Gen-Z workers lack teamwork and collaboration skills but have ‘hidden strengths’: survey

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Generation Z workers prefer to work alone and now lack collaboration skills as a result, new research suggests, and their managers say the workplace is suffering the consequences. 

A poll of 1,200 professionals conducted last month by global recruitment firm Robert Walters showed that fewer than one in five workers who belong to gen Z — born between 1997 and 2004 — prefer a team environment, with 31 per cent claiming that they “work better alone.”

In addition, nearly half of managers polled said gen Z’s entry into the workplace has resulted in a decline in collaborative working, with 53 per cent saying gen Z employees lack in-person communication skills. The managerial respondents also said that teamwork (32 per cent) and critical thinking (17 per cent) were challenges as companies attempt to bring five generations together in a modern workplace.

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The key for gen Z workers to thrive in the workplace will be understanding their “hidden strengths,” said Martin Fox, managing director of Robert Walters Canada, in a news release.

In fact, recognizing and taking advantage of each generation’s skills and strengths can help to reduce intergenerational conflict in the workplace, which a previous Robert Walters survey showed was a key factor in employee turnover. Companies should consider training on soft skills, mentoring, hiring strong leaders and scaling back remote work, Fox said, to mend intergenerational conflict and fully appreciate gen Z workers.

And while in-person communication and teamwork must be “built upon” in a multi-generational workplace, gen Z also has the potential to “revolutionize our ways of working,” Fox said. 

Results of the poll, which surveyed respondents using targeted polls on LinkedIn and internal marketing mailing platforms, showed that gen Z held an advantage over previous generations, including baby boomers, gen X and millennials, when it comes to digital literacy and skills.

In fact, 44 per cent of managers polled were “impressed” with how younger workers navigate digital communication tools, including instant messaging, video conferencing and collaboration platforms. 

“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?” Fox said. “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.”

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