How to help Gen Z employees close the gap on soft skills
Despite their reputation as savvy digital natives, many Gen Z workers struggle to navigate hybrid and remote work. A recent Asynchronous Work Report by visual collaboration platform Miro reveals that Gen Z is less comfortable with async work than their colleagues from other generations, who grew their skill sets in more traditional work environments. Gen Z workers can’t pull from the same reservoir of experience, and given they will make up about 27% of the workforce by 2025, companies need to pay attention.
The data shows that many Gen Z workers have trouble communicating effectively in the modern workplace—especially when it comes to asking for help—and they’re still learning how to forge collaborative, positive partnerships with colleagues.
Sixty-four percent of Gen Z workers say they worry about annoying their coworkers by asking too many questions async, a far larger percentage than for Millennials (53%), Gen X (43%), or Baby Boomers (37%). Gen Z is also more likely to say they struggle to communicate more in writing than verbally.
So, how can managers help Gen Z bridge the communication gap?
How to help Gen Z level up
According to Miro’s new Soft Skills Report, 90% of Gen Z knowledge workers say they’ll likely or definitely learn new skills in the next year to help “recession-proof” their roles. Despite Gen Z’s hunger to learn hard skills, their soft skills often need the most development. For example, many young professionals struggle to collaborate effectively, with 61% saying they’ve had a project negatively impact relationships with coworkers they got along with before. What specific help does Gen Z need, and how can managers support them?
Thankfully, leaders have plenty of opportunities to help their newest workers build valuable soft skills, from company-wide initiatives to daily one-on-one interactions.
Offer interactive soft skills training
As is already common for hard skills, employers can also offer training on topics like communication, negotiation, networking, public speaking, and conflict resolution. Lessons on adaptive communication skills are particularly useful for diverse, intergenerational teams.
Gen Z is not alone in preferring to learn by doing, which means creating an experiential learning environment is key to the development of not only your youngest workers but your entire intergenerational workforce. Provide opportunities for people to shadow more experienced team members and practice their skills with each other, whether virtually or in person. Empowering Gen Z workers to build their proficiency in a structured educational environment can help grow their confidence in applying what they learned directly to their role.
Help them connect their work to a broader vision of success
Gen Z employees are ambitious and value transparent communication. That’s why managers should help this cohort understand why skills like relationship-building and collaboration are key to success, both for the business and their own career progression.
You can strengthen their emotional intelligence by communicating how their actions impact the broader team. Schedule regular check-ins and provide specific, constructive feedback about what your employees can do to improve.
Create moments for community and collaboration—especially for hybrid work
Managers can lead by example by baking trust and connection into how teams operate on a daily basis, whether it’s during a project kickoff, weekly sync, or informal team celebration. Design meetings that build camaraderie and create opportunities for collaborative problem-solving.
Just as importantly, establish best practices for how teams should work together asynchronously. This can be done even in remote and hybrid work settings, especially when using tools like online visual workspaces that make engagement even easier.
Create structure to provide support
Consider establishing mentorship and buddy programs that foster connections across generations and amongst peers. This lets Gen Z employees know they have a broad support system to turn to; they’re not left adrift to figure things out on their own.
Remember, a majority of Gen Z workers say they worry about annoying their coworkers by asking too many questions. To stem this concern, consider setting an open-door policy or scheduling virtual office hours so your team knows questions are always welcome.
Mind the soft skills gap
While Gen Z workers inherently bring important digital skills to the table, they could use some support to up-level their soft skills. Through training, feedback, and tools that foster deeper collaboration, managers can set the next generation—and their business—up for success.