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Why is Gen Z suffering with workplace social anxiety?

HR professionals and employers need to create a more inclusive and comfortable work environment for Gen Z employees, including the importance of safe spaces, advanced notice in meetings, peer-based learning, refreshed training approaches and more.

An inaugural study* has revealing that 90% of Gen Z knowledge workers are facing social anxiety in the workplace. The survey highlights a significant 35% of Gen Zers facing social anxiety on a near-daily basis, while a mere 10% claim to never encounter it.

“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,” said James Micklethwait, VP of Kahoot! At Work.

Gen Z’s Tongue-Tied Tendencies Put Employers, Industries to the Test
According to the survey, 23% of Gen Zers experience social anxiety when interacting with customers. Moreover, the data revealed that 44% are uneasy or nervous to deliver presentations at work – 38% of Gen Z respondents shared their unease in voicing their opinion during a meeting.

To address these apprehensions, respondents indicated the pivotal role of a non-judgmental, safe space workspace, with 53% viewing it as a strong incentive for active participation. Notably, women (44%) particularly value advanced notice if they are asked to contribute their POV in meetings or presentations in contrast to men (34%).

The study also pinpointed the most affected sectors, positioning Education, Finance, and Construction as the top industries for socially anxious knowledge workers, with the Professional Services and Manufacturing industries showcasing the lowest rates of social anxiety.

Soft Skills Training is Gen Z’s New Manifesto
Soft skills training can play a significant role in creating a safe and inclusive workspace. Hence, Gen Z’s SOS plea for soft skills training resonates as a critical necessity in today’s professional landscape. The survey underscores this demand, placing soft skills advancement (communication, leadership, and negotiation skills) at the top Gen Z’s immediate employer priorities list (42%). Notably, this resonates more profoundly among women (48%) than men (36%). Peer-based learning emerges as the second significant area for skill enhancement (36%), closely followed by dedicated work time for self-directed learning (34%).

“All organizations 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.

Academic Shortcomings Now Command Employer Intervention
While education has laid the groundwork for Gen Z’s skill development, the ever-widening gaps in essential workplace competencies now command the attention of employers. To help, Gen Z identifies the top five areas in which their educational experiences fell short, shedding light on the precise areas that now demand employer intervention:

  • Networking (32%), emotional intelligence (35%), conflict resolution (35%), stress management (39%) and creativity (39%).

On a more positive note, critical thinking (51%) and time management (50%) were found to be the most highly honed skills in school, highlighting areas where education has made a meaningful impact for employers.

Gen Z Wants a Corporate Training Glow-Up
While 36% of Gen Z expressed high confidence in their employers’ efforts to equip them with the essential, future-forward skills required for success – for the remaining respondents, the message is clear: employers need to step up their game. Gen Z didn’t hold back when it came to assessing their employer, with 32% asserting that their company’s culture fails to align with the values of their generation, prompting a necessary introspection. When it comes to training and development specifically, Gen Z provides a roadmap for employers for a more engaging future:

  • Showcase authentic experiences through employee-generated content to foster community (31%)

  • Incorporate humor and comedy into learning (31%)

  • Deliver bite-sized microlearning opportunities (29%)

  • Leverage popular memes for shareable, humorous content (28%)

  • Offer immersive offline experiences, bridging the online-offline gap (27%)

  • Utilize platforms like TikTok and real influencers for relatable, authentic messaging (27% – notably crucial among Black respondents)

Gen Z is Riding the AI Wave to Career and Skill Victory
As Gen Z knowledge workers embrace AI in the workforce, questions arise about its equitable usage. The survey highlights Gen Z’s utilization of AI in career development and support, revealing that:

  • 27% harness AI for writing assistance, marking it as the top use among Gen Z, demonstrating the prevalent reliance on tools like ChatGPT.

  • 25% leverage AI for learning new skills, indicating a proactive approach to skill enhancement.

  • 20% employ AI for verbal communication development, recognizing its value in refining this essential soft skill competency.

However, the study also unveils a significant 24% who don’t utilize AI at all, with noteworthy gender disparities – 31% of women abstain compared to 17% of men. Surprisingly, 32% of Professional Services knowledge workers don’t use ChatGPT at all, much higher than the average. Only 19% of Finance and 16% of Education Gen Z knowledge workers don’t use it at all.

*Kahoot! ZetaPulse Gen Z Workforce Study

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