Three skills to share with employees

I've heard time and time again that the new generation of employees (Gen Y) are not as hard working, not as productive, not as committed and seem to have a greater sense of entitlement.  In some cases, I would not disagree but I think there are some people of Generation Y that are hard working, smart and committed to succeed.

That being said, I just read a post on a Financial Blog, ThickenMyWallet.com which offers a personal perspective:

Prioritization is key in the workplace. I remember as a student how we could negotiate our test dates if we had another test or assignment due in a different class or universities have rules on how many exams you can write in a period of time. The workplace is not so forgiving. As anyone working knows, everything given to you is seemingly urgent or a high priority. I found in our younger employees that this was a problem. If given many different tasks to do, the tendency was to do none, opting to freeze in terror or to believe everything was priority and spin themselves into a panic over non-priority things.

The two pieces advice I often give and is to sit back and sort the work out. If task A is for a project due Friday then this was more pressing than task  B for an internal presentation next week. Alternatively, have the assignors of work duke it out- indicate that one cannot do task A and task B at the same time and perhaps the respective assignors fight over the employee’s schedule. If both want the work done at the same time then requests should be made to pull in other resources.

There is no answer key in the workplace. This is not so much a younger work problem than a worker problem in general; if given a task, the employee assumes the boss have the answer and gives up quickly if they encounter resistance, believing the answer will be given to them. The implication of this thinking is that if the boss is doing your work, why does she need you? However, in my experience, younger workers tend to somehow think the boss has the answer (of course, as we all know, the boss doesn’t have all- or even some- of the answers).

Ultimately, the good employees are the problem solvers. Problem solvers tend to look at things from many different angles rather than taking one approach and giving up if it does not work. Since there is no teacher to give you the answers- and, unlike school, the workplace will let you fail-it is best to think oneself through a problem.

Failing that, at least you can approach your boss and tell them your thought process. A business coach once taught me the 1-3-1 rule of training employees: the employee could only come to you if they had 1 problem, 3 possible options and 1 recommendation. Even if the recommendation was not correct, the employee has at least shown the boss that they thought the problem through rather than give the impression they gave up and are looking for the answers (a common annoyance among employers).

School is me centric, work is you centric. Schools are built around meeting the needs of the students. Workplaces are built around meeting the needs of the employer. School are about me. Workplaces are about “how can I help you”- the you being your boss, supervisor, shareholder etc.

One of my younger employees once told me a story about how a friend quit their job because they felt that they were working a lot to make someone else richer. After a pregnant pause, I said “yes, people call that life…”

The employees that never worked out (and I readily admit employer-employee relationships are two way streets) always voiced the same displeasure; the work is dull, I want to do X (crap work) instead of  Y (exciting work), I would like more recognition.

The hard truth is that, yes, the work is dreadful dull but the new guy is doing it for a reason; it is a way of showing that: (a) you can handle simple tasks effectively and move up the chain; (b) what is your attitude like when things don’t go your way; and (c) can you integrate yourself into the workplace by going through the same crap everyone else did (initiations into social circles become more subtle as we get older).

To go back to an earlier point, people promote problem solvers because they make other people’s life easier. Again, the problem solver is you centric. They are making your life easier.  This doesn’t mean being a suck up or being a work slave. It does mean developing the ability to think from other perspectives.

For example, when I was a young lawyer, the senior law clerk told me when she first started as a junior law clerk she pulled aside a senior associate and asked him why he wanted things done a certain way on a common type of transaction. By learning his thought process, she could figure out how to make other lawyer’s lives easier. She was (and is) widely considered one of the better law clerks in the firm for her ability to make the deal run smoothly.

My two cents

I think all employees, whether they are Gen Y or Gen X or Boomers can benefit from this perspective.  We can all become people with better prioritization, problem solving and consideration of others.

Written by Jim Yih

Jim Yih is a Fee Only Advisor, Best Selling Author, and Financial Speaker on wealth, retirement and personal finance. Currently, Jim specializes in putting Financial Education programs into the workplace. For more information you can follow him on Twitter @JimYih or visit his other websites JimYih.com and Clearpoint Benefit Solutions.

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