What Learning Organizations Need to Know About Generation Z

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

By Subadhra Parthasarathy, Associate Director of Learning and Development at Cognizant Technology Solutions

Subadhra is working on an advanced degree in Data Science and Information Management at Harvard Extension School. She is a learning technologies evangelist and platform architect for digital talent solutions.

We are all collectively experiencing the fourth industrial revolution, defined as blurring of the real world with the technological world. by Klaus Schwab, the Chairman of the World Economic Forum. In this revolution, we are experiencing change at a much faster rate than ever before. Talent will continue to be a corporation’s most valuable asset and our job is to educate them for not just the jobs of today, but of tomorrow. Our learning organizations must focus on giving employees the tools and curriculum that will help them adjust to new business environments and their professional and personal development needs.

Some of the biggest trends that I’ve been paying attention to include, the importance of preparation as it relates to performance, the appeal of macro education, the skills ecosystem to support a diverse employee base and the blurred boundaries of micro credentials. In order to improve our organizations, we must first understand what it takes for our workforce to deliver in the new digital age.

I worked with Future Workplace to analyze some of their proprietary research with the intent of coming up with some key conclusions around the workplace readiness of Generation Z. Last September, Future Workplace and Randstad surveyed over 4,000 Gen Z and Millennials from ten different countries, including India and China. I was able to collect 256 data points, including facts and attributes, from these survey respondents when conducting my analysis. I measured the following aspects of their learning preferences: Effectiveness in Preparation, Performance Level, Gaps in Preparation, Career Influencers, Present Industry they are in today and the Future industries they may choose.

Performance vs effectiveness in preparation for work

First, I measured the proportional visualization of performance against the effectiveness in the workforce. To no surprise, we see the positive influence of preparation to higher levels of performance.


Giant Leaps and Relevance of Macro Education

There are several modes of preparation indicated as contribution for skilling and improving the capability of our people. While multiple factors complete how impactful are they to the effectiveness and can we understand the relative importance on the role they play to get the workforce prepared. Unleashing the power of data science we executed a multivariate linear regression and also prioritized them in order of relative importance from aspect of each impacting effectiveness of preparation. The results very simple and clear.   While on the job learning is required the Colleges and Higher Ed contribute significantly to power up the workforce.

The Ecosystem of Skills

To succeed in the digital revolution, employees need multifaceted and cross-functional skills. Employees who have the desire to learn, are more likely to have higher levels of preparation and are therefore more likely to succeed.. In order to determine the importance of the skills and their relative order of priority and relevance, we executed a multivariate linear regression on the individual’s skills impacting ‘Effectiveness in Preparation’. The results again provide strong conviction of what is often considered common knowledge. We found that having a global perspective, understanding the changing dynamics of your business keeping up with industry trends and activities outside of work are critical to the development of young workers.

Similarly career influencers do play a strong role in the effectiveness of preparation. The biggest influence on the career decisions of young employees is their parents and peer network. Before they enter the workforce, their teachers can greatly influence choices involving their major and future employer selections. Once they enter the workplace, their manager plays a bigger role in supporting their aspiration.


Blurred Boundaries and Relevance of Micro Credentials

We asked the Gen Z workforce about their present industry and their willingness to move across 23 different industries. We can see certain predictable moves like between Life Sciences to Health Care, from Telecomm to Engineering or Technology, and between Admin to Finance & Accounting. The comprehension of blurring boundaries across industries is much more disruptive. The analysis performed here is a basic correlation and association analysis to take in the current industry of the employee and compare against their agreeability to move across 23 different industries. The network visualization here helps deliver the message on their readiness. While we see learning on the job to be important, the ability to develop adjacency skills has to easily accessible to employees Educational offerings such as MOOCs, micro credentials and Micro Masters will play a significant role in the effective preparation of the workforce.



  1. Higher Education has still a significant role in the preparation of the workforce. However their complete potential can be leveraged if the educational curriculum keeps up with the rate and pace of change in the global business economy. .
  2. Activities outside work, global business acumen and industry knowledge are high relevance factors to preparation.
  3. Parents and peers play a key role in influencing career. Also equally important is significance of role the teachers can perform which is sadly not utilized and professionals from field need to contribute heavily to teaching as it’s a social responsibility
  4. On the job training is still essential to employee development. The blurring boundaries between industries and jobs make it important for companies to help employees develop their skills portfolio.
  5. The emergence of MOOC (Massive Online Open Courses,) SPOC (Small Private Online Courses,) Micro credentials such as Micro Masters will continue to increase in importance as individuals become more involved in continuing developing their own development on the job. With the shortened shelf life of skills, the need for continuous learning will become even more important as we continue in the fourth industrial revolution as the blurring of technology into every part of our lives becomes the norm with virtual reality, augmented reality and the growth of chatbots in the workplace.