As the class of 2023 prepares to take on the real world, a new report has shown that Generation Z is having a harder time adapting to in-person workplaces.
For recent graduates, most of their college career was upended by the Covid-19 pandemic, leading to virtual classes and online internships. As a result, many Gen Zers have begun taking courses in order to brush up on their work skills, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.
The WSJ found that many companies, universities, and recruiters are training new hires on developing their soft skills – common interpersonal skills or traits that allow workers to interact harmoniously with others in the workplace.
At KPMG, one of the world’s biggest accounting firms, full-time hires this summer are expected to attend the firm’s training facility in Florida, where they will practice talking in person through sample scenarios. The company told the WSJ that they’ve found new hires are “stiff, talk too fast, or rely too much on filler words like ‘um’ as they presented”.
At the training facility, Gen Z workers will receive training on how to maintain eye contact and take pauses during conversations.
“Graduates’ disrupted college experience might mean they struggle with the basics reading colleagues’ cues or navigating a meeting,” Heidi Brooks, a senior lecturer in organisational behavior at Yale University’s School of Management, told the outlet.
Other major companies have needed to inform young workers on appropriate office culture, according to the WSJ. At Protiviti, a global consulting firm, executive vice president of global human resources Scott Redfearn said they’ve had to remind new employees about avoiding casual clothing, like ripped jeans, in the office.
The company has also included a series of small-group virtual meetings in its onboarding process. Some meetings focus on developing conversational skills, followed by in-person social gatherings so Gen Zers can put their training to the test.
Meanwhile, Michigan State University has begun requiring business students to take classes on soft skills in the workplace, after observing that “students are more awkward and unsure” while networking than they were before the pandemic.
While many Gen Z workers may need extra support in adapting to workplace culture, an April survey by TimelyCare found that 53 per cent of 2023 graduates said they wanted a fully in-person job, with only 21 per cent saying they wanted to work fully remotely.
Another recent survey of 1,300 managers suggested that Gen Z is harder to work with than other generations, so much so that 65 per cent of employers said they have needed to fire them more than employees of other generations. In addition, one in eight managers said they’ve fired a Gen Zer within just a week of their start date.
Although Gen Zers are eager to enter the workforce, many adults of older generations have recently criticised Generation Z – the group of people born between the late 1990s and the early 2010s – for some of their social media habits. John Catsimatidis, the billionaire owner of New York City grocery stores Gristedes Foods, recently claimed Gen Z was “too busy on TikTok” to work on their careers.
In an interview, Catsimatidis said he used to work 70 hours a week at a supermarket and ridiculed young workers for not doing the same. “That’s one of the problems we are having in our country these days, the kids are busy playing TikTok,” he said. “If you’re working 100 hours a week, and it’s not working, you’d better work 120. You can’t win if you’re afraid of losing.”
A New York University professor also received backlash after saying that young people “should never be home” if they want to be successful. “You should never be at home. That’s what I tell young people. Home is for seven hours of sleep and that’s it,” said marketing professor Scott Galloway. “The amount of time you spend at home is inversely correlated to your success – professionally and romantically. You need to be out of the house.”
However, many reports suggest that Gen Zers simply view the workplace differently from previous generations. A McKinsey report from last October found that “employed Gen Z respondents are more likely to report that the pay they receive for their work does not allow them a good quality of life and are less likely than others to report feeling fairly recognised and rewarded for their work”.
While Gen Z employees may need additional training when it comes to soft career skills, some Gen Zers have gone viral for sharing the nontraditional ways they sign off emails in the workplace.
In a video posted to TikTok last year, one Gen Z employee signed off their email with “that’s all,” while another simply wrote, “hehe, bye”. A third rejected use of commas, writing, “alright alright alright,” while one employee went so far as to tell his colleague: “F**k you, I’m out.”
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