It might seem like a basic task for some, and essential in many jobs, but research has found Gen-Z have an aversion to picking up the phone. Almost 60 per cent admitted they “dreaded” making or accepting a call “even if it’s necessary”, while a similar number claimed the task gave them anxiety.
The research, from CommBank, found four in 10 would “ghost” someone to avoid having a tough conversation over the phone – something that wouldn’t fly in a work setting.
So, how will Gen-Z manage in a job that requires this skill? Workplace expert Graham Wynn, from Superior People Recruitment, told Yahoo Finance it all came down to the individual and whether they were willing to push themselves outside their comfort zone.
“They need to get out of their phones all the time and start talking to people,” Wynn said. “The more you do that, believe it or not, the better you will get at it. I don’t think you can teach that to people, they’ve got to want to do it.
“We can give all the training and education in the world, but the individuals have to want to do it themselves, otherwise there’s just no point.”
The issue for many comes down to confidence, not competence, Wynn said, adding that “everything is done via text or messaging now”. The instantaneous feedback required from an on-the-phone conversation could be daunting to those who hadn’t practiced it.
“They might be concerned that they will come across as not knowing what they are talking about when asked questions on the spot,” Wynn said. “These days, if you ask a question, [Gen Z] will jump online and Google an answer but, over the phone, you can’t do that. So, I think a lack of confidence is part of the problem.”
Sitting down to dinner at the table and having a conversation with your family may have been the norm 40 years ago, but Wynn said it was far less common now, and that small things like this could impact communication skills.
“When I was in school, we used to have to regularly stand up in front of the classroom and do presentations, I don’t think they do that anymore,” he said. “So, the education system is also not encouraging this kind of communication so they are not doing it as well as we used to.”
It’s not just Gen-Z. Baby Boomers are generally known to be far less skilled in technical components because they weren’t brought up with constantly evolving technology. Wynn put the onus on all employees to identify “deficiencies” in their approaches to work and to seize on training opportunities, whether that be through approaching superiors for help, or through their own initiative.
“Each individual needs to be open to learning new skills, and wanting to learn them,” he said.
“I used to be petrified of public speaking but I knew I had to do it so I basically started to put myself out there in front of small groups of friends. Now, after getting some confidence, I regularly do presentations in front of a few hundred people.”
“There’s a lot of admin roles or account roles you won’t spend a lot of time on the phone for, even IT work,” he said. “There’s also plenty of blue-collar work that doesn’t require that interaction.”
When asked if these white-collar roles for those who didn’t want to chat on the phone were vulnerable to automation, Wynn had this to say.
“When jobs are automated, it creates a whole new industry for people to work in,” he said. “Gen-Z could get involved with that as there will be very little phone calls involved and they could be quite good, given their proficiency with technology. They walk in and just pick it up on day one.”