3 Insights from Engaging with Generation Z

3 Insights from Engaging with Generation Z

The article is co-authored by Tavin Tan and Goh Swee Heng.

Generation Z.

A 2016 report from American multinational finance company Goldman Sachs describes Generation Z as those born since 1998. Next year, Generation Z turns 20 & will begin entering the workforce.

In November 2016, recognising that Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) students might be keen, we designed, developed & facilitated a 3-hour workshop session on Presentation, Communication & Public Speaking skills for 27 NYP students, mostly aged from 17 to 19.

The workshop session, conducted as part of Grassroots Toastmasters Club’s community outreach, was also an opportunity to position our Toastmasters International’s Education Programme (on Communication & Leadership) as an offering to help prepare NYP students for the workplace.

Students’ feedback showed an average rating exceeding 86%, revealing their high level of satisfaction with the workshop, resulting in 10 students (more than one-third of total number of students) penning down their interest to visit our club.

During the workshop & our continuing engagement with the students, post-workshop, over the past 8 months, we gained 3 surprising insights.

Mastery, Autonomy, Purpose

Attaining Mastery in what they do, enjoying Autonomy in how to go about doing it and defining the Purpose of why they are doing it, appeals to Generation Z.

This means chances of them being engaged in any Continuing Education & Training programme becomes higher if it creates opportunities for deep mastery.

Providing them opportunities to learn from experts in their fields & at their own pace, keeps them engaged.

Creating an environment where they can translate what they have learnt, into purpose-drive projects with positive impact, strengthens that engagement. 

Competitive yet tolerant & accepting of differences

During the workshop, the students were hyped up by a game we had challenged them to.

In teams of 5 to 6 students, they had to work together to complete multiple tasks within a given period of time.

The more tasks they complete, the higher the score of the team, the greater their chance of winning.

After their first attempt, we got the winning teams to share their strategies in relation to TetraMap Model (a behavioural model that facilitates communication and teamwork, taking individual differences into consideration), they came to realise the different and diverse communication styles every individual had and the key to communicating effectively; is to adapt to each individual’s communication style.

Before the second attempt, we then challenged the students to leverage TetraMap Model to see past the individual differences within their teams, improve their communication and team work.

This led to a fervent discussion among the team members on how they can beat the competition and win the game.

While there could only be one winner, the outcome was that every team improved their performance (in the second attempt) with improvement rates ranging from 20% to 50% (based on the number of tasks completed) compared to their performance in the first attempt.

On hindsight, such games which allow students to instantly apply what they have learnt in a competitive way piques their interest and drive to learn.

If similar structures (like the above) can be found in workplaces, there is a chance that Generation Z can be constantly engaged to want to improve their performance while enhancing their communication and team work. 

Technologically Savvy & Efficient Multi-Taskers

Generation Z adapts to new technology with amazing ease which is no surprise, given that they are often termed as Digital Natives.

This sense of ease seems to support their multi-tasking behaviours seen during the workshop as well as in continuing engagement with them after the workshop.

As we interact more with Generation Z during the past few months, it becomes apparent that they are often too distracted by new stimulus to stay focused on one task at a time. Many of them really can’t prevent themselves from multi-tasking.

In fact, constantly switching between updates on social media and face-to-face participation was a habit seen among them. Multi-tasking seems to have become a way of life for Generation Z.

Engaging Generation Z will therefore require giving them meaningful yet challenging assignments that requires creativity, helping them avoid distractions by reducing frequent, ad-hoc meetings and interruptions from management or team mates as well as guiding them to see how and why multi-tasking can undermine their effectiveness in many personal and professional areas.


What does it mean for us, in terms of engaging Generation Z, especially at the workplace?

To keep their drive for a programme, inculcate games that allow them to apply what they learnt and lead them to self-realization that they are learning. Mini-achievements reinforce their hunger to master what they committed to achieve.

Overall, keeping them engaged and connected via both social media and regular meet-ups, creating opportunities for M.A.P, co-create fun and challenging learning experiences and developing a strong sense of community within an organisation, will be key to engaging the Generation Z.

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