Employers Value Communication, Teamwork And Customer Service Skills The Most In Gen Y Hires

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Generation Y and employers don’t agree on the skills that are most important to their employers and to economic success, according to a recent research report released by George Brown College.

The report, Toronto Next, shows that while the highest percentage of of Gen Y respondents — 25% — identified job-related experience as the one most important skills to employers, the highest percentage of employers — 28% — identified communication skills as the most important.

“There may be long term gain if [students] take the time to develop the skills that employers are looking for.” —Sean Lyons, professor,
University of Guelph

Employers place a lot of importance on soft skills in the workplace, such as teamwork, communication and customer service, while Gen Ys fail to place importance on these skills.

According to the report, only 50% of Gen Ys believe customer service to be extremely important to employers while 70% of employers place emphasis on customer service as a necessary soft skill.

Why are these differences occurring?   Anne Sado, president of George Brown College, attributes them to the fact that “employers live and breathe everyday business communications.  They see first hand how important it is to have the ability to communicate with people of other cultures, disciplines and levels within an organization.

“Gen Ys, on the other hand,” she says, “have been told by parents and secondary school educators from an early age to hone their technical knowledge, which has only been reinforced by the incredible proliferation of technology.”

She says that employers do place value on technical skills, but they are expected at a base level.

Sado says she is “confident the gap can be narrowed by continuing to integrate more workplace or real-life learning opportunities into post- secondary programs.” She cites, for example, that George Brown College encourages soft skill development through  field placements and co-ops, allowing students to experience real work experience in the real world.

Sean Lyons, a professor at the University of Guelph whose main area of research concerns inter-generational differences and their impacts on workplace dynamics and management, says, “In my experience, a lot of this can be explained by younger people’s expectations for their education and subsequent careers … Talking to students, I often hear an attitude expressed that older people might view as entitlement or impatience.  The attitude is that they have obtained a university or college education, have paid a lot for it, and they are therefore not willing to do entry-level work.  Employers are looking for people who possess skills that benefit their organizations, while young people are looking for skills that benefit them and their employability. Sometimes these skills do not overlap.”

As for some things that students can keep in mind when considering skills that are important to their employers, Lyons says, “They should consider that there may be long term gain if they take the time to develop the skills that employers are looking for, even if they do not find those skills to be personally useful. They also need to keep in mind that they are often dealing with managers from a generation that places value on experience over educational credentials, and that they will need to prove themselves over time before they are given serious responsibilities.”

So when applying for your next job, preparing for an interview or stepping inside an office to commence a career, you might want to reveal more than just your technical skills to their employer.

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About the author

Katherine Rageth is the assistant editor managing the Entertainment and Style sections of the Career Incubator. She graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University's Honours Arts Communication Studies program last spring and is now studying journalism at Sheridan College. She recently had two guest columns published in The Kitchener-Waterloo Record and The Cambridge Times, and is always looking for new things to write about.