By Corporate English Solutions

12 February 2024 - 10:56

Three people standing in front of a wall covered in colourful sticky notes, engaged in a discussion.


Tech-savvy, connected, entrepreneurial and socially conscious, Gen Z is reshaping the dynamics of the modern workplace with fresh ideas and skills. But organisations are reporting a gap in their Gen Z employees: soft skills. So, which soft skills do organisations need to look out for?   

Discover the 4 essential soft skills you need to develop in Gen Z and how they unlock Gen Z potential, benefitting individuals, teams and your organisation.  


Reading time: 6 minutes  

Gen Z: Often the most talked about generation in the workplace.   

Born between 1997-2012, The oldest members of Gen Z are just starting or are in the early stages of their careers. And their colleagues are still in the processes of getting to know them and understand their unique skills, knowledge, behaviour and preferences. Tech-savvy, connected, entrepreneurial and socially conscious, they are reshaping the dynamics of the modern workplace, invigorating organisations with fresh and diverse perspectives. 

Many organisations report Gen Z lacks essential soft skills, with 70% of business leaders highlighting poor communication skills. Why the soft skills gap?  

Limited focus on soft skills in formal education 

In many countries, the emphasis in formal education is on learning academic skills and subject specific knowledge. This focus does not often address the interpersonal and emotional competencies that drive professional success.  

Digital-first upbringing 

Known for being highly connected, many of Gen Z have grown up interacting in fast-paced digital environments where communications are brief and informal. Communicating on digital platforms can create fewer opportunities for nuanced face-to-face interactions, impacting their ability to read emotions effectively.  

Pandemic restrictions 

One of the biggest influences was the global pandemic. Many of Gen Z had to move to online learning. And those in the workforce had to transition to remote work. This lack of in-person interactions and reliance on digital platforms may have impacted their ability to navigate traditional interpersonal interactions in the workplace. 

How do Gen Z soft skills gaps impact the workplace? 

When Gen Z enter the workplace without critical soft skills, it can hinder effective communication, collaboration and relationship-building. This often impacts engagement, productivity and performance, not only of Gen Z, but also their teams.   

So, which soft skills do organisations need to look out for in Gen Z during recruitment and assess and develop as part of onboarding and ongoing skills development of Gen Z  

Read on to discover the four essential soft skills in the workplace and the key competencies needed for success. 

1. Interpersonal communication skills 

Gen Z is the first to admit it. Many acknowledge their lack of interpersonal communication skills needed in the workplace. In a recent U.S. Harris Poll, 65% of them said they struggle to make conversation with colleagues. Poor interpersonal skills can lead to misunderstanding and challenges in collaboration, impacting performance.  

Key competencies Gen Z needs to develop 

  • Establishing and maintaining rapport: Initiating conversation, asking questions, finding common ground and showing genuine interest in others while adapting body language and tone of voice. 
  • Mindful listening: Staying focused, suspending judgement to understand different perspectives and responding thoughtfully and appropriately to foster shared understanding.  
  • Adapting to diverse communication styles: Adapting the focus, structure, tone and methods of communication to others’ work preferences and communication styles. 

By developing these skills, Gen Z employees can make more positive first impressions, better build and sustain relationships, engage and influence diverse stakeholders and cultivate a positive professional reputation.  

Positive impact on multigenerational workplaces 

As Gen Z professionals become adept at navigating diverse communication styles, inter-generation interactions are smoother, promoting mutual understanding and reducing potential misunderstandings, contributing to the creation of a positive workplace culture. As they further refine their communication skills, Gen Z employees become valuable contributors to knowledge transfer in the organisation, sharing insights and ideas across generations positively impacting engagement, performance and productivity of multigenerational workplaces. 

2. Emotional intelligence (EQ) skills 

58% of Gen Z are experiencing higher levels of burnout than other generations in the workplace. Lack of emotional intelligence (EQ) skills can make it harder to navigate emotions, use coping strategies and understand others’ perspectives in today’s dynamic and uncertain workplace context.  

Key competencies to develop 

  • Raising self-awareness: Recognising emotions, understanding patterns of behaviour and evaluating the impact of choices to navigate workplace situations such as receiving feedback, dealing with conflicts or facing challenges.  
  • Practising self-regulation: Managing and regulating emotions effectively especially in challenging or stressful situations to maintain composure and make rational decisions; developing coping strategies to manage and alleviate stress to promote overall well-being and productivity; using reframing strategies to overcome setbacks, failures or criticism. 
  • Cultivating empathy: Understanding, acknowledging and validating the emotions, experiences and needs of others by asking questions, listening mindfully, decoding non-verbal cues and acting with care and kindness. 

