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How to Retain Generation Z:  Use Learning

How do companies retain and nurture the talent of Gen Z? The answer: Offer interactive opportunities for learning.

Gen Z, individuals born between the years of 1997 and 2012, are entering the workforce during one of the most tumultuous job markets in history. It is altogether likely that recent graduates who started working in the past year have not yet met their co-workers in person, and job seekers from the class of 2021 are just starting a cycle of virtual onboarding.

For many young employees, this is not an ideal start to a career, nor is it an appealing way to join a team. There is a sense of missed networking opportunities and a lack of personal connections that come with sitting next to someone at work.

The 2021 LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report provides some interesting insight into the goals, aspirations, and thought processes of Gen Z. The most staggering statistic: 76% of Gen Z respondents reported that they believe learning is the key to success in their career[i].For Managers, HR Leaders, and L&D professionals, this becomes an exciting opportunity: build and offer the learning opportunities that Gen Z are seeking and develop the talent base to drive the organization in the future.

Business simulations create an ideal experience for Gen-Z learning. Throughout the pandemic, we at Insight Experience have been partnering with clients to invest in and support early career employees with learning that enables them not just to learn new concepts but to build relationships, practice skills and learn from each other. Interactive group-based learning is rewarding learning for Gen-Z employees.

In 2020, we partnered with a major financial services firm to deliver an early-career learning experience. The key themes of this program include leading yourself, leading colleagues, and navigating the organization for success. Participants work through a custom simulation in which they must build their relationships and project support with key stakeholders in order to deliver on a client request. In the course of the experience, participants give a presentation and practice live conversations with characters from the simulation. Ultimately, the outcomes that teams drive and the client solutions they can deliver are based on the relationships they build and the connections they make across the firm.

While the content and direct learning is rich, both the peer networking and peer learning are richer. Participants leave the program having worked through a five-module, team-based business simulation experience and having received feedback from facilitators and peers during every step in the process.

This program equips those early-career participants with multiple skills: It builds their courage and confidence in speaking up; strengthens their networking skills; and provides them opportunities in practicing their presentation and public speaking skills. These transferable skills are applicable across teams, business units, and industries.

These learning investments benefit both the employees and the business. The participants learn and grow, and value the visible investment in their learning. It is a win in multiple dimensions. Simulation-based learning programs lay a strong foundation for the individuals to build their careers, but they also equip businesses with more diverse perspectives, more effective and engaged employees, and more empowered teams — all who can support and learn from one another.

Team-based leadership development can be the learning and organizational networking opportunity that Gen Z employees are seeking, especially in this virtual environment. By providing early-career, structed leadership development, companies can both develop their leadership pipeline, while simultaneously satiating Gen Z’s desire for development and learning.


For more on custom simulations, click here. For more on developing new leaders, click here.


Krista Campbell  is a Senior Associate Consultant with Insight Experience, a Boston-based firm delivering contextually rich business simulations and learning experiences to accelerate and integrate leadershipbusiness acumen, and strategy execution.