Andrea M. Pampaloni’s bio photo

Andrea M. Pampaloni, Ph.D., founder of AMP Consulting, has more than 20-years of experience in corporate, nonprofit, academic, and government settings. As a communication consultant, she has been presented at national and international conferences and published in several journals and books. Andrea earned her Ph.D. from Rutgers University, focusing on organizational/interpersonal communication and public relations.

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Andrea M. Pampaloni, Ph.D.

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August 13, 2019

What Skills will be Needed for Generation Z workers?

Recent Gen Z Grad Celebrating Graduation

Move over Millennials, Generation Z is making their mark as they start entering the workforce. 

Born between 1995 and 2010, Gen Z both exemplifies and contradicts the values of their predecessors.

Often referred to as “digital natives,” this group has always used mobile devices as their primary form of communication and they are very comfortable conducting their lives online.  They are also more racially and ethnically diverse than any other generation, which fuels their desire to mobilize for social justice. In fact, according to a McKinsey report, the “search for truth is at the root of all Generation Z’s behavior.”2

At the same time, they eschew labels, value individual expression, and desire recognition.They are competitive and independent and want to be judged for their own contributions – don’t group them with the rest of the team!Kind of sounds like every young generation! However, Gen Z now accounts for more than a quarter of the current U.S. population5 and as they start their careers, they are in a unique position to reshape the “new normal” in the workforce.  And they are up for the challenge! Where Gen Z is different is in their formative experiences and influences. As a group they are pragmatic, and while they want to make a difference in the world, having grown up during a recession has made them wary so they seek security and growth opportunities as they prepare for careers.6 7 To tick all their boxes, they need soft skills that will grow and help them flourish and adapt to the changes coming to the workforce over the next decade.  

Skills for a Future Workforce

Top jobs forecasts for the next ten years consistently identify health care and technology careers as the fastest growing and as offering the greatest potential. Specific jobs include application and software developers, marketing researchers, and a range of medical specialists including registered nurses, nurse and physician practitioners, physicians and surgeons, and physical therapists. 8 9 10 11 The Bureau of Labor Statistics also identifies some niche growth opportunities in sustainability fields such as solar panel installers and wind turbine service technicians.12

With the exception of the sustainability jobs for which on-the-job experience can be acquired, most top jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree. Medical jobs require more extensive academic training, an exam, and practical experience. For many the effort is worth it for many as these jobs pay well above the average United States annual salary of $47, 216.13

Despite the diverse nature of these jobs, there is a great deal of consistency in the type of skills identified as critical to successful performance in these roles. Across industries and jobs, the emphasis is on soft skills, specifically communication, interpersonal ability, critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making. According to the 2019 State of the Workplace report prepared by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), however, these are among the skills job applicants lack. The SHRM survey identified the top three missing soft skill sets as 1) problem solving/critical thinking/innovation/ creativity, 2) ability to deal with complexity and ambiguity, and 3) communication. The top three technical skills that are missing are 1) trade skills (e.g., plumbing, carpentry, welding, etc.), 2) data analysis, and 3) science/engineering/medical skills. To make matters worse, half of the survey respondents report this gap is worsening, creating an even greater need for skilled employees.14    

Preparing Gen Z for the Workforce 

Recognizing that higher education is a pre-requisite for the top jobs, Gen Z is pursuing college as a means of career preparation rather than personal growth or social experience.15 Academic institutions have been slow to recognize this shift, however, and are still playing catch-up to meet changing student needs. More recently, calls for new models of education have been put forth that recognize the unique characteristics of the current student population, such as highlighting their unique programs to better prepare and position graduates on their career path. Project- and research-based curricula that develop marketable skills also appeal to Gen Z’s desire for applicable experiences.16

Despite these efforts, there is a gap between skills the workforce requires and what Gen Z brings to the table. Businesses across sectors report a lack of qualified workers and surveys by the National  Association of Colleges and Employers17 and other organizations18 19 found stark differences in how employers and graduating students view their capabilities. Employers for example, found students lacking in leadership, communication skills, professionalism, among other areas. The students, however, evaluated themselves as proficient in most areas, in some cases ranking themselves more than twice as proficient as employers did!20 Perhaps not surprisingly, more and more businesses, including Google, Apple, Whole Foods and other nationally and internationally recognized brands, are placing a greater emphasis on hands-on experience and starting to hire more non-degree applicants.21

Businesses 

In addition, adapting traditional workplaces and learning models to accommodate work-life balance is demanded by Gen Z employees.22 Flexibility in when and where they work is a must, as is frequent, face-to-face feedback from a direct supervisor. 23 24 Gen Z recognizes that they must constantly reskill25 26 and L&D trainers are taking note of their preferential learning styles. This group spends more than half of their day on their devices,28 more than 70% have video game consoles,  and 60% of Gen Zers have used YouTube as a primary learning tool since they picked up their first device. 29 Their dependence on technology combined with a need for face-to-face communication provides strong support for blended learning methods. Incorporating gamification, videos, virtual reality, and instructor-led sessions address these preferences for both digital and human interaction. 

