in-person activities and others preferring remote models. The discussion quickly turned to strategies for engaging people not only across different locations but also across generations.

The DIY approach: Millennial and Gen Z employees source their own content

The next generation of workers – Millennials and Gen Z – grew up with the internet, widespread social media usage, and most recently, generative AI. They are more likely than other generations in the workplace to value applied learning, flipped classrooms, and social learning where collaboration and communication are essential components of the learning experience.  

Throughout conference expos, a range of providers showcased ways in which their technology enables employee-driven learning – offering opportunities for employees to opt-in to career paths and associated courses. Learning experience platform provider Degreed highlighted functionality in which employees can request or offer opportunities for shadowing and mentorship, an approach that creates a more dynamic feedback loop to analyze and address demand. Degreed’s approach reportedly results in greater employee-shared content and engagement. Other vendors (such as Schoox) emphasized capabilities suited to social learning and AI-driven identification and marketing of career paths within its platform. 

Conference sessions explored how Gen Z prefers to source their own content through YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok – mostly video-based and peer-reviewed. Tyton’s Time for Class 2023 work on how students in higher education learn in the classroom shows that the number one place Gen Z students turn to for course support is peers. As L&D leaders and learning technology providers adapt to the talent development needs of the latest labor market entrants, external video-content sourcing and social learning capabilities should be top-of-mind.  

Providers like Upduo – a peer-to-peer learning platform which announced its $4 million seed round in March – are seeking to capitalize on these changing preferences. Upduo facilitates skills mastery through one-on-one teaching, enabling employees to learn from each other via conversations that spark ideas and invite reflections. Upduo plans to use the funding to leverage AI technology to identify learning gaps in partner companies’ workforce through employee data analysis. 

Technology providers step in where employers fall short

To meet personalized learning demands among employees and ensure scaffolding for advancement, L&D leaders are in search of models that have effectively leveraged technology to promote career pathways, match talent to open roles, and drive participation in internal apprenticeship and rotational programs. Broadly, organizations are in search of digital solutions that will enhance their ability to promote employee retention via learning by reskilling and upskilling employees.  

LifeLabs Learning is one illustrative model, providing training and coaching services to upskill managers, leaders, and teams to gain essential skills. LifeLabs offers a variety of workshops that include strategic thinking, meeting mastery, productivity and prioritization, career growth and negotiation skills, and more. It was acquired by Atairos at the end of March and aims to accelerate its rollout of digital innovations related to rapid learning and retention. Via research-backed and data-driven approaches, LifeLabs reports helping more than 300,000 managers at over 2,000 organizations bolster performance and gain critical skills to meet people-related workforce demands.  

With a slightly different orientation, KnowledgeVine, a human performance training company that leverages technology to create a sustainable safety culture, was recently acquired by Alliant Insurance Services. Serving skilled-trade fields, KnowledgeVine’s human performance improvement (HPI) technology and training platform is designed to reduce the frequency and severity of workforce errors and improve workforce safety. The Company’s solution helps its clients’ employees identify influences that lead to bad decisions, and effectively serve as a coaching mechanism to eliminate potential missteps while enabling clients to improve their performance.  

Management is nothing more than motivating (and training) other people

Another prominent theme was the role of the manager in cultivating talent by identifying learning opportunities and encouraging employee exploration in pursuit of promotion opportunities. Recent data from LinkedIn’s 2023 Workplace Learning Report indicates three quarters of respondents want their managers to identify relevant training courses, suggesting a need for companies to support personalized learning through management structures. For many managers, being able to effectively coach employees for the future of work requires upskilling of their own. 

Conference sessions and conversations highlighted providers evolving learning platforms to accommodate demand for more applied on-the-job learning. For example, Edstutia is leveraging extended reality (XR), via a virtual learning platform to put experiential learning at the forefront of employee training. Managers can leverage Edstutia’s platform to upskill on coaching competencies by simulating difficult conversations. 

At both ATD and TICE, we encountered a consistent emphasis on the need for L&D to translate to business outcomes and a common frustration with existing technology providers falling short of capabilities promised. How employers and providers find solutions to address the future of work is an active journey, and we welcome the opportunity to connect as you navigate the next generation of workplace learning. 

As always, we welcome the opportunity to continue this discussion.