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Generation Driven or Disengaged?

  • Less than 1 in 5 young workers prefer working in a team environment
  • 31% of young workers claim that they ‘work better alone’
  • 53% of mangers feel Gen Z’s lack adequate communication skills
  • Almost half of managers claim collaborative working has declined since Gen Z’s entered workplace


Just 19% of Gen Z professionals have reported that they prefer to work in a team setting – with 31% stating that they ‘work better alone.’

Nearly half of managers state that the biggest impact to Gen Z’s entering the workforce is the decline in collaborative working – with a lack of communication skills (53%), team working (21%), and critical thinking (17%) from younger workers being the primary barriers to this.

The findings – from a recent poll by global recruitment firm Robert Walters – will be a blow to many companies who are battling to bring five generations under one roof in a hybrid working world.  

Martin Fox – Managing Director of Robert Walters Canada comments:

“Gen Z’s have the potential to revolutionize our ways of working and business practices, but workplaces risk standing still or going backward unless they understand how to bring the best out of this cohort.

“Every one of us has weaknesses in our professional skillset, and so it is unfair to focus on what ‘isn’t working’ with younger workers – what about their strengths?

“Young workers possess a unique set of skills and characteristics shaped by their upbringing and experiences. Understanding these strengths – and adapting to this – can ultimately lead to a more productive and successful workforce.”

Hidden Talent

When analyzing further, results show that Gen Z are highly adept at communicating through digital channels. In fact, 44% of managers have stated how impressed they were at the ease with which junior workers are comfortable using various digital communication tools such as instant messaging, video conferencing, and collaboration platforms.

Martin adds: “Gen Z's ability to communicate effectively in virtual environments is valuable in today's increasingly remote and digital work settings – with the emergence of AI and the potential this generation brings in teaching older workers the benefits of this.

“However, it is apparent that in-person communication and team-working needs to be built upon if we are to get the very best out of a multi-generational workforce and help Gen Z professionals to fully thrive in the workplace.”

According to a Robert Walters Diversity & Inclusion survey, intergenerational conflict is a key factor in employee turnover – with a quarter of workers stating that clashes with colleagues on ways of working is a contributor when deciding to leave the job.  

Martin gives his top tips on what companies should do to help improve crucial soft skills needed by Gen Z’s:

  • Scale back remote work: if the very reason why soft skills are eroding is largely down to remote work, then companies need to face up to the elephant in the room and look at changing their ways of working. More facetime in the office will bring about natural collaborations and in-person communication.
  • Provide training: Adding soft skills development, such as problem-solving and leadership skills, to training and development programmes from the onset at onboarding stage and throughout Gen Z’s career trajectory. Likewise experienced workers will need guidance in how to mentor a new generation of digital-first workers.
  • Mentorship Programs: Establish mentorship programs that pair Gen Z employees with experienced professionals within the company. Mentors can provide guidance, share their knowledge and expertise, and offer advice on developing essential soft skills.
  • Cross-Generational Collaboration: Encourage collaboration between Gen Z employees and individuals from other generations within the company. This allows for the exchange of ideas, perspectives, and knowledge, enabling Gen Z employees to learn from more experienced colleagues and develop interpersonal skills through interaction with different generations.
  • Feedback and Performance Reviews: Provide timely and constructive feedback to Gen Z employees during performance reviews. Whilst typically a performance review may focus on targets and tangible results, clearly communicate expectations regarding soft skills and offer specific suggestions for improvement. Regular feedback helps individuals understand their strengths and areas for growth.
  • Hire the right leaders: who have the patience and ability to understand the needs and strengths of multiple generations within a workforce. They will need to be both strategic and nurturing to bring a multi-generational workforce together.


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