Gen Z is here, and their numbers will continue to increase. Providing opportunities for them to learn critical skills will help fill the growing skills gap, improve service and product quality, and allow these digital natives to more fully contribute to a multi-generational workforce that benefits your organization with knowledge and expertise that might span half a century! 

  1. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/01/17/where-millennials-end-and-generation-z-begins/ft_19-01-17_generations_2019/
  2. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/consumer-packaged-goods/our-insights/true-gen-generation-z-and-its-implications-for-companies
  3. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/consumer-packaged-goods/our-insights/true-gen-generation-z-and-its-implications-for-companies
  4. https://www.forbes.com/sites/deeppatel/2017/09/21/8-ways-generation-z-will-differ-from-millennials-in-the-workplace/#1a295f3476e5
  5. https://www.businessinsider.com/generation-z
  6. https://www.forbes.com/sites/deeppatel/2017/09/21/8-ways-generation-z-will-differ-from-millennials-in-the-workplace/#1a295f3476e5
  7. https://kahoot.com/files/2018/12/Kahoot-Edtrends-2018-Corporate-Training-report.pdf
  8. https://www.businessinsider.com/best-jobs-future-growth-2019-3#1-registered-nurses-30
  9. https://www.inc.com/business-insider/best-jobs-of-the-future-2017.html
  10. https://www.kiplinger.com/slideshow/business/T012-S001-best-jobs-for-the-future-2018/index.html
  11. https://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/rankings/the-100-best-jobs
  12. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/fastest-growing.htm
  13. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/wkyeng.pdf
  14. https://www.shrm.org/about-shrm/Documents/SHRM%20State%20of%20Workplace_Bridging%20the%20Talent%20Gap.pdf
  15. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonwingard/2018/11/21/training-generation-z/#1570f9ccbde0
  16. http://connect.chronicle.com/rs/931-EKA-218/images/NextGenStudents_ExecutiveSummary_v5%20_2019.pdf?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTVRReU9UQmlNRGMyWmpnMyIsInQiOiJRN2tZN0RqQkxNWCtzVGtPbm1RZEQrQWFySSt6enFCSTIzbVN0N3ZkZnFKNVQweFFlSU9McUp2a29DcHhnYTBlc2lna1c3MlNDTUNCZkVFM1NMYU9pZmh5d1lPT2R4TW1RbXJDRytFYXoxSk5uZFU2cHo5eTlNUFpoU3pvUkdIMiJ9
  17. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/02/23/study-students-believe-they-are-prepared-workplace-employers-disagree
  18. https://www.forbes.com/sites/nicholaswyman/2018/08/03/hiring-is-on-the-rise-but-are-college-grads-prepared-for-the-world-of-work/#739475124e7e
  19. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/employers-new-college-grads-arent-ready-for-workplace/
  20. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/02/23/study-students-believe-they-are-prepared-workplace-employers-disagree
  21. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/16/15-companies-that-no-longer-require-employees-to-have-a-college-degree.html
  22. https://www.inc.com/ryan-jenkins/the-2019-workplace-7-ways-generation-z-will-shape-it.html
  23. https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinecenizalevine/2019/06/06/gen-z-survey-reveals-how-to-get-the-most-from-this-new-workforce/#3399a8c91fac
  24. https://kahoot.com/files/2018/12/Kahoot-Edtrends-2018-Corporate-Training-report.pdf
  25. https://www.forbes.com/sites/deeppatel/2017/09/21/8-ways-generation-z-will-differ-from-millennials-in-the-workplace/#1a295f3476e5
  26. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/05/how-millennials-and-gen-z-are-reshaping-the-future-of-the-workforce.html
  27. https://trainingindustry.com/blog/strategy-alignment-and-planning/how-will-we-train-generation-z/
  28. https://www.vox.com/2017/7/17/15961370/millennials-netflix-account-gen-z-video-games-mobile-phone-nielsen
  29. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonwingard/2018/11/21/training-generation-z/#1570f9ccbde0

Andrea M. Pampaloni’s bio photo

Andrea M. Pampaloni, Ph.D., founder of AMP Consulting, has more than 20-years of experience in corporate, nonprofit, academic, and government settings. As a communication consultant, she has been presented at national and international conferences and published in several journals and books. Andrea earned her Ph.D. from Rutgers University, focusing on organizational/interpersonal communication and public relations.

Written by

Andrea M. Pampaloni, Ph.D.

Topics

Enterprise learning and development report