Developing EQ competencies supports Gen Z entering the workforce to effectively manage stress, develop resilience, make effective decisions and build meaningful connections.  

Positive impact on multigenerational workplaces  

As organisations support Gen Z to develop the ability to navigate stress effectively, they create a healthier and more supportive work environment, ultimately contributing to increased employee engagement, retention, and overall organisational success. With enhanced EQ, Gen Z employees foster stronger relationships, contributing to a more inclusive workplace culture that acknowledges and values diversity, promoting a sense of belonging for employees of all ages.  

3. Presentation & public speaking skills  

While many Gen Z individuals are proficient in academic presentations, limited exposure to professional settings during their formative years may mean they find transferring these skills to workplace contexts challenging. Audiences may be disengaged or confused, impacting collaboration and the organisation’s reputation externally.  

Key competencies to develop 

  • Capturing audience attention: Understanding audience needs, tailoring content that resonates with them, and using engaging hooks to ensure presentations are impactful, memorable and maintains audience interest. 
  • Structuring talks clearly: Organising content logically, using transition signals, and ensuring a clear flow to help audiences understand and maintain engagement. 
  • Managing nerves and audience interactions: Developing techniques to overcome public speaking anxiety and effective strategies to handle challenging questions and comments from the audience to build confidence. 

Developing strong presentation and public speaking skills empowers Gen Z individuals to convey ideas confidently and persuasively, engage effectively with diverse audiences and establish a professional presence.  

Positive impact on multigenerational workplaces  

Gen Z's increased proficiency in presenting ideas persuasively ensures that diverse perspectives are not only heard but also understood, promoting knowledge sharing and mutual respect among colleagues. This, in turn, facilitates a dynamic and adaptive workplace culture that capitalises on the strengths different generations, contributing to the overall cohesiveness, innovation, and adaptability of multigenerational workforces, fostering a positive and thriving workplace environment. 

4. Business writing skills 

As with presentation skills, Gen Z is frequently adept in academic and online writing yet may be unfamiliar with the channels, approaches, style and tone of workplace written communication. This can make a negative impression or confuse readers, and as written communication is often retained, referred back to or forwarded, it can impact longer-term effectiveness and influence in the workplace. 

Key competencies to develop 

  • Mastering business writing conventions: Understanding common business writing methods, structures, formats, styles and tones used in professional contexts.  
  • Adapting formality to the context: Differentiating between formal and informal writing, tailoring and adapting writing to suit different contexts, situations and audiences. 
  • Building relationships in writing: Understanding key stakeholders’ contexts and motivations for reading, engaging them with carefully chosen tone and inspiring action. 

Strengthening business writing skills equips Gen Z to contribute effectively to diverse workplace contexts, fostering a positive and polished professional image, building rapport and cultivating connections.  

Positive impact on multigenerational workplaces 

As Gen Z enhances business writing skills, the number of misunderstandings is reduced, enabling them to contribute to diverse workplace contexts with professionalism. By tailoring their written communication to specific audiences and situations, Gen Z is able to showcase versatility, promoting rapport, connection and understanding among diverse teams. This not only enhances internal collaboration but also positively influences external relationships, contributing to the overall success and reputation of the organisation. 

Where to begin? 

By 2025, Gen Z will make up almost one-third of the workforce. Organisations need to take action now to bridge their soft skill gap so they can contribute to a workplace environment that values effective communication, collaboration and personal development.  

Take a multi-dimensional approach: 

  • Implement targeted professional skills programmes, combining coaching and mentoring, learning in the flow of work and formal learning opportunities 
  • Encourage intergenerational collaboration to foster a supportive culture of continuous learning   
  • Integrate learning technologies and AI tools for accessible learning in the flow of work 
  • Provide regular assessments and peer-to-peer learning to ensure ongoing improvement and knowledge sharing across generations 
  • Recognise and reward employees for demonstrated soft skills development.

British Council has over 80 years’ experience of partnering with organisations and individuals in over 200 countries. Our holistic, research-driven approach to learning and assessment and forward-thinking industry leading solutions empower growth and engage teams, positively impacting individuals and organisations.  

Partner with us to develop strong communication, EQ, presentation and public speaking and business writing skills in your workforce. Download our Professional Skills brochure  or book a free consultation.