Is the Work Ethic Going Out the Window?

employee screeningAs we said last week, the workplace is changing fast. Not only is technology changing the way we work, but new generations of workers are bringing new abilities, as well as some different workstyles, into the workplace. Baby boomer and Gen Y bosses and supervisors are sometimes surprised by the behavior exhibited by the Millennial Generation they are now working with.

Some see a distinct lack of professionalism—at least as they would define it for themselves: regular attendance, punctuality, honesty, working until a task is completed well, interpersonal skills, appropriate appearance, and being focused and attentive. That view is backed up by a recent study of professionalism in the workplace that shows professionalism has declined in past five years.

A high majority of respondents to the survey indicated that work ethic has gotten worse, saying that younger employees taking a casual attitude toward work (86%), not taking ownership of their work (69%) and being less than driven (71%).

That doesn’t mean the young millennials are hopeless. Far from it—they just need to be taught about expectations. They say they haven’t been taught by their parents or the education system on how to succeed in the working world.

Older generations need to understand that millennials view the world differently, including the workplace. Their definition of professionalism is quite different: it doesn’t mean wearing specific clothing, or even showing up at a specific time.

To accommodate millennials, should employers update their employee handbooks to say, “The workday begins whenever you feel like getting here”? Not necessarily! However, assigning tasks, explaining expectations and providing guidelines and flexibility works well with this generation.

Thorough training, trusting (and verifying), transparency, and sharing the organization’s values and mission are all very important to millennials. They want to be part of something important, and even better—to be a force for good.

Most of all, don’t assume that how you’ve always done things will be embraced or even understood by today’s workers.

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