Lack of life skills, frequent job changes a risk for future leaders, new research authored by Ashridge Business School, suggests 

Managers feel strongly that today’s graduates lack adequate ‘life skills’ compared with the previous generations, new research suggests.

Managers feel strongly that today’s graduates lack adequate ‘life skills’ compared with the previous generations, new research suggests.

NEW RESEARCH by Ashridge Business School (ABS) reveals that frequent job changes and a lack of life skills poses greater risk for future leaders, as lack of adequate experience at workplaces hinders them from making effective business decisions.

Retention was also highlighted as a major concern for managers of ‘Generation Y’ employees.

Based on a global Arabic and English language survey of 2,900 managers and graduates, and 100 in-depth interviews, the report titled; Culture Shock! Generation Y and their managers around the world’, analyses the relationship between ‘Gen Y’ graduates (aged under 30), and their leaders. The study draws comparisons between ‘Gen Y’ and managers in the Middle East, UK, Europe, India, Malaysia and China, revealing the young graduates are similar across the world, but the gulf between them and their managers differs.

Key research findings:

Lack of Skills

Frequent job changes and lack of life skills mean that managers are seriously concerned that future leaders are not gaining real in-depth experience. Managers feel strongly that today’s graduates lack adequate ‘life skills’ compared with the previous generations, and recommend that they get work experience, and develop their emotional intelligence, communication and people skills.

Retention Issues

Another key area of concern for managers revealed by the research is employee retention. Graduates want a varied career, have little patience and will leave a job quickly if it doesn’t meet their own personal ideals. ‘Gen Y’ tend to stay in a job for only two years. Middle Eastern graduates were second most loyal of those surveyed, with 75% intending to stay in their current role for two years and graduates from the UK least loyal with only 57% planning to stay for this time.

Middle East Culture

A rapidly changing culture and society in the Middle East has a major impact on the relationship between ‘Gen Y’ and their managers, where cultural history was found to impact ‘Gen Y’s’ expectation of promotion, of women in management and of the business sector in which to work in particular.

‘Gen Y’ Characteristics

Today’s graduates are regarded as highly knowledgeable, digitally integrated, globally and socially aware, unconventional and very confident, and all of these characteristics need to be managed and developed. Although managers admire the intelligence and energy of young professionals, they dislike graduates’ pursuit of fame and recognition, self-focus, over-confidence and lack of teamwork and respect. Motivation also proves a bigger problem for managers in the Middle East than the other regions surveyed.

Mismatched Expectations

A mismatch of expectations between managers and graduates is a pressing issue. For example, 29% managers in the Middle East claim that managing graduate expectations is their overriding concern.

Graduates have high expectations of responsibility, progression and challenging, interesting work where they can make changes, whereas managers expect excellent skills, teamwork and adaptation to the organisation. They do not ‘live to work’, instead, they ‘work to live’. They want jobs with flexibility and are less likely to do work at home than their managers.

Rory Hendrickz, Director of Ashridge Business School in the Middle East, commented: “Generation Y has grown up with social media and mobile phones, and against a background of rapid changes in technology and shifting political and cultural norms. Today’s young professionals in the Middle East have different priorities from previous generations. ‘Gen Y’ is already radically altering the employment landscape globally, and a new, growing workforce will soon be stepping up and challenging traditional models within companies.

“By capitalising on the unique contributions and strengths of this generation, a better workforce as a whole can be created in this region. All generations need to review their differences and find new ways of working for the future – both managers and Gen Y need to adapt to the changing world of work,” Rory added.

Recommendations for ‘Gen Y’:

  • Get as much work experience as possible before starting your first job.
  • Develop people/communication/soft skills and work on developing emotional intelligence. Review how others perceive you and adapt where necessary.
  • Spend time watching and learning in your early roles. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Respect experience and look to gain as much as possible yourself.
  • Help support and develop managers where you have key strengths they are missing.
  • Show a strong work ethic and commitment to success; you will be appreciated.

Recommendations for Managers:

  • Recruit for culture and work ethic as priorities
  • Set boundaries for behaviour and expectations early on
  • Develop missing skills early – mostly soft skills but also include hard skills like languages, budgeting, risk-assessment and analysis
  • Provide quality coaching and mentoring that really works – look at two-way mentoring to support senior staff as well as young staff.
  • Provide challenging work with scaffolding to support young people. Mix boring tasks with interesting ones but explain the need for the boring activities.
  • Provide public appreciation for excellent work by ‘Gen Y’.