6 Professional Development Programs To Offer Your Gen Z Employees

Professional development programs are an essential part of attracting and retaining Gen Z talent

Professional development is one of the major perks and benefits that today’s young employees are looking for when searching for a job. In fact, Gen Z employees value professional development opportunities even more than other factors like compensation and company prestige, making learning & development programs an essential component to attracting and retaining Gen Z talent. But with so many types of programs to choose from, where do you begin? We recommend implementing a variety of professional development programs that combine formal and informal learning, as well as options that can be completed on the employees’ own time or as part of the regular workday. Take your professional development programs to the next level with these six suggestions, tailored to the needs of Gen Z.

Start with a robust training program

Starting at a new company can bring back similar feelings to the first day at a new school – excitement, jitters, and the desire to succeed. Start new Gen Z employees on the right foot by giving them an onboarding process that will orient them to the company as well as their role. This is especially helpful for big organizations that have a large intake of entry-level employees at the same time. For example, companies like Deloitte and Goldman Sachs offer specific in-house classes and trainings developed for junior-level staff to build their foundational skills at the company, before they formally start behind their office desk.  

Create a mentorship program

Connecting senior-level employees with entry-level employees through a mentorship program can provide more insight into career paths at the company, as well as improve relationships within the organization. Research has shown that workplace mentorships can lead to improved career outcomes, as well as employee engagement, retention, and inclusion. Mentorship programs are particularly important for underrepresented groups. For example, PayPal offers a variety of mentorship communities and groups for employees who identify as women, Black, Latinx, LBGTQ, and veterans. Mentorship programs are an excellent opportunity to not only offer professional development, but also promote a more inclusive work environment.

Host company networking events or socials

Networking events often call to mind a loud room with people making awkward introductions and exchanging business cards. But that doesn’t have to be the case! Every so often, schedule a social event for the entire company to encourage employees to leave their desks and mingle. You can start with an icebreaker activity that will get them talking to people outside of their usual departments. Not only will intra-company networking or social events enable employees to put faces to names, but they will also help to break down silos and promote cross-disciplinary collaboration. For example, maybe the marketing team has limited interaction with the finance team, or the sales team only works intermittently with IT. And of course, networking events and socials are not only great for professional development, but also fostering a positive company culture.

Schedule Lunch and Learns

Lunch and Learns are the perfect way to provide ongoing professional development for employees during the workday. You might host Lunch and Learns for general career development topics like public speaking or business writing, or you might have workshops that are highly targeted to a specific department. Invite an industry expert to give a talk or offer employees across the company an opportunity to do a Pecha Kucha style presentation. And of course, you can either provide lunch or ask employees to bring their own.

Offer a subscription to LinkedIn Learning or another online learning platform

Professional development should not be a one-size-fits-all approach. Often, employees have their own ideas about what skills they want to develop, or their supervisor will have recommendations. Luckily, with the plethora of online education providers, creating a bespoke professional development plan is easier than ever.

According to research conducted by LinkedIn, Gen Z employees are interested in learning programs that are self-directed, on-demand, and customized to their needs. Online learning programs such as those offered by LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com) enable employees to take courses on their own schedule and gain the skills that will help them succeed. You might consider providing a list of recommended LinkedIn Learning or Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) for employees looking for a place to start. You can also offer some time during the workday or give a few days off so employees can complete their online course.

Offer tuition assistance for graduate programs or continuing education

Supporting higher education is an excellent perk as well as a way to help promising employees develop into leadership roles. Would an employee on track for a managerial position benefit from an MBA? Would your marketing lead with a bachelor’s degree add more value to the company if they had a master’s? Tuition assistance would likely require the most financial investment of the professional development options on this list. Consequently, some companies will require that employees who use a tuition benefit remain with the company for a minimum period of time, ensuring that both employee and employer reap the rewards of advanced education. 

In addition, some industries like architecture and engineering have continuing education requirements that professionals must fulfill in order to maintain their license. Offering to pay for the necessary classes will show that you are invested in the employees’ continued success at the company and in their career. You may also provide employees with an annual stipend for any continuing education program of their choice, such as if they wanted to take a coding class or in-person Photoshop course at a local college.

Professional development for Gen Z means investing resources into continued training and giving employees the time and resources to enhance their skills on their own. You’ll not only end up with smarter, more competent employees, but you can increase retention and attract more talented candidates over time. 


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