GenZ is being called a more sensitive and difficult generation to work with. While many disagree with this and praise GenZ for not wanting to put up with toxic work cultures and championing social justices, others say the generation is woefully unprepared for the workforce.

In July, surveyed 1,243 business leaders to learn about their experience with recent college graduates (classes 2020-2023) entering the workforce.Key findings:

  • 40% of business leaders believe recent college grads are unprepared for the workforce
  • Work ethic and communication skills top reasons why business leaders think recent grads are unprepared
  • Of business leaders who say recent grads are unprepared, 88% say this is more true now than of grads more than 3 years ago, and 94% admit they avoid hiring recent grads at times
  • Majority of business leaders think culture is to blame

7 in 10 say work ethic is the reason recent college grads are unprepared to work

Overall, 40%  of business leaders say recent college graduates are ‘somewhat unprepared’ (27%) or ‘very unprepared’ (13%) for the workforce. On the other hand, 33% say they are ‘somewhat prepared’ and 20% say ‘very prepared,’ while 7% are unsure.

Of business leaders who feel recent college grads are unprepared, 70% say it’s a result of their work ethic and the same percentage say communication skills. Additionally, business leaders point to a sense of entitlement (51%) and technological skills (43%) as factors contributing to lack of preparedness.

9 in 10 say graduates from past 3 years are less prepared than previous classes

Of the group of business leaders who don’t believe recent graduates are ready for the workforce, 88% say college graduates from the last 3 years are less prepared for the workforce than less recent graduates.

The vast majority (94%) of business leaders who feel recent grads lack preparedness say they avoid hiring them at times. In fact, 7% say they do all the time, and 27% say most of the time. Additionally, 40% say they sometimes avoid hiring recent grads, while 20% say they rarely do. Only 6% of business leaders say they never do.

In the past 3 years, 39% of business leaders who don’t think recent college grads are prepared say they’ve fired one. Of this group, 83% say they have fired more than one, and 5% have fired more than 10.

Plurality say culture is to blame

Who or what is to blame for recent college graduates being unprepared is culture, according to the plurality of respondents (62%). Additionally 50% of business leaders think the lack of preparedness is due to parents, 46% say educators, and 48% say the pandemic.

The majority (88%) say if colleges offered office etiquette classes it would be ‘very helpful’ (44%) or ‘somewhat helpful’ (44%).

Majority say they’ve had a recent grad make an unreasonable salary request

Fifty-seven percent of those who feel recent grads lack preparedness say they’ve had a recent graduate ask for an unreasonably high salary request.

Half had a candidate ask for $100,000. Of candidates who asked for more than $100,000, two-thirds of the positions had salaries that were $70,000 or less.

Expert says no one is prepared for the 2023 workplace

Actually, nobody is prepared for the workplace of 2023,” says Professor of Strategic Communication at Ithaca College and Principal of Gayeski Analytics Diane Gayeski, Ph.D.

“It’s changed dramatically because the digital transformation and hybrid workforce trends that began a decade ago accelerated during the COVID-19 lockdowns, and both methods and attitudes towards work are now vastly different. Recent college grads don’t communicate in the way that their 50 year old executives do, but they are effective in collaborating and getting things done using their own tools of social media, texting, and applications like Slack and Google Docs.


“The people who think that Gen-Z is “soft” and doesn’t have a good work ethic should consider the groups that are leaving the workforce in droves – nurses, restaurant workers, and teachers who are mostly mid-career but who are just burned out.  Women who were primed to enter the executive ranks bailed out by the thousands during the last few years, having had a taste of what work might be like if they didn’t have to put up with harassment and incivility at work, and how their lives might be improved by having more time for their families and personal pursuits.


“Elders have always complained about the “new generation” – but somehow each new cohort has managed to find work and eventually to lead. The two year gap of Zoom school clearly had a large impact on college students who typically grow dramatically in their “people” skills and confidence by class discussions, clubs, and dorm life. They missed out on a lot of travel opportunities as well as interacting with people outside their own families.


“The trick for smart organizations will be to understand the styles and values of the incoming cohort, and for leaders to ask themselves how they can create organizations that do well and do good – for their employees and their customers.  They’ll find no shortage of smart young professionals who can bring important new perspectives on how to efficiently accomplish goals and create environments that are conducive to the growth of both employees and the bottom line.”


All data found within this report derives from a survey conducted on July 27, 2023 by survey platform Pollfish. In total 1,243 business leaders were surveyed.

Demographic criteria were used to ensure qualified respondents. This criteria included age (30-60), household income (>$75,000), employment status (employed for wages), organizational role (C-Level executive, HR manager, director, president, owner/partner, senior management), and company size (>10).

To avoid bias Pollfish employs Random Device Engagement (RDE) to ensure both random and organic surveying. You can learn more about Pollfish’s survey methodology.

For more information contact [email protected].