Survey Finds Soft Skills Training Important to Gen Z

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Aug 2, 2019

As job seekers enjoy a buyer’s market, attracting the best talent is harder than ever for employers. With Generation Z moving into the workforce, employers are faced with the challenge of attracting and retaining the newest top talent while still maintaining a productive work environment for more experienced and older employees.

Based on a survey my company, Sitel Group, conducted online in March, we recognized there are steps HR leaders can take immediately to manage expectations across a multi-generational workforce. Here are the three we developed with the survey results:

1. Train soft skills to improve the CX

Almost all employees – 95% – agree the employee experience (EX) affects the customer experience (CX), which ultimately impacts the business and the bottom line. However, creating a positive employee experience is a challenge across multiple generations, each of which has its own expectations. For example, a SmarterHQ consumer-focused survey of millennials found they will switch their attention among electronic devices 27 times an hour. As a result, digital connectivity is vital; 66% of Gen Z workers believe automation or technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) will help make their work easier in the future, and 39% believe the type of training they need most is technology skills training.

However, while workers feel most in need of technology training, their opinions on the kind of training their co-workers and the greater workforce needs differ – more than any other generation, 40% of Gen Z believes companies should be providing soft skills training when it comes to speaking to customers or clients. But the respondents to our survey told us only 44% of employers offer soft skills training at all. But whether or not companies focus on soft skills or technology, ultimately employee training is critical for both CX and EX. Approximately 94% of Gen Z employees who receive regular, on-the-job training say they deliver better CX, customer service and overall care to clients – more than any other age group.

2. Invest in robust L&D

Continual learning and development (L&D) is key to maintaining a happy, cohesive, productive workforce; 92% of employees are more motivated and engaged when they learn something new on the job. This trend is particularly high among Gen Z workers, as 94% say they are motivated by learning opportunities – more than any other generation. At the same time, more than 37% of employees would leave their current employers if not offered training, and 79% say that when searching for a job it is important to them that the employer offers a formal training program.

When it comes to the kind of training employees are looking for, 40% of Gen Z employees prefer instructor-led, in-person training. Their preferences trend with employees of other ages; on average, 43% of employees favor in-person training. The second-favorite choice is blended learning, which uses a mix of in-person and digital learning to enhance workers’ growth. Approximately 83% of employees find some amount of on-the-job training to be the most effective, with self-paced learning coming in a distant second at 8%.

3. Help managers support employees

Compared to employees’ strong demand for training, incentives and support from managers for employee L&D is surprisingly low. Nearly 70% of employers do not incentivize training, and when they do the reward is more likely to be a gift certificate (31%) than benefits (19%) or advancement opportunities (27%). For many employees this indicates a fundamental disconnect – 35% of employees believe their employers do not take the time to get to know them and accurately understand any skills gaps or training areas beneficial for advancement. In fact, 23% of Gen Z employees have not attended, participated in or completed training at all because they felt their managers found it unimportant. As a result, securing managers’ buy-in should be of paramount importance to HR professionals seeking to grow their organization’s workforce.

More than half (53%) of Gen Z employees believe employers penalize employees for not having certain skills on the job. As a result, 42% of them have avoided asking for training out of fear of reprisals. Although in-person training is favored, an intermediary step to help overcome these biases would be to provide online courses for employees to complete in their own time – 68% of Gen Z staff say they would be more likely to complete training with this option available.

In this tight job market, if HR leaders take the above steps to recognize the relationship between learning and development and employee (and therefore customer) experiences, they can help create the kind of environment key to retaining a multi-generational staff. Success here hinges on aligning employees’ and managers’ expectations and enthusiasm for employee growth. It’s time for HR managers to take note and step up to the plate to make sure company policy and culture align with supporting these young employees as they seek out the skills to maximize their effectiveness at work.

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