All the outputs created in the framework of iGEN project were designed to be based on thorough research phase. The following article presents several conclusions made after the large-scale survey concerning communication and relationships abilities of GEN Z graduates in the workplaces, involving 596 graduates from 7 European countries: Czech Republic, Hungary, Cyprus, United Kingdom, Poland, Portugal, Spain. The research, based on questioning, presents contemporary European young generation with regards to the preferences and expectations they believe before graduation and real working experience after joining the occupation.
How does the education support students’ preparation for occupation?
The matters of GEN Z were discussed in two major aspects. First, the opinions of GEN Z towards current education system and their attitude to the potential work environment and the circumstances of being employed. As for the matter of education, it occurred that the school in a wider sense prepared them well for work. How well do schools prepare GEN Z for occupation? European VET and bachelor schools have got a good evaluation: 83% of respondents report “more or less” (of it 28% excellent). When asked about how they could have been better prepared, 64% suggested that learning through “real life” scenarios (i.e. experience); 88% by taking part in an internship; and 40% believed access to a careers service would have helped to prepare them better for the world of work. Skills such as intercultural skills, meeting deadlines and being proactive were cited by only one quarter of respondents.
Entering the workplace
As GEN Z enter the workplace, like generations before them, the first significant obstacle they encounter is their socialization into the organization. The newcomers learn about tasks and social norm expectations through socialization processes, as well as how to adapt to and negotiate their roles, and how to gain others’ acceptance of them as participating members in the workplace. More than any of the current generations, GEN Z learns by observation and practice, not by reading and listening to PowerPoint presentations. The analysis performed in iGEN project shows that the young generation prefers experiential learning and team practices. The main difficulty of teaching the GEN Z is in linking theory with the actual practice and using more lectures than other methods.
Which skills need improvement?
When asked about the skills they believe they need to strengthen to enter the job market, public speaking, problem solving, language skills and decision-making were the most frequently cited skills by young people. Skills such as intercultural skills, meeting deadlines and being proactive were cited by one quarter of respondents.
It turned out from the Focus group discussion on the working environment that generally Gen Z members are quick, impatient, resilient and interactive – but when communicating at the workplace, GEN Z prefers oral face to face communication. But, GEN Z’s reliance on IT and social media will have an impact on their ability to use interpersonal communication skills to establish relationships with the future supervisors and employers. The relationship between employees and their supervisors is essential to ensure that the organization delivers its mission and reaches its strategic goals.
What are the preferences in the work places?
The skills that employers require are changing, with soft skills replacing technical ones. The new skills may polarize the workforces. Youngsters highly skilled in IT were advantaged as soft skills gave them an additional dimension to their job since soft skills were presented as an alternative to technical competences.
Although GEN Z is perceived as a digital, global and self-confident generation with high expectations about their carriers, on the other hand they may have the problem to work in teams. Z people are extremely self-confident, tends not to resist authority relationships but feel a strong need for human connection. However, the importance of communication in the workplace is highly stressed by young people. When asked about the kind of co-workers they would prefer, then “co-workers who listen to your ideas and suggestions”, “co-workers who respect you”, “co-workers who like to collaborate” and “co-workers who challenge you” were mentioned.
Common problems at the new work environments
First, the idea of the lack of practice is common. The responders feel lack in some soft skills like an ability to control tension, to work in teams, public speaking, an ability to put arguments together and logically express their opinion, social skills, a global perspective, how to prepare themselves for a job interview and how to “sell” themselves. They have learned a lot of theoretical material, while they lack practical skills such as organizing tasks, solving problems, collecting and analysing data.
Secondly, it turned from the discussion on the working environment that generally, youngsters referred they like a working environment that stimulates them while working with their peers, with whom they can exchange views. They prefer workplaces where there is a good climate (“good professional and personal relations” with colleagues, “to have the possibility to ask them for doubts and questions”, “to learn and find new stimuli” thanks to the team) and a good relation with the boss. Interviewees prefer to work alone or in a small group because they consider it more effective and easier to communicate and manage.
An inspection on GEN Z was conducted in the cooperation of seven European countries with the different geographical and economical setting. Nevertheless, the research done in three stages (questionnaires, focus groups and semi-structured interviews) has shown that there are only minor differences in GEN Z opinions throughout different countries towards their present and future relations to both education system and occupation. More importantly, the findings point out the need for a change in attitude of education institutions’ and employers. It is known that any systemic change in the education institutions is a painful process but at least the awareness should be raised among the pedagogical staff. And more importantly, the employers should rather pay attention to the oncoming GEN Z as they are still mostly too un-opened to accepting new ways of leadership that this generation will need.
To read more of our findings, please go to RESULTS.