Generation Y are unmotivated slackers

2008

Against the backdrop of an ageing workforce, today's graduates are an increasingly valuable commodity. And don't they know it!

The annual snapshot of the graduate recruitment market by the UK-based Association of Graduate Recruiters has painted a picture of a demanding, fickle and greedy generation of new recruits coming into the workplace.

What's more, despite expecting the world to fall at their feet, the Generation Y of graduates born after 1982 are also a bunch of unmotivated slackers, the AGR study argues.

So much so that many employers are increasingly resorting to advertising for new recruits overseas, believing they have a much stronger work ethic.

It's not the first time of course that the up-and-coming generation of graduates have found themselves in the firing line.

A survey last October by the recruitment website CareerBuilder.com found employers complaining they often did not take orders well, expected to be paid more, demanded to be promoted within a year of joining and on top of all this expected to be allowed to work flexibly.

The number of UK graduate vacancies had been rising steadily, up a predicted 16.4 per cent this year, the AGR survey of 217 employers found.

However salary growth had been relatively modest – perhaps another sign employers were getting to the end of their tether and no longer prepared to pay the earth for new graduate talent.

Graduate salaries grew by just 2.4 per cent in 2007 and were predicted to rise just 2.1 per cent this year, taking the average starting salary to £24,000.

But it is the outlook and attitude of current graduates that has been most exercising employers.

When asked to think of three adjectives that summed up Generation Y, employers were able to think of some positive (or at least not wholly negative) responses, including "ambitious", "demanding", "confident", "flexible", "tech-savvy" and "environmentally or ethically conscious".

But they also slammed Generation Y graduates as being "unrealistic" when it came to their expectations of working for their organisations, "self-centred", "fickle" and "greedy".

By comparison, a quarter of the employers polled praised the "strong work ethic and desire to succeed" of overseas graduates, presumably as opposed to those from the UK, the AGR said pointedly.

A similar number of employers bemoaned the lack of UK candidates with the right qualifications, while 16 per cent said they simply could not find enough UK graduates with the right skills.

Employers complained graduates were more often than not "speaking in different languages" to them when it came to work and expectations.

More positively, employers did believe Generation Y took their personal and career development seriously and engaged critically with organisations they intended to work for, said the AGR.

They actively sought personal and career development, were concerned about their organisation's environmental record and policies and the employer's brand.

Similarly, there were independent and mobile, making non-monetary incentives such as relocation packages and pensions more popular than leisure facilities and company cars.

But at the same time, employers were very clear that Generation Y graduates tended to be less loyal to.

"Clearly increased mobility and discernment with regard to employers have their potential downsides: this finding is an indicator of new challenges in retention that may be arising as Generation Y comes to dominate the graduate workforce," the survey concluded.

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