Working With Generation Y Employees

These Are the Characteristics for Gen Y to Lose and Gain for Success at Work

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Has the Generation Y group of young adults now joining the workforce been parented, scheduled, pampered, overseen, and coddled into a tough transition to the workplace?

Depending on the Gen Y employee, some have a difficult time adjusting to employment. Others bring skills that all should emulate. Not all Gen Y employees are the same and it is a mistake to paint them all with the same brush.

I've written about managing Gen Y employees in the past.

Here are some of the challenges you face when Gen Y employees enter your workforce. On the downside, many arrive with expectations that they are:

  • Always, the smartest and the best. (Mommy said so and every academic grade said pass) They achieved a GPA of 3.0+ in their less than rigorous degree programs.
  • Good at everything and everything should come easily. This belief created children who weren’t prepared for a rigorous college program. Since the background and ability to pursue a substantial degree can be sabotaged and left behind by third grade, many students arrive unprepared with the appropriate background for degree programs that employers need.

    This has created masses of young adults now graduating with urban planning, gender and ethnic studies, humanities, arts and sciences, and psychology degrees while computer science, sciences, health care, and math go begging for smart students.

    Too hard, too much work, unprepared with prerequisites, said the students with whom I've spoken. Plus, a rigorous degree might interfere with weekend fun and parties. Must everything come easily?
  • Deserving of lots of money, quick promotions, and only positive reinforcement. How many applications from graduating, potential workers have you seen who actually had real jobs?

    Sure, many have jobs or internships listed, but what happened to all of those semesters with nothing going on, with potential internships not pursued, and even voluntary campus and civic responsibilities unlisted. I know, they say to me, college is my last real chance to have fun before I am an adult and weighed down with responsibilities.
  • Tethered to their parents by cell phones, text messages, and constant oversight Is this the first generation of children who were not set loose by their parents in the morning and told to come home when the streetlights came on? (Yes, I realize that we live in a more dangerous world.)

    Decisions were made by those children early, how to spend the day and what to do, while this generation has play dates and structured activities 20 hours a week when not in school. And school? Fewer hours, more vacation, less challenging curriculum, teachers working on the wrong goals. Is it any wonder that managers are expected to give daily feedback and praise within a workplace structure that enables success for these young workers?

Gen Y Workplace Stories

I could go on, but I'll stop here because this generation and their parents have created some funny (pathetic) workplace stories that I hear about from time to time. I hear stories about the mom who called the hiring Human Resources director to find out why her perfect daughter didn't get the job.

I’ve encountered parents who drop their children's resumes off at employers, because Johnny doesn't have a car. Then, they wonder why their child, who is prepared to do nothing, didn't get called for an interview.

Or, how about the parent who accompanied her child to a professional interview and sat in the lobby until the interview was over. In my own world, I called a reference and started our conversation with the standard, "how do you know the candidate I am calling you about?"

Oh, I'm his wife, she responded, so I really know him well. (He had asked his wife who to use as a reference and she had responded that he needed to list people who knew him well and liked him.)

I'm sure you have your stories, too. And, for every one of these scenarios, there are also many prepared, degreed, highly employable young people, so, don't take my words personally if these comments don't fit you. It's just that I hear about so much of this from my readers that the stories are not anomalies.

In this frame of mind, after spending the holidays with some young people I love, I encountered, "Would You Hire Your Own Kid?" from the Fistful of Talent blog (recommended blog, by the way).

Tim Sackett says, "Just give me someone who can read, write, calculate and actually want to work and I'm pretty sure I can turn them into a productive contributor."

Crucial Skills for Gen Y Employees

But should we have to? Sackett cites the work of Susan Stewart at the Conference Board. In "Will You Want to Hire Your Own Kid? (Will Anybody Else?)", she identifies these skills as crucial for the young people joining our workplaces.

  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Collaboration across networks and leading by influence
  • Agility and adaptability
  • Initiative and entrepreneurialism
  • Effective oral and written communication
  • Accessing and analyzing information
  • Curiosity and imagination

Too many are arriving unprepared. Old news, I know, but I'd love to hear your stories. Fun news? Read Sackett's article. His examples of worker unpreparedness in these seven critical skills are hilarious - and downright scary.

Are you a parent? You have the power to fix this. I'm an employer. I just deal with the consequences. Instead of making profits, I spend time developing employees with whom I have a lot less compensation to share. They spend time learning the above skills when they could be setting the world on fire.

And, the secret to a happy life may not be just a successful career. However, achievement, pride, lots of money, self-respect, and the knowledge that you are using your talents and skills in pursuit of worthy outcomes, go a long way toward creating that happiness. Not getting the message? Maybe your kids will. Wisdom does seem to skip generations.

Your thoughts are welcome.