Gen Z employees need more help with face to face connections
The Sector > Workforce > Leadership > Gen Z employees need more help with interpersonal skills, author notes

Gen Z employees need more help with interpersonal skills, author notes

by Freya Lucas

April 10, 2024

Adults from Generation Z – those born between 1995 and 2009 – need more help to be confident when it comes to interpersonal skills and face-to-face interactions at work, according to recently released data from McCrindle Research. 


The findings will be of note to those who are employers in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, where previous data has shown that the median age of those working in the sector is younger than the national average, and that ECEC has “a large share” of workers aged 25 to 34 years. 


This data was last gathered in the workforce census in 2021, and it is likely that the next ECEC workforce census, which is being compiled this year, will show a further increase in the number of Gen Z employees in the sector. 


For leading Gen Z expert and social researcher Claire Madden the findings signal what she is terming “The Great IRL Hesitation.”


“Following The Great Resignation, it seems like we may now have The Great IRL Hesitation: people feeling awkward in (professional) interactions, presenting, asking for help, and even just picking up the phone for a call can fill many Gen-Z and Millennial employees with dread and create a feeling of apprehension,” she explained.


A 2023 study revealed that 90 per cent of Gen Z employees experience social discomfort or anxiety at work, with being called on in a group situation and giving presentations in their top five reasons as to why they feel anxious.


Ms Madden is adamant that Australian employers should be considering ways to help Gen Z feel more confident in real life interactions for a more productive work environment and to build healthier future leaders.


“The way we work is being redefined for Gen Z, as they emerge into their career years amidst seismic global shifts and rapid disruption,” she said.


“Gen Z bring unique strengths into the multigenerational workplace. They are informed consumers, willing contributors, and digitally capable. Yet whilst they are tech-savvy and confident at curating their virtual identities, there can be a confidence gap when it comes to interpersonal skills and communicating face-to-face with clients and colleagues. They’ve been starved of the multiple opportunities to foster these skills in the way their older colleagues have.”


Top tips for managers of the Gen Z workforce 


Ms Madden offers the following ‘top tips’ for those who are managing the Gen Z workforce: 


  •       Facilitate a supportive relational environment in your workplace culture – Teaming up colleagues to work together on a project will help Gen Z build offline relationships and feel like they can be their true authentic selves at work.


  •         Give Gen Z achievable opportunities to grow their confidence in face-to-face communication – including training and development, and contexts where they can share their knowledge.


  •         Creating pathways that provide Gen Z with personal and professional development is key to a retention strategy.


  •       Help Gen Z identify and develop ‘transferable’ skills that they will be able to take with them on their career journey into the future. This includes skills like communication, problem solving and leadership skills.


  •       Secure foundations and positive sense of self-awareness and confidence within Gen Z because this will translate to confidence in interactions with colleagues and clients.


  •       Provide regular, ongoing, positive and constructive feedback to Gen Z. They have become conditioned to regular feedback through online platforms. In the workplace they like to know whether they are doing things well and how to improve in their work. Remember it doesn’t take long to give a positive compliment after you see a staff member do a good job.


The National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) has released a collection of on-demand professional development courses – called Prologue by NIDA – inspired by the lessons and insights of the NIDA Corporate Training team.


To learn more about Prologue, including costs and ways to implement, please see here


More information about Ms Madden’s work is available here

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