Written by Sarah Sladek, founder of XYZ University and author of Rock Stars Incorporated: Hiring the High Performance High Maintenance Hotshots Half Your Age.
I'm fascinated by the topic of workforce and leadership development, partly because I'm a parent and partly because I work with organizations grappling with generational issues. I know all too well that everyone has an opinion on "today's" generation and "tomorrow's" generation and how these differences challenge organizations. But one topic that remains to be explored is workforce readiness.
The Conference Board recently released a report which argues: "High school and college graduates are showing deficiencies in both basic and applied skills, and a real lack of preparedness for today's world of work." Unemployment among teens and young adults has been at an unprecedented rate for several years. Even before the economy took a nosedive, employers preferred to hire senior citizens or immigrant workers over Generation Y.
So, would you hire your own kid? Let's be honest. Probably not.
The Conference Board report explains there are seven survival skills that our new graduates must have but are not getting in our current educational environment. I'm going to take this a step further. I think parents are partially to blame. Not public or private education. Not government. We, the parents, made this mess.
Parenting has changed substantially in the past 20 years. I'm not proclaiming to be an exceptional parent by any means, but as a generational expert I have observed how the changes in parenting have created a generation that's lacking critical skills. Here are the seven skills new graduates lack and examples of where I believe parents are falling short:
- Problem solving: "Mommy! Timmy hit me!" "Oh no, let me go right over to Mrs. Smith's house and she and I will have a conversation about this." Parents have become overly involved in their children's lives. As a result, children aren't learning to solve problems or resolve conflict on their own.
- Collaboration: When I was a child, I played all day long without a parent ever being involved. Today's children are constantly shuttled between playdates and practices. They rarely play together without it being organized and/or supervised by adults.
- Agility/Adaptability: Studies show children under the age of six influence more of the household purchasing decisions than the parents. (Yikes!) When the world revolves around them, children can't adapt to change or take the needs of others into consideration.
- Entrepreneurialism: Children need the opportunity to take initiative and responsibility. Parents shouldn't be selling their children's Girl Scout cookies or setting up their lemonade stands for them.
- Oral and Written Communication: Personal communication is a must. Great texting skills won't land anyone a job, yet children as young as eight are given smart phones and Facebook accounts.
- Accessing and Analyzing information: Parents need to stop giving their children the answers. I personally know parents who do the majority of their kids homework just so they will get all "A's." The future of our workforce must be able to think for themselves.
- Curiosity and Imagination: As a society, we are consumed with 'fitting in' and we squelch the arts and creativity in school. Let your children be unique. Encourage them to be unique. Employers need unique!
I predict that in the coming years we're going to see a growing demand for workforce development programs in the school system and leadership development programs in the workplace simply because the next generations aren't equipped to meet the needs and expectations of the workplace. As parents, be aware that we need to do a better job of preparing this generation for increase responsibility. As employers and executives, be prepared to introduce programs that will help young adults obtain the skills they need to work for your company.By 2015, Baby Boomers will cede the majority of the workforce to Generation Y. Ready or not -- here they come.
To find out more about Sarah's great work and her views on the generations, visit her blog at http://xyzuniversity.com/blog/
To learn how to better recruit and manage the young people in your organization, join the Interchange Group for our May 19 webinar, "Recruiting The Class of 2011: Managing The Expectation Of Millennials -- And Yours!"