Are Gen Z ready for the world of work?

Ensuring candidates are 'work ready' is something businesses have been championing for many years. After all, new employees that can hit the ground running contribute greatly to business success.

But the last three-to-four years have brought this requirement to the forefront of people’s minds. The latest generation to enter the workforce haven’t had access to the same opportunities to learning as previous generations, thanks in part to the pandemic, when education and businesses were in lockdown for nearly two years. This has had a knock-on effect – something today’s employers need to empathise with and understand the impact.

Today’s early talent is not as 'work ready' as previous generations. In fact, according to research conducted by, 40% of business leaders believe that Generation Z graduates are unprepared for today’s workplace.

So, what else has changed? And why is this new generation more in need of a clear and informative work-readiness approach than ever before?

Nearly one third (32%) of graduates feel unprepared for getting a job.

-Prospects Survey, June 2023

New generation, new issues

Here are some identifiable causes for a lack of 'work readiness' among today's Early Careers candidates.

Virtual isolation

As well as the isolating impact of COVID-19 in the workplace, virtual environments have made things challenging for candidates and businesses. Many Gen Z candidates know nothing of being in a workplace environment. They haven’t had the luxury of an internship or done any in-person work experience therefore they don’t have many of the skills previous cohorts may have naturally possessed.

Office etiquette

Gen Z are the first digitally native generation so they are more than capable with digital interaction, but what about when it comes to going to work in the office? With interactions happening mostly online, work etiquette has become a big issue. Practices that are acceptable at home are not appreciated in the office. Company codes such as punctuality for meetings, how to dress in the office – Gen Z has less awareness of how business operates and expectations within specific environments. 

Different attitudes to work

Candidates’ attitude to work has also changed. Today’s cohorts want more from work, they want purpose, a feeling of belonging, they want to work for a company that aligns to their values. This has lead Gen Z to be more open with their employers. The new generation know that it’s a candidate driven market so are not afraid to tell employers what they think, whether this could be how to improve, what they like or don’t like about working in that environment.  This is why drop-out rates and retention rates are rising in some cases, as employers don’t understand the changing expectations of new hires and how they want to be communicated with or what they want from work.

Hybrid hopes

Lastly, hybrid working is still here. Our new generation is used to working when and where they want to. A recent survey by Handshake showed that 73% of Gen Z employees valued a flexible-working schedule. Remote, hybrid and other forms of flexible working are some of the wellbeing initiatives they expect from employers. Cost of living pressures require flexibility to work remotely, people don’t expect to commute 5 days a week, and candidates will require flexibility in any role offered to be a competitive option.

Over a quarter (26%) of Early Careers candidates cited ‘getting work experience’ as their biggest challenge over the past year.

- Prospects Survey, June 2023

How to make Generation Z 'work ready'

The good news for employers and hiring managers is that our future talent are keen to learn. Nearly half (47%) of Gen Z professionals say they're spending more time on learning and development to get ahead in their careers. This gives businesses a good platform to build on.

Here are some of the ways you can support your newest employees and keep them with you for longer.

Get back to basics

Many Early Careers employees may need to be taught basic business etiquette, including how to write a business email. This generation uses social media to communicate, often in shorthand. Consider setting up some bite-sized training for your new employees, to help them get off to a good start.

As well as teaching them how best to communicate and interact, it’s also crucial to demonstrate the importance of working as a team. This helps to encourage personal growth and improve resilience, providing young talent with the skills to adapt in the face of future obstacles.

Buddy them up

A great way to establish expectations and expose them to etiquette and nuances is to team new candidates with a mentor or work buddy. Mentorship is a powerful way to engage, upskill and support students and recent graduates, not least because they'll probably have experienced the concept before in an educational setting.

Make it more engaging

Providing helpful onboarding information is important, but it needs be delivered in a way that sticks. Using digital content and webinars to educate and upskill people can be more effective than written information, for example, as can onsite preview events to showcase what comes next and network.

Giving feedback in an empathetic and personal way will also have greater effect. Instead of talking across a table, for example, try sitting side-by-side. Breaking down barriers is the most important objective before a candidate joins, make them feel part of your business from point of application or offer.

Review your flexibility

Many businesses are set in their ways of working. (If it works, why change it?) But, with the latest generation of candidates, flexibility will be key to success.

Talk with your candidates about how they like to work. What may look unproductive could be just a different way of doing things. For example, typing on a phone doesn’t necessarily mean a candidate is playing games or texting friends; many Gen Z professionals use their phone to write notes. Progressive employers will get – and keep – the best talent by listening to their candidates’ opinions and adapting the way they work.

Flexibility will also include those all-important working-from-home options.

Be upfront about career prospects

Leaving things to the last minute rarely works. It’s the same when talking about career prospects. If you want to avoid candidates jumping ship, show them where they can go in the business. This will give them focus and meaning, helping them see the bigger picture.  Providing role models who can illustrate varied career paths are impactful and authentic, being able to create learning journeys that are broad and fulfilling is key.

Make the effort to meet them in person

Even though a lot of the onboarding process is virtual, making the effort to meet candidates face-to-face can make a difference. By connecting with someone, whether that’s a recruiter or line manager, they start to feel part of the business. Forming those relationships early on means bonds are made, making candidates want to stay with a business.

Make sure everyone has a positive experience

Your employer brand is everything. Make a bad impression and it can affect how many candidates you attract. Make sure everyone who touches your organisation has a positive experience, whether they're successful or not.

Candidates who are happy with the selection process and engagement are 38% more likely to accept an offer.

- AMS Talent Team survey

Need some help?

Changing the way you do your onboarding can be a big step. That’s where an Early Careers  recruitment partner can help.

They can provide the expertise and technology to educate, engage and upskill candidates with everything they need to join your business, making them feel part of your business before they even accept an offer. It’s work-readiness training that works for your business.

At AMS, our Early Careers coaching products enable you to make meaningful connections during application and pre–join stages, nurturing candidates during the selection phases, educating and inspiring them to be part of your organisation, and increasing the likelihood of retention. This inclusive approach not only reduces drop-out rates, but also improves the probability of candidates accepting an offer, and contributes to a positive and lasting relationship with your organisation. Learn more in the video below.

Need help in providing onboarding that provides a positive outcome for you and your Early Careers candidates? Talk to AMS today.