What a Gen Z-Led Startup Can Teach Us About the Future of Education

by / ⠀Entrepreneurship / April 25, 2022
Millennials have altered the shape and future of education. As a group, they helped solidify the remote trend. Learning has had to adapt.

Millennials took the workplace by storm. They upended traditional business practices such as top-down management, long hours in the office, and staying with the same company for decades. They insisted on collaborative, team-based organizational styles. Millennials have even altered the shape and future of education. As a group, they helped launch the remote work, learning, and leisure trends.

Additionally, Millennials demonstrated that they weren’t afraid to switch jobs to improve their working conditions, gain an increase in pay, secure schedule flexibility, or align with their values. In some cases, Millennials launched their own companies to build a work environment that met their needs.

After a brief struggle to preserve business-as-usual, most companies reconsidered their stance. They couldn’t compete with startups that offered Millennial-friendly working conditions. They accepted that attracting and retaining Millennials required fundamental change, and they started to adjust.

Now Gen Z has entered the workforce, and they are picking up where Millennials left off. Gen Z-ers are digital natives. They expect constant connectivity. They are adept at blending work activities with personal time.

This group is no longer interested in bending and adapting to meet the needs of employers. Instead, members of Gen Z are choosing employers that can bend and adapt to the changing needs of the workforce. When they can’t find the right fit, they launch their own companies or take up gig work to build a customized work/life blend that fits their needs.

Digital Tools for a Digital World

There are three things that Gen Z won’t compromise on when it comes to learning and development in the workplace.

1. The Future of Education

First, going into debt for basic skill-building is off the table. Education in nearly every subject area is available online at low or no cost.

Many employers want their staff to have specific knowledge and skills. As a result, they have to be prepared to provide appropriate tools and resources for learning. The future of education is online.

2. In-Person vs. Online

Second, in-person lecture-style education is out. So are lengthy online modules that take hours to complete.

Sitting in front of a computer to read slides and click “next” is — at best — ineffective. At worst, it is off-putting enough to affect employee engagement and retention.

3. Flexibility with Office Hours

Third, Gen Z workers aren’t interested in rigid office-based schedules. They expect flexibility in terms of when and where they fit training activities into their day.

A few minutes between meetings? Standing in line for a coffee? Waiting for something to come out of the oven? Learning can fill up all of these times.

Snagging Quality Employees with Online Learning Opportunities

The three co-founders of Arist — all part of Gen Z themselves — originally set out to create entrepreneurship courses that could be accessed by high school students in the Yemeni conflict zone. As a result, they felt sure they had stumbled upon the future of education.

When their text message-based microlearning courses were wildly successful, they realized the concept would work in a wide range of settings. Specifically, small businesses could leverage this model to deliver effective employee development without going over their limited budgets.

After all, microlearning meets the criteria set forth by Gen Z — access to skill development in a clear, concise format that is available anytime, anywhere. Consequently, microlearning is the right digital tool for an increasingly digital world.

The Communication Habit That Gen Z Is Canceling

Gen Z has been quite outspoken when it comes to canceling one business communication habit in particular, namely overly formal language and corporate jargon that is easily misinterpreted. Likewise, one survey reported that 63% of respondents find it off-putting when others use workplace jargon in messages.

Additionally, a full 70% of respondents in that same survey said they prefer informal communication over strict professionalism. In other words, it’s time to do away with “keep me in the loop,” “circle back,” and “move the needle” in favor of everyday language that encourages meaningful communication.

Gen Z employees are enthusiastic about the casual tone that has taken over written communication. The adoption of emojis, reactions, GIFs, voice recordings, and simple texts makes connecting with coworkers and clients fast and easy.

More importantly, it has removed the risk of misinterpretation that comes with overly-formal emails.

The survey noted that 57% of Gen X-ers and 73% of Millennials said informal messages are helpful for avoiding miscommunications. Emojis and similar communication tools make it easier to accurately interpret intent when employees aren’t face-to-face with colleagues, leaders, and customers.

In addition to meeting Gen Z workers where they are in terms of how, where, and when they learn, microlearning leans into changing communication preferences. Microlearning relies on casual communication to increase engagement and to ensure that concepts stick. This training method includes the appropriate use of emojis, reactions, and GIFs that appeal to microlearning participants.

Microlearning: The Bottom Line

Microlearning offers employers an opportunity to build meaningful training and development tools that appeal to their Gen Z workers. It tends to be far less formal than traditional classroom-based methods, and it is more engaging than lengthy online modules.

For employers, microlearning offers important advantages in terms of conserving resources.

Video courses and traditional e-learning modules require a significant investment of time and money. This is often hard to come by for small businesses. Traditional training methods typically have low rates of engagement. It is difficult to test them before they are fully completed. Among other issues, that means it is difficult to deliver mission-critical training in a timely manner.

On the other hand, developers design microlearning for a rapid launch. This utilizes proven-effective communication methods. They attract learners’ attention and keep them interested for the duration of the module. Text-based microlearning courses created by Arist launch 7x faster than traditional counterparts. They average 95% open rates, a 10x engagement rate, and satisfaction rates of greater than 90%.

The bottom line is that microlearning represents the future of education. It does more than ensure that workers have the knowledge and skills they need to be successful. These tools are essentially frictionless, which is key to building employee engagement, increasing retention, and reducing turnover.

About The Author


Merrill Cook is director of brand and content at Arist, a microlearning company used by 1 in 5 Fortune 500 companies to deliver learning in the flow of work. Arist uses Gen-Z and Millennial-preferred communication practices to circumvent friction in learning objectives.