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Gen Z and Proximal Development

Gen Z is impatient, they are going too fast, and they want to know everything at once.

You prepare a four-week training plan for your new joiners, only for them to find it too slow and get bored. As a manager or L&D professional, you try to reason and say, "It takes time to learn these things, so just take it easy. Watch how your colleagues do it; your supervisor or trainer will train you on the next part. It took me months to learn these things trust me."

What we often forget to do is sit down and evaluate how external forces impact our carefully crafted plans. Gen Z is not impatient. Their proximal development is affected, but we forgot to consider that.

The Zone of Proximal Development is defined as the space between what a learner can do without assistance and what a learner can do with adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers.

Whilst ten-plus years ago, we relied on our supervisors and peers to close the gap between these two elements, today, technology does that for us. The assistance in closing the space is online content, which Gen Z knows. They don't need to wait for Sharon to come and train them on most things because they can look things up quickly. Isn't that why we also provide online training?

L&D professionals and managers must consider this and allow learning mostly related to skills and knowledge to occur according to the learners' space.

Nothing is more demotivating than hearing, "You learn too fast, you need to slow down."

It doesn't mean we cannot assess learning and advise the learner to revisit the topic because, let's be honest, people often think they know everything, but it is not always the case. So managers and L&D can help them manage their proximal development without slowing them down and eventually frustrating them.

Ok, great, but you would say we still face the "I am bored and not learning anything" sentence. This is when I say focus on the development of the person. This will keep you busy for the rest of your life.

Self-awareness building or learning to lead and manage people takes a lifetime of learning. Why don't we keep ourselves busy with that?

Employees or people, in general, are not bored; they just want to fill years with things that take only weeks or months to complete.

Once a young Executive Chef and I were talking about her career. She was already on the top regarding the rungs of that famous ladder. But that ladder only represented the positions and skills. So I told her to take another ladder representing leadership and who she is as a person and spend the next 15-20 years climbing that. She looked at me, wanting to argue (she is a little fighter:-)) But then she said, I am not even on the first rung, am I? I smiled and said, "Good girl." and I left.

If you want to spend your time developing your leaders instead of continuing the struggle described above, let us know.

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