Among the lessons of the Great Resignation, the mass, voluntary exodus from the workforce of now some 33 million employees between April and November of last year, has been that people want to learn — and they will leave what appear to be perfectly good jobs if they feel they have stopped doing so.

Consider the October 2021 What’s Next for Work study from YPulse, experts on all things Gens Y and Z, which asked 1,450 young people what would make them quit their jobs: 20 percent of those born between 1982 and 2000 (Gen Y, or Millennials) and 27 percent of those born between 2001 and 2019 (Gen Z) said “not feeling like I am learning” would trigger them to walk. Conversely, the existence of learning programs is, for a significant portion of young workers, a major attraction as they seek new and better homes.

In fact, in a May 2021 survey of 1,000 young people, YPulse found that 27 percent of their sample would be influenced by paid educational and training opportunities to take a job. So, it is without question that in the current and ongoing war for talent, savvy employers will be those that pay attention to the unmet learning needs of younger workers by offering educational and training benefits that outpace those of their competitors. And the savviest of all will recognize both that there are dramatic differences between the learning needs and interests of these two generations, and that by offering an array of both vocational and lifestyle learning opportunities for their associates, they will have a well-rounded workforce as well as a built-in associate retention program.

Fortunately, a brand-new pulse survey from YPulse can provide a roadmap of sorts for learning and development teams looking for where to focus. The team at YPulse asked young people, “What new skill or topic do you plan to learn more about this year?” The responses were fascinating. Not only did they shed light on the significant generational variation between Y’s and Z’s, but they also showed how much influence more than a year of being at home has had on (re)shaping the interests of young workers.

Not surprisingly, a number of more domestically oriented skills found emphasis. Also, perhaps owing to the popularity of streaming TV shows like Money Heist, Squid Game, and Emily in Paris, interest in learning a foreign language fell near the top of the list for both groups. The growth in importance among young people for financial and mental well-being has also translated into learning interest on the part of both generations in these areas. What’s more, both generations clearly understand the increasing role that technology will play in their lives, and desire to enhance their technical skills. Finally, owing likely to the great uncertainty and havoc wrought by the pandemic, both groups seem to be expressing an underlying interest in developing or improving basic business and entrepreneurial skills. Here’s specifically what both groups said they want to learn in 2022:


  1. Financial / money management
  2. Art / design / crafting
  3. New language/ foreign language
  4. Entrepreneurial / business skills
  5. IT / coding / computer science
  6. Cooking / baking
  7. Trading skills/ cryptocurrency
  8. Fitness/ weight lifting
  9. Play a new instrument
  10. Construction/ DIV skills
  11. Gardening


  1. IT / coding / computer science
  2. Art / design / crafting
  3. Mathematics
  4. New language / foreign language
  5. Financial / money management
  6. Cooking / baking
  7. Play a new instrument
  8. Fitness / weight lifting
  9. Technology
  10. Counseling skills / psychology
  11. Science

The primary opportunity here for any business is to first understand the importance of learning to workers of any age, particularly younger workers, and the correlation between employer investment in associate education and retention. Second, the point is to recognize the unique learning interests of the two youngest generations, which, together, now make up nearly two-thirds of the workforce, and then to create learning and development programs of both vocational and lifestyle natures that cater to them accordingly.

In doing so, small and medium-size enterprises can simultaneously expand the capability of their organizations, while also creating a mechanism for both attracting and retaining the sort of growth-oriented associates that continue to stream out of less concerned businesses in growing numbers month after month.

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