Have you ever hopped into your car and start driving down the road only to find yourself on the oh-so-familiar path to work, on your day off?
Work is not where you were intending on going, and yet your brain has gone immediately to that pathway or the set of neurons that due to repetition, are programmed to fire in a certain way because of the familiarity of the situation. It might be the routine as you leave your home, it might be the time of day or just that you’re distracted and don’t really give your brain a clear message for the neurons to fire on. In the book, Why Do They Act That Way, by David Walsh, Ph.D., he states, “Neurons that fire together, wire together,” and every single person has millions of neurological pathways caused by the constant firing and wiring of neurons, through repetition and experience. As adults we have the advantage of repetition. Years of experience gives us an understanding of what to do next. Whether there will be consequences to our actions or most importantly, how to rectify a situation if we do choose the wrong path. Young people need the same kind of advantage. Repetition, multiple experiences, and opportunities create healthy pathways in their brain for positive decision making and skill building. For the young people that are seeking employment with you, those jobs provide so many wonderful experiences for them. Experiences that create positive neurological pathways. Those experiences can also create a solid and reliable future employee, so we must remember what our role is in the entire process. Based on cognitive neuroscience research, adolescent brain development lasts until approximately 24 years of age--the age group that is currently defined as Gen Z. During the different stages of development of the brain, those important pathways are being created and the pathways rely on positive support and multiple experiences. More than likely, members of your seasonal, part-time, or new full-time staff are a part of the Gen Z generation. Therefore, if you have the pleasure of working with or employ young people up to the age of 24, there are going to be those days that you ask yourself, why do they act that way? Take note that you can help create those positive pathways for success on the job by providing relevant, repeated opportunities for them to learn and develop into the kinds of staff members that helps you, your department and your organization succeed. Another way to think about creating those pathways is comparable to learning a foreign language. How many ways do you practice learning that language? You write it, speak it, read it and you hear it. Each of those experiences engages the brains neurons to fire and then wire together through various styles of repetition. If we want young people to understand a required task for the job such as knowing how to sign people up for classes, learning aquatic safety protocols or the way they should engage with customers, the opportunity to practice must come in many different forms and through many different experiences. Ideally, from as many different individuals that are willing to remain calm and patient and remembering that a new pathway is being created for that employee. According to Jason Wingard, a contributor to the Forbes online magazine, “Employers who take a broad view of training and development pathways will tap into this generation’s thirst for practical, handson, technology-driven education that will offer employers a valuable return on their investment.” Additionally, 97 percent of Gen Z are using some type of video streaming platform in a typical week, such as YouTube. In fact, YouTube is the top spot for Gen Z social media usage, with 84 percent of Gen Z overall and 90 percent of Younger Gen Z (13-17) using it at least once a week. YouTube is
If our goal is to develop a successful workforce and ultimately, a successful work environment, we must recognize our role as leaders to supervise in such a way that provides a clear understanding of those expectations.
being used by Gen Z more than any other social media app for fun and entertainment (60 percent). It benefits you to consider creating micro learning opportunities, such as teaching and training videos to develop the necessary skill sets, using platforms that meets them where they are. This will be an important tool for today’s teens career progression. It’s up to every manager or supervisor to provide that learning opportunity, the opportunity for those neurons to fire and wire together. It’s always surprising when an employer feels that just by putting on the uniform, a young person should understand the expectations of the job. If our goal is to develop a successful workforce and ultimately, a successful work environment, we must recognize our role as leaders to supervise in such a way that provides a clear understanding of those expectations. Instead of looking at the training process and thinking about the amount of time it takes, think of it as time well spent when observing the outcome and time you’ll save in the long run. Be willing to engage in a mentoring or shadowing process that allows your younger staff the opportunity to learn from your more experienced staff. In fact, Gen Z place high value on mentorship with 33 percent stating it’s one of the most important benefits an employer can offer. All industries must remember that support in the workplace is vital for a happy and engaged workforce and this is where mentoring comes in. Mentoring also helps to create those pathways of success for the job, for their future and for yours. Done well, setting goals in advance with training, mentoring opportunities, and building the necessary relationships with the Gen Z generation can turn goal progression into the necessary, positive pathways which allows this generation to level-up and achieve amazing things. Lori A. Hoffner is the president of Supporting CommUnity, Inc. As a speaker, trainer, and consultant, Lori’s mission is to encourage intentional, positive, everyday practices to create a confident and thriving environment for organizations and the communities they serve. She can be reached at Lori@ SupportingCommUnity.com or call Jenn Garber, Director of Sales and Marketing to schedule a customized staff training at 720-315-5655.