A total of 90% Gen Z workers grapple with workplace social anxiety. Within this, 35% of Gen Zers confront social anxiety almost daily, with only a small 10% reporting that they never experience it.
The study conducted by Kahoot!, a global learning and engagement platform revealed the same in their latest study - Kahoot! ZetaPulse Gen Z Workforce Study.
Commenting on the same, James Micklethwait, VP of the company said, “All employers are looking for the key to unlock the full potential of their workforce. This study validates that to help their Gen Z employees bring their A-game to work, employers need to place soft skills advancement at the top of their priorities list while also experimenting with innovative, quick and real approaches to communication and training which are mindful of their social discomfort.”
What does this mean for the industry?
As per the survey findings, 23% of Gen Z individuals experience social anxiety during customer interactions. Additionally, the data indicates that 44% of them feel uneasy or nervous about giving presentations at work, while 38% expressed hesitancy in expressing their opinions during meetings.
To address these concerns, respondents highlighted the importance of a non-judgmental and safe workspace, with 53% considering it a significant factor in encouraging active participation. Interestingly, women (44%) place particular importance on receiving advance notice if they are expected to contribute their point of view in meetings or presentations, compared to men (34%).
The study also identified industries with the highest rates of socially anxious knowledge workers, with Education, Finance, and Construction topping the list. In contrast, the Professional Services and Manufacturing industries exhibited the lowest rates of social anxiety.
Here’s what to do:
1. Soft skills training
The importance of soft skills training in fostering a secure and inclusive work environment cannot be overstated. Therefore, Gen Z's urgent call for such training stands out as a crucial requirement in the current professional landscape. The survey further emphasises this need by ranking the advancement of soft skills, including communication, leadership, and negotiation skills, as the top priority for Gen Z employees (42%).
This priority is particularly pronounced among women (48%) compared to men (36%). Peer-based learning emerges as the second most significant area for skill enhancement (36%), closely followed by the allocation of dedicated work time for self-directed learning (34%).
"All organisations are full of hidden talents and knowledge. It’s time for employers to tap into this valuable resource by facilitating peer-to-peer learning and encouraging their Gen Z employees to create engaging, interactive learning sessions, presentations, or even courses to challenge their team members and share their knowledge and skills", said James Micklethwait.
2. Mind the academic shortcomings
While education has provided Gen Z with a foundation for skill development, the widening gaps in crucial workplace competencies have now become a focal point for employers. To assist in addressing these gaps, Gen Z pinpointed the top five areas where their educational experiences lacked, shedding light on the specific areas that require employer intervention:
- Networking (32%)
- Emotional intelligence (35%)
- Conflict resolution (35%)
- Stress management (39%)
- Creativity (39%)
On a more positive note, critical thinking (51%) and time management (50%) were identified as the skills that were most effectively developed during their educational experiences, underscoring the areas where education has positively impacted employers.
3. Provide corporate training
While 36% of Gen Z express strong confidence in their employers' efforts to provide them with the essential, forward-looking skills necessary for success, the message from the remaining respondents is clear: employers must enhance their efforts.
Gen Z did not hold back when evaluating their employers, with 32% stating that their company's culture does not align with the values of their generation, prompting a need for self-reflection. Regarding training and development, Gen Z offered insights for employers to create a more engaging future:
- Showcase authentic experiences through employee-generated content to foster a sense of community (31%).
- Incorporate humour and comedy into learning programs (31%).
- Provide bite-sized microlearning opportunities (29%).
- Utilise popular memes to create shareable, humorous content (28%).
- Offer immersive offline experiences to bridge the gap between online and offline learning (27%).
- Leverage platforms like TikTok and real influencers to deliver relatable, authentic messaging (27% - particularly crucial among Black respondents).
AI Leading Gen Z to Skill Succes
- As Gen Z integrate AI into their work, concerns arise regarding its equitable adoption. The survey sheds light on how Gen Z incorporates AI into their career development and support:
- 27% rely on AI for writing assistance, making it the most prevalent application among Gen Z workers, highlighting their dependence on tools like ChatGPT.
- 25% utilise AI for acquiring new skills, indicating a proactive approach to skill enhancement.
- 20% use AI to enhance verbal communication skills, recognising its value in refining this crucial soft skill. However, the study also uncovers that a substantial 24% do not use AI at all, with notable gender disparities—31% of women abstain compared to 17% of men.
- 32% of workers in the Professional Services sector do not use ChatGPT at all, which is significantly higher than the average.
- Additionally, only 19% of those in Finance and 16% in Education within Gen Z do not use AI tools at all.