A recent study conducted by esphr from WorkNest has unveiled a significant trend among the latest generation of managers in the UK.

Gen Z, comprising individuals aged 18 to 24, stands out as the most confident cohort when it comes to navigating sensitive workplace issues.

The research sheds light on the varying confidence levels of line managers in dealing with crucial employee relations matters, highlighting both strengths and areas in need of improvement.

According to the findings, Gen Z line managers demonstrate remarkable confidence in handling discussions related to religion (82% confident), race (78%), harassment (75%), neurodiversity (72%), and gender identity (71%).

This contrasts with their older counterparts, who exhibit lower confidence levels in these areas.

The study also emphasises that the youngest generation of managers is keen on honing their skills, with 85 percent expressing a desire for management training.

However, nearly one-third of these aspiring managers report not receiving the requested training from their employers.

Confidence Levels Across Age Groups:

  • Religion:
    • 18-24: 82%
    • 25-34: 71%
    • 35-44: 71%
    • 45-54: 65%
    • 55-64: 57%
  • Race:
    • 18-24: 78%
    • 25-34: 74%
    • 35-44: 76%
    • 45-54: 70%
    • 55-64: 70%
  • Harassment:
    • 18-24: 75%
    • 25-34: 66%
    • 35-44: 69%
    • 45-54: 74%
    • 55-64: 64%
  • Neurodiversity:
    • 18-24: 72%
    • 25-34: 66%
    • 35-44: 63%
    • 45-54: 50%
    • 55-64: 43%
  • Gender Identity:
    • 18-24: 71%
    • 25-34: 64%
    • 35-44: 62%
    • 45-54: 55%
    • 55-64: 45%

Where do Gen Z feel less confident?

The research also identifies areas where Gen Z managers feel less confident, notably in discussions surrounding disability. Only 56 percent of 18-24 year-olds express confidence in addressing issues related to disabilities, highlighting a clear gap in training and support.

Sarah Dillon, Director of Legal and ER at esphr, suggests that the higher confidence levels among Gen Z managers in neurodiversity and gender identity could be attributed to these topics being prevalent on social media platforms. However, she notes a concerning trend regarding discussions on disability, potentially stemming from the complex legal definitions and obligations surrounding disabled workers.

Fostering a supportive workplace environment

Dillon emphasises the need for businesses to invest in comprehensive training programs to empower young managers to navigate sensitive topics effectively. This, she believes, not only ensures legal compliance but also fosters a more inclusive and supportive workplace environment.

The study also brings attention to the interviewing process, revealing that Gen Z managers are more likely to have their management capabilities scrutinised before starting a role compared to their older counterparts. While 33 percent of Gen Z managers report thorough questioning during interviews on their ability to handle sensitive subjects, only 14 percent of those aged 55-64 experience similar scrutiny.

Dillon concludes by advocating for an appreciation of diverse perspectives and skill sets within organizations. Recognising the value of different age groups and experience levels, she believes, will contribute to creating a harmonious workplace environment that thrives on a blend of experience, fresh insights, and innovative thinking.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.