There is a dangerous gap between what managers expect from their Gen Y workers and what these employees think is expected of them, according to a new study.
The “Gen Y Workplace Expectations” study, by American Express and Gen Y research firm Millennial Branding, finds that Gen Y workers have an overall positive view of their managers, believing they can provide experience (59%) and wisdom (41%). On the other hand, managers have an overall negative view of their young workers, saying Gen Y-ers have unrealistic compensation expectations (51%), a poor work ethic (47%), and are easily distracted (46%).
The study, based on survey responses from 1,000 Gen Y employees (ages 22 to 29) and 1,000 managers in American companies of various sizes and industries, concludes that this perception gap comes down to Gen Y’s lack of certain “soft” interpersonal skills, including prioritizing work, having a positive attitude, and good teamwork skills.
In the study, managers said they look for these three skills when determining whether to promote younger workers. But, unfortunately, the skills are especially hard for millennials to master because of their reliance on and constant interaction with technology, says Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding.
“It’s hard to build soft skills and real relationships through technology,” Schawbel tells Business Insider.
“It’s easier to recruit people with hard skills now because they’re all around the world.”
But hard skills only guarantee that workers are capable of doing the tasks the job requires. It doesn’t guarantee that they’ll have the additional skills necessary to go beyond baseline expectations.
Without these soft skills it’s more difficult for Gen Y workers to understand how to succeed in the workplace. For example, the study finds that three out of four managers believe it takes at least four years to become a manager, but younger workers don’t think this is the case. The technological age makes everything seem faster — even success and promotions.
When this promotion doesn’t happen as quickly as Gen Y expects it to, they jump ship.
But this gap isn’t all Gen Y workers’ fault. Managers also don’t know how to manage their younger workers appropriately, Schawbel says, and they often make the mistake of using either the hands-off approach or micromanaging their workers. Neither of these management styles work well with younger employees.
So when can be done to close the gap?
What managers can do:
Managers can help millennial workers prioritise by providing a short-term career “roadmap,” and explicitly telling workers what’s expected of them, when they should expect a promotion, and what their salary will be once they accomplish specific goals.
“There are more responsibilities and less time in the new workplace,” says Schawbel. “If you don’t set these expectations with millennials, they won’t know how to get ahead, they’ll feel stuck, and they’re going to go to another company.”
After outlining these expectations, managers should step back and let their employees work with a sense of freedom and ownership.
What millennial workers can do:
Younger workers need to understand that much of their potential success is dependent on making their bosses’ lives easier, meaning their manager’s career should always come first.
In his new book “Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success,” Schawbel says that if workers can make their boss look good, they’ll reap the
benefits once their manager climbs the corporate ladder.
What’s more, younger people need to look beyond their job description and know that they’re always expected to do more than what they were hired to do, he says.
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