Training Gen Z in the Marine Industry
Gen Z is looking for a place to fit in the workplace. They are looking for a way to enhance their story while they are making a difference in the world. And you are looking for someone to fill a position. How does your need dovetail with their needs?
Before we get into the training aspect, it is worth understanding who you are going to be training. What are your company’s core values? Are the people that you are hiring in line with them?
What are core values? They are the beliefs and principles that drive your business. They are what make your company unique, and they are the line that you won’t cross – no matter what.
At Tug & Barge Solutions (TBS), we only hire people that live our core values.
We didn’t always do that, and it consistently let us down. We will hire someone who meets and lives all our core values but lacks certain skills because you can always train people.
But you can’t train a core value. Two of our core values are: (1) create fun! and (2) embrace and drive change. If they don’t like change, or can’t have fun, we can’t make them do a 180, and therefor they are not a fit for us.
Get your core values figured out, repeatedly talk about them with your staff and customers, and don’t compromise on them.
When you hire to your core values, the training part will be easier because you have a foundation in your new hire that aligns with the company.
1. Engage them through cross training. Gen Z training must do more than match the job description. It must extend their capabilities. Gen Z is not going to have the knowledge that other generations had. But they are rapid learners. And part of what they want to learn is about all the opportunities at your company.
The company wants a deckhand, but the Gen Z employee envisions being the captain or in a position in the office. Your training must consider their desire to be more than what you currently need. This is not what we have ever done in the industry, but the upside is a more flexible, adaptable, and better positioned workforce for your future.
2. Use videos for storytelling. On average they watch 68 videos a day, so the training must be visual to succeed. Not all videos are created equal. This is the generation of TikTok and short videos which get to the point quickly. Videos must be relevant and devoid of fluff and filler. Videos must leverage strong imagery, animation where possible and even a humorous touch. Keep it real too.
Our Safety Management Systems (SMS) are being converted to video formats. The problem we face is not with the learning system and Gen Zers but with the older auditors and regulatory agencies. They have come to expect one format and are very reluctant to change.
3. Think outside the box. Use QR codes in places where training may be needed. A QR code in the engine room at the generator so they can see how an oil change is done correctly is one way, or at the fire station so a vessel-specific fire drill video can be referenced for training.
4. Create immersive learning experiences. Use simulations, 360-degree videos and game-based learning. Gen Z is not a passive learner generation, so training can’t be passive either. They’re independent and adept at getting the answers for themselves, and they want hands-on training they can fully immerse themselves in.
Gen Z has grown up with full access to the internet, available at their fingertips at all times. This has created a culture of immediacy when it comes to searching for information and consuming content: they expect learning materials to be available to them the moment they need them. Are your materials instantly available or do they have to search through a giant, printed manual?
5. Leverage bite-sized learning. We are developing learning in quick, tightly focused bites that can be consumed in minutes rather than hours.
That’s right, minutes. The average length of a video watched by Gen Z online is 2.7 minutes This type of training feeds both the Gen Z need for instant information and their short 8.2-second attention span.
It also is the way that all the other generations in the workforce are now beginning to learn. If you don’t know how to do something or you haven’t done it in so long that you need a refresher, there’s a YouTube video to learn from. Shouldn’t that be how your training program is structured? Training that is available anytime and anywhere on various media types and it can be consumed on the go.
6. Make it mobile. Gen Z might use multiple devices and switch screens often, but their smartphones are where they really live. 98% of Gen Z owns a smart phone. We must bring the training to where they live.
We’ll lose them if the mobile training is slow to load or requires endless scrolling. To accomplish this, we are:
- Pairing down the content (the days of the 1,000-page SMS are over—can I get an Amen!),
- Incorporating social media interaction,
- Keeping the navigation simple, and
- Designing it for clarity and conciseness.
7. Self-paced learning. Gen Z craves knowledge but thrives when they have the independence to direct their training and create their own learning paths. They are the Google generation. They know where to look when they need to know something.
We will provide them with the place to find what they need immediately and what they need to move up. Training doesn’t have to be as structured as it has been.
Instead of every May 1 we are going to learn about back safety, now it can be a year’s worth of learning in front of them and they can pick what they want to learn and follow their curiosity. With set goals of completing all the required training in a quarter or a year, they will advance through the training agenda.
8. Personalize the learning experience. Use adaptive learning. Adaptive learning is a technique that uses AI technology to pivot learning to quickly address the needs of the end-user. For Gen Z this means less time wasted on training they don’t need and more opportunities for targeted training. Algorithms detect and adjust learning to ignore what the user already knows and focus instead on what they still need to master. Test out options accompany all training modules These algorithms can also see when a learner needs remedial help and then seamlessly deliver it.
9. Add a human touch. Gen Zers still crave human connection. 72% prefer face-to-face communication in the work environment. Gen Z craves social, face-to-face interaction.
It breaks through the multi-tasking noise.
It’s not atypical on any given evening for a Gen Zer to send a direct message (DM) to a friend on Instagram while simultaneously listening to music on their Air Pods, watching a newly released YouTube video, browsing on their laptop with 20+ open tabs, responding to work emails, and interacting on a subreddit. To older generations these are serious distractions—and yet to them, it is normal.
When their manager sends a text or email, it’s just adding to the noise.
To truly reach Gen Z, they need to be sought after, in person, with intentional time devoted to the conversation. The time a manager gives to take them out to coffee or get to know them through a Zoom meeting is more meaningful because of the chaos they are accustomed to.
There are several downsides in not only communication but also the quality of work they can produce because of multitasking. Gen Z struggles to naturally focus on deep work. But in reality, we all do. The human brain can do two things at once by dedicating half our gray matter to each task, but when you add a third task, efficiency and productivity go downhill fast. As their manager, you’ll need to encourage them to find dedicated time to minimize distractions and produce the work they are fully capable of. Networking is also a big favorite among this generation, as is the need for mentorship and exchange of ideas with more experienced workers.
10. And finally, listen. Listen attentively. Listen quietly. Listen for what is not said. Listen with intent.
Gen Z workers have a carefully tuned radar for being sold to and a limited amount of time and energy to spend assessing whether something’s worth their time. Getting past these filters, and winning Gen Z’s attention, will mean providing them with engaging and immediately beneficial experiences.
One-way messaging alone will likely get drowned out in the noise. So, listen. It’s all that you wanted when you were in their position.