Do The Ys Have It?

Generation Y brings a unique set of skills…and a unique set of challenges.

The generation gap is nothing new. But for the first time ever, there are four generations in the workforce at the same time, with members of the Silent Generation, born between 1925 and 1945, working alongside Generation Y (1980-2000). As each generation has entered the workforce, it has not been without a certain degree of resistance from those who came before. Baby boomers (1946-1964) were too self-absorbed. Generation X (1965-1979) complained too much. But could Generation Y, also known as the Millennials, present the greatest challenge yet?

What issues do employers face as they integrate twenty-somethings into the workforce? Several distributors weighed in on what Generation Y is lacking and how they are addressing these issues. Their names have been withheld to protect the identities of their employees.

Communication Breakdown
Do The Ys Have It?While workers older than 30 may remember a time without email, texting, Google and Facebook, some Millennials can’t. These tools were available for the majority of their lives, and much of Gen Y has never faced the prospect of doing work without them. While these individuals bring a more tech-savvy perspective to the job, many executives have seen a corresponding lack of inter-personal communication skills.

“Almost every young employee that we hire is very comfortable with computers,” says one company president based in Virginia. “But sometimes the language that they use in emails and texts doesn’t translate into the business world. We spend a lot of time teaching our younger employees how to properly communicate.”

A Colorado principal agrees. “The biggest thing that we have seen in Millennials is a lack of person-to-person conversation skills.” While email communication is acceptable for some customers, many still prefer telephone or personal conversations. Employees must still be able to communicate in a professional manner, however the customer wants to communicate.

Time Management
Another trend that emerged when discussing Generation Y with distributors was difficulty with time management skills. From lack of punctuality to inefficient use of time, time management and organization are challenges that must be addressed in young employees. “At our company, we abide by Coach Bear Bryant’s time system,” says one distributor president. “If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. We have had trouble with our younger employees showing up late or right when their shift is slated to begin. More than ever, we have had to stress that work starts at 8:00 a.m., not 8:05.”

Tardiness is not Gen Y’s only time management issue, however. “The advancements in technology like texting and smartphones are a great benefit when they are used properly,” says the owner of a Georgia distributorship. “But you can’t do it on company time. We have to constantly be aware of efficiency. If employees become sidetracked, we start losing money.”

A president in New Jersey has noticed the same problems. “Society as a whole is different today than it was 10 to 15 years ago. It’s much faster paced. We have seen that younger employees are often distracted by things outside of work. That can lead to a decrease in productivity if it isn’t closely monitored.”

What Is the Solution?
While Millennials have their issues, they do bring many strengths to the table. Chief among them is their comfort with constantly evolving technology. Distributors have found that job shadowing and mentoring problems can be effective in correcting some bad habits exhibited by young employees. Generation Y is not perfect, but it is certainly not the first generation to come through with deficiencies. As President John F. Kennedy said, “We must do all that we can to give our children the best in education and social upbringing. While they are the youth of today, they shall be the leaders of tomorrow.”

What is your experience working with Generation Y like? To members of Gen Y, do you agree with these observations? Let us know in the comments section below.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association