Mind the Gap – Research into graduates’ soft skills unveils concerns in Gen Z workforce with 98% of businesses crying out for more investment


Global Learning and Development (L&D) leader Development Beyond Learning (DBL) challenges the remaining 2% of businesses that think it’s unnecessary to invest and instead, call for action across the board to remove barriers to Gen Z performing well in the workplace.

DBL’s research highlights a number of areas of concern that are now shaping the working environment for graduates and without the right resolution, their future careers and that of their employers’ graduate workforce is not looking optimistic.

One such example of where more investment in learning is absolutely necessary is graduates’ levels of resilience.  Sadly, only 28% of line managers confirm graduates having high levels of resilience.  This impacts on graduates’ handling of feedback which is poor and in return, line managers feel uncomfortable in providing it, adding to conflict in the workplace.

Unsurprisingly so, DBL reports that 6 out of 10 Gen Z employees quit their job due to unmet expectations, a 10% increase since 2019. It is time to appreciate Gen Z and their view of the world, mostly through screens, which may make in-person meetings uncomfortable.

Confidence is another area of disparity where graduates believe that they possess above average confidence, but their line managers disagree and quote their lack of confidence as a main weakness.

Good communication skills are crucial in having honest and authentic conversations, but only 52% of line managers agree graduates have strong communication skills.


Pete Humphreys, CEO of DBL, commented: “It’s crucial that we must address this problem between the early talent employees and their employers. The solution is simple, to provide the graduates with the right training at a time of joining the business so that skills are quickly levelled up with expectations.”

“Additionally, we feel it is the time for collaboration between employers and educational establishments so the growth of our future talent is fully supported.”

Universities’ focal point on theoretical knowledge over practical skills leaves graduates ill-prepared for real-world challenges, but the recruitment processes’ prioritising academic achievements isn’t helpful either.”

Prospects Luminate, a thought leadership careers guidance platform, agrees that collaborative work between employers and universities should underpin pre-joining support.

If left unchallenged, the widening gap between the skills graduates have and the skills required for the job, compared to 5 years ago, will only get worse. 75% of businesses agree that there is a huge need for external learning and development intervention.

Let’s take a closer look at the research highlights:


  • 80% of surveyed leaders have worked for 10 or more years in a role for developing graduates
  • 59% said investment is needed to train line managers to support graduates with appropriate conduct and ethical behaviour
  • 48% said the alignment with company expectation has definitely suffered with the prediction that the actual behaviour will get worse over the years
  • 49% called for more or different external L&D expertise introduced into the workplace

The bottom line, quoting from one of their articles is that ‘an employer who doesn’t focus on learning is going to lose out!’ and therefore, it is necessary to challenge even 2% of businesses not seeing the need for change!

DBL’s structured, bespoke learning and development programmes are in place to address these issues and support both the organisations and their new recruits, but “waiting for their failure in the workplace before any action is taken is a sure road to disaster,” added Pete.


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