If I Hire Them, Are They "Trainable?"

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Hire for skill sets not experience.
Many of the questions I get from employers have to do with hiring younger employees and trying to figure out what motivates them. Employers seem to be perplexed by this new generation.
I  recently appeared as a guest on  Professor Lauri  Smedley’s radio show   http://www.blogtalkradio.com/professor-smedley and realized that as a college professor Professor Smedley  is very knowledgeable about this younger generation. Professor Smedley   has been a full-time professor at Sacramento City College (SCC) in Sacramento, California for over 11 years. She holds a Master of Science degree in Computer Information Systems, a Bachelor’s degree in Vocational Education, an Associate of Science degree in Management Information Systems, and certificates in Online Teaching and College Counseling. She can be reached at http://www.professorsmedley.com.  

Professor Smedley, I have the feeling that college is very different these days.  
Yes, college is very different from the way it was 10 or 20 years ago.  One of the biggest differences is the increase in online course offerings.  This modality allows students to complete college courses, certificates, and degrees, sometimes without ever having to set foot on the college campus.  Regardless of where students live in the world, they can attend college online.

What are the younger students like, what are they thinking about?    
The following statements presented here are generalizations and do not, necessarily, represent all younger students.  Younger students, as with those of us who are older, may vary with regards to their perspectives depending on their race, ethnicity, nationality, culture, life experiences, etc.  With that said, younger students are interesting.  They have many more distractions than students did when I was in college in the 1980s and 1990s.  Technology plays a big role in their social lives as well as in their education.  It is not uncommon to walk past a computer lab (during class time) and see students checking their social media accounts, email, or texting.  Instructors and professors must work harder to gain and keep students’ attention against so many competing forces.
In this tough economy, students are finding it harder to afford college, even with financial aid.  Many of them take longer to finish college, because tuition is rising in many sectors.  I sense that students are often frustrated, disillusioned, and confused when things don’t go their way.  To that kind of sentiment, I say, V-O-T-E.
What are their concerns about working?
Students of all ages are concerned about what will await them after they finish college.  Oftentimes, students graduate from college and cannot find jobs in their major fields of study.  Times such as these call for students and non-students alike to be creative and flexible when it comes to earning an income.  Toward that end, I wrote a book called, Virtual Entrepreneurship:  Creating and Operating a Home-based Online Business.  I also teach an online class by the same name.  Even for people who have full-time or part-time jobs, this can be a good way for them to enhance their incomes by becoming self-employed doing work that they actually enjoy doing.
One of the benefits of young people creating their own home-based businesses is that they are often not yet burdened with mortgages, car payments, and childcare, etc. so they can afford to take more risks than older students can.
What should an employer think about when hiring a younger person?
Employers should look at a young person’s potential and not just their current skill set.
Employers should ask themselves, “Is this potential employee trainable?”  Employers should try to remember when they, themselves, were young and needed to get their feet in the door of their first jobs.  If an employer were to take a chance on a young person who has potential, it is quite likely that the young person will feel a sense of loyalty to the employer and could quite potentially be one of the employers most valued and loyal employees.
What motivates these younger people?
From what I have observed, heard, and read, today’s young people want to be happy above all else.  In other words, they want to work in jobs that give them happiness, yet still allow them to grow as individuals and enjoy free time.
Today’s young people do not seem to be as driven to work countless hours at work (as people of my generation do) if it means that they cannot hang out with their friends and socialize in person or online.
Young people do want to have nice things like they see in pop culture, but they want to have the free time to enjoy those nice things.
Baby Boomers, such as myself, have traditionally gotten jobs and stayed in those jobs whether  we liked them or not.  Today’s young people are more likely to quit a “bad job” in search of a “good job” if they do not like their current jobs.
Are they all very techie?  
Not really.  I get young students in my classes all the time who don’t even know how to touch-type, yet they have been using computers for years.  Other students taught themselves how to use technology, but picked up a lot of bad habits along the way.  Employers should not assume that all young people are technologically proficient.  If being technologically proficient is a job requirement, employers should test potential employees to assess their levels of proficiency.
Professor Smedley, can you give us suggestions for motivating and working with the “younger employee?”
1.This is the generation that grew up where everyone on the team got a trophy just for showing up whether or not they contributed to the team.
2. They are used to hearing “good job” when they do what they are supposed to do.  Employers would do well to praise young people when they do right and motivate and encourage them when they fall short by offering “sugar-coated” constructive feedback rather than yelling at or demeaning them.
3.   Even when the employees fall short, the employer should praise the employees for the part(s) that they did well.  Young people are often very creative and should be given autonomy and the freedom to complete their work assignments and projects their own ways rather than having to conform to rigid guidelines.
4. The employees need to have the feeling that they have different options when it comes to getting the job done.
5. Employers could state the desired outcomes and suggest possible ways to reach those outcomes.  Employers might be pleasantly surprised at what the young employees come up with.
6. Employers should also listen to the younger employees when they make recommendations and actually implement their suggestions if at all possible and feasible.
Lisbeth Calandrino is an award winning trainer, author, and blogger. She is  author of the book, Red Hot Customer Service, 35 ways to heat up your business and ignite your sales. In her book Lisbeth outlines the steps for building a successful business with customer service techniques. Lisbeth has been providing custom marketing and sales programs for the past 20 years.


4 thoughts on “If I Hire Them, Are They "Trainable?"”

  1. Liz,
    Perhaps your most important and relevant post yet. I take a small degree of pride in my daughter, Stephanie and son, Chris not falling (thankfully) into to this descriptive,flailing generation.
    Both of my (now) adult children have made their own way through a combination of public education and good old fashioned hard and smart work. It certainly IS a huge challenge to get this generations self (parent?) imposed entitlement manifest destiny BS and discover what truly motivates them…..ATTENTION!
    A little goes a very long way.
    As Always-My Best,

  2. Dear Jim,thank you for your astute comments. Each generation seems to the think that the newest will be embroiled in all kinds of problems. What we forget is they have more tools avaialble and most likely have a better education. It appears that this generation is motivated by enjoying life–and what’s wrong with that? Many of us felt that work was all there was; then we grew up and realized it wasn’t. Thanks again, your comments are always wonderful. Lisbeth

  3. Thank you for posting this one! Going to keep this one. Great info. I love the upcoming generations and the prof really gave me some good insight. Thank you for representing them!
    Jim is right, they are looking for attention, someone to come along side them and help them navigate without telling them what to do. I am working with a couple of young men right now and what works is being a confidante and someone who walks along side them. They respond to the, and they have enriched my life so much!
    thanks again Paul

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