“Why oh why is Gen Y so unreliable?” employers bemoan. This new generation – those who were born in the early 80’s and entered the workforce just when we entered a brave new century, the 2000s – is between 16 and 30 (give or take a year or two). They have been dubbed the “millennials”, a new generation of workers distinct from Gen X who preceded them. So, why all the moaning and groaning? It made me wonder – what challenges come up in the workplace when you hire a younger worker. Let’s first look at reliability and address this statement below that many believe to be true:
“They are so unreliable, they don’t have any kind of work ethic and they are glued to their smartphone.”
This perception is pretty widespread, so it seemed worth digging a little deeper. I started by asking all of my Gen Y colleagues at Agilec – what bugs them the most about this generalization. I heard back from many of them, as well as some parents of Gen Y’s. First off, generalizations aren’t fair as they paint everyone with the same brush. Secondly, a lack of understanding is often at the root of an unfair generalization, a bad experience or two gets transferred to everyone in that general group. We literally cannot see the forest for those one or two annoying trees.
So what is true about Gen Y and reliability I wondered? And, what does being reliable really mean? Most would say it means doing what you said you would do – following through with commitments.
In my experience, the four Gen Y’s that I work with are very reliable. As new workers, I frequently see them as eager to complete tasks and they strike me as enthusiastic. They combine all this with focus and effort. So, did I just luck out and hire the only reliable Gen Y’s in our area? I don’t think so. Like any member of the workforce, they add value because they feel valued. They work hard because they are appreciated and supported. If you want a reliable Gen Y, treat them well and they will give you a ton back. For that one younger worker who is late or unreliable – address that with them directly. The reality is that the majority of Gen Y workers are very dependable.
And keep in mind, the real issue here is not a generation of workers who are unreliable. When we have Gen Y workers who are unreliable, this is more likely related to the simple fact that this generation is still young – it is a perennial component of youth. If you think back, it may not have been you who stayed out late, called in sick or went to work anyway when you were in no shape to do so. Maybe it wasn’t you who was rude or inconsiderate to your parents, or their peers, or your employer. But you certainly had friends who were.
“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.” ~ Socrates
So it seems some things never change. Within the forest of Gen Y are a whole bunch of young people, who are trying on life, who make mistakes and who frustrate their elders. This is nothing new folks; just remember that for every youth that is unreliable, there are probably nine others who are not. We all know someone who was a youth like this, and they turned out just fine. Time is a wonderful thing, it brings those qualities we value, like reliability, which may be tied more to maturity in this group than anything else.
It’s important to remember there are still folks in every age group who are unreliable. Gen Y need work opportunities which allow them to grow and gain work experience that they will be able to build upon in the future – they are our future.
By Kathy Low, guest blogger for Agilec