Do your 2012 grads seem like aliens?

by 11 Jan 2012

The beginning of the New Year brings the annual class of graduates starting in programs throughout Australia – but industry professionals have warned employers not to be surprised by Gen Y’s struggle to separate their professional and social lives.

The rise of social media has added to the challenges faced by HR, and many employers are reportedly unsympathetic to the ‘culture shock’ experienced by ‘digital natives’.

The first step may be to consider the changed landscape of youth and their relationship with employers.

Andrew Ugarte, head of William Blue College of hospitality management, said that the social, work and study lives of Gen Y form one continuous thread, and pulling the plug on social networking access is perhaps the hardest challenge for young people to overcome when entering the workforce.

He added that many employers have difficulty understanding the culture shock graduates go through when online social interaction is abruptly curtailed and they are expected to focus on the job for eight hours at a time.

“To continue encouraging young people to join [for example] hospitality and tourism, the industry needs to change to meet expectations of upcoming generations,” said Ugarte.

While Baby Boomers and Gen X have more fixed ideas about traditional work hours, Gen Y is more inclined to blur the lines between work and non-work.

As an employer of younger staff, the hospitality industry has been particularly affected by the trends and expectations of a generation who have different work-related values, attitudes and expectations such as more flexible hours and relaxed rules about mobile-phone use at work.

Thus far, the industry has been able to dictate terms regarding dress codes, work hours, and behavioural expectations. However, the question now is whether the responsibility is on younger workers to conform, or if it’s time to reassess the landscape of modern employment.

Ugarte commented that, given Gen X and Baby Boomers were the generations who created the digitalised world, the new generation can’t be expected to “just accept out-dated rules of engagement upon entering the workforce”.


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  • by Kate Connellan 12/01/2012 1:26:32 PM

    There is a lot of commentary around on Gen Y, but I don't think they're any different to how any other generation was at their age. It may be social media in this day and age, but other generations have had similar issues to deal with in their youth. I don't know that focusing on the differences between generations is actually helpful in any way either! Building understanding and tolerance usually involves emphasising the similarities.

  • by Kathleen 13/01/2012 10:16:03 AM

    I do agree with Andrew, I think about myself – I have a Facebook profile, I am ‘friends’ with friends from college plus we have our own page where we can have private conversations about college/social related things. We talk about assignments due, class dates, upcoming exams, etc… We use Facebook to interact with each other outside of class, even to organise times to catch up outside of college. I can see that through that our lives are forming a “continuous thread.” In regards to dress codes, work hours, and behavioural expectations, I do think that dress code is particularly important in five star hotels/restaurants, etc., but what I am seeing so much of now, is different establishments, particularly restaurants and cafes, that still provide a high level of service and food yet the staff are younger, more relaxed, uniforms may be more dissimilar and staff may have tattoos/piercings, etc. Establishments may also have their own Facebook page, which again blurs the line between work and non-work. I think that a high level of standards should be kept but in a way that empowers everyone, not in a bid to ‘conform’ people. I think there are many organisations who are taking on the learning paradigm and fostering the different personalities, talents and abilities of people, which I believe would be much more effective. I think this in turn would bring out a positive attitude from staff towards the workplace. I think also, in the hospitality industry people are required to work weekends, yet weekends are typically the only time people get to be social. I think in a world where people are becoming increasingly social employers need to take this into account when employing Gen Y staff. If an employer makes a young staff member constantly work weekends they may end up losing them (I am guessing!). Bit of a ramble but I hope it gives some insight!

  • by Daryl Edwards 13/01/2012 7:31:06 PM

    I am rather tired of listening to the drivel of how employers are to change their attitudes to cater to Gen X, Y or whoevers... Why don't they change their attitudes to make themselves more atrractive and emploayable to to the employer - after all, it is the employer who pays the wages...

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