This is a follow up to my youth unemployment post. Why did I feel compelled to do a part 2?
I received a question from my friend Jen:
- <comment> Would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the educational system and STEM roots of this problem. I’ve been reading a lot lately on the problem of too many graduates not trained for the jobs that are out there. Also in some cultures (like China), there seems to be a cultural bias against vocational-type work vs. white collar. Wonder if everyone’s expectations are a little skewed these days?
Someone also sent me a McKinsey study suggesting that employers <businesses> believe young people are less qualified <less skilled> than they have been in the past … and therefore less effective … leading to an increased hesitancy to hire <and find a qualified candidate>.
Here is the research summary:
There is a profound disconnect between the perceptions variously held by employers, education-providers and the young themselves.
In the Mckinsey survey, nearly 70% of employers blamed inadequate training for the shortfall in skilled workers, yet 70% of education providers believe they suitably prepare graduates for the jobs market. Similarly, employers complain that less than half of the young whom they hire have adequate problem-solving skills, yet nearly two-thirds of the young believe that they do have such skills. The situation is such that nearly 60% of young people around the world say they would pay more for an education that would improve the likelihood of securing an attractive job; and 70% of employers say they would pay more for the right talent, if only they could find it.
And then Wall Street Journal had an article on “higher learning, meet lower job prospects” in which the author suggests we evaluate education because “the majority shares a point of view that education is not preparing young for the actual <available> work world.”
First. This “talent gap” <or skills gap> idea.
“The skills gap must be bridged if the world is to avoid dire consequences.” – Dominic Barton, managing director of McKinsey & Company
Let me be clear on this topic to Mr. Barton, McKinsey and every old person bitching about this.
I call bullshit.
On the research and on businesses.
There is no talent gap.
Let me explain.
Young people <new hires> have always been useless <to old employees>. In older people’s eyes education has never trained them properly and the young are always overconfident and overestimate their abilities.
Old employees are always out of touch, stuck in the old ways and slow things down.
This is consistent.
Here is a truth.
We sucked when we were young & first hired.
Ok. Not completely. If we got hired for the right job <we didn’t lie too badly and hirer actually had their hiring shit together> we didn’t totally suck. But we most certainly were overwhelmed and simply trying to get our feet under us in week one.
Education, unless it is a professional training school, will never prepare us completely for the working world. Not only is it not its role but it is next to impossible to replicate what you are faced with in your first job.
You don’t know what you don’t know.
And you know what? While we older folk may bitch & moan … we don’t really want someone completely prepared and molded for that job. We would have to “unlearn them” <at its worst … ‘break them’> so we could learn ‘em in our way of doing things.
What does this mean?
In the end I think this is old people being old people and young people being young people.
Young people are no worse at thinking or doing the job they are hired to do now than they were years ago … and old people are maybe a little bit better at holding on to the past <because technology has thrown a new variable into the skills equation>.
Young people entering the workforce are skilled. Just not as skilled on the things that an old person is comfortable with. And, in fact, they have more skills than old people in some things that the older people are uncomfortable with.
As consistent with business history … experienced managers are always uncomfortable with the new.
A new employee.
A new idea.
A new technology.
There is no talent gap.
<note: and this is where I make a note about how misusing research to make a point is aggravating … the McKinsey people know better … they used a ‘one point in time’ piece of information with no context from how the information may or may not have changed over time … shame on them>
As Jen pointed out … “an expectation gap.”
Yes. I believe that expectation gap has always existed … however, for several reasons; this expectation gap is wider than in years prior.
We would have to go way back in time to find as wide an expectation gap … probably the industrial revolution when the young left agriculture homes <and their parents> or maybe when automobiles became pervasive.
Regardless. The current expectation gap.
There are some things happening which drive older people crazy … which also make younger people think they know more than they actually do … and is all manageable if you accept the new work truth.
Let me break it down for the older folk into 2 thoughts.
It used to be management shared information <suggesting older management had control>.
The acceleration of the communication is dramatically increased with new technology. The dynamics and complexity is expressed thru Twitter or Facebook or even simple texting … and encompass the entire office <and business world> and informs others of happenings before some supposed ‘information controller’ does.
This demonstrates the enormous power of digitalization. Networking is a communication catalyst which not only accelerates time it takes control from the older experienced people.
Impetus to Work:
If there has ever been a more important and intangible business issue I am not sure I could find it.
Important young employees ask themselves: “Why am I doing this?” … and even “do I want to do this?” all under the overarching stance of “I do not live to work, but rather, I work to live.”
The funny thing?
Even unimportant young people ask themselves all this crap.
This is so foreign to most older folk, this type of thinking in one so young <it is okay behavior of you have attained success already in their minds … and only then> that two things happen:
- They misdiagnose attitude. Old people hear “I am lazy” when young people say “I do not live to work.” Bad bad bad. Read my lips <and read their lips>. When they say “I work to live” they mean it … and just that. This is a massive part of the expectation gap.
- They mismanage by trying to create desired behavior/attitude. What I mean is that when the gap is perceived to be so huge old people do not even try <or they go thru the motions to try and ‘connect’>. They will offer some platitudes … they will have a Facebook page … and then will manage as if the young people are ‘living to work.’ Uh oh. What happens? They get frustrated because youngsters do not react <and easy place to stand back and go ‘geez, they were not schooled properly’> and youngsters get even more frustrated because old people are even more out of touch than they ever imagined.
All these thoughts really narrow into one very fine sharp point which constantly gouges into the youth … lack of respect. The gap will never close without respect.
Let me break it down into one thought for young people.
We <when we are young> always feel like we are entitled to some things when entering work because we feel like we have studied, gone to school, done some extracurricular jobs to prepare … and in general expect old people to know we know our shit.
Young people are confusing entitlement versus respect. All young people want when getting hired is respect. And I believe in today’s business world, and today’s economy, older people in management are begrudging <even more so than in the past> of giving respect mostly because more young people are entering into businesses with not only a different attitude but a different knowledge set.
The young need to knock the entitlement chip off their shoulders and focus on earning respect.
As Jen noted <as well as a variety of other sources> capitalism & the overall increase in individual wealth has also created a different, odd, sense of entitlement <or expectations> tied to self esteem <and how we perceive others view us>.
White collar versus blue collar. “thinking” jobs versus “doing” jobs. Making money <producing & making stuff> versus making money from money.
It was my generation that developed wacky titles so that people felt better about what they did in their jobs. We even have had ‘Chief Karma Officers.’
In my eyes … this is a societal issue … not a youth issue. And, frankly, it is my generation that created this expectation mess.
While what I am going to say is simplistic I fully understand that this issue is complex.
I truly believe if you read on to where I state ‘managing the knowledge gap’ that if we do so there will be an organizational societal respect ingrained in organizations. Therefore as an outcome expectations will be less relevant because employees, young & old, will feel respected by their peers and achieve satisfaction in other ways.
But. That is just crazy me talking.
All that said.
Today’s business world with regard to the young unemployed being hired and the older existing management <who is hiring> isn’t about a talent gap, or even an expectation gap … it is a knowledge gap.
And I believe it is a different knowledge gap than what we have faced in the past.
Here is the gap.
Competition for knowledge.
Knowledge is the most important asset in order to remain competitive in the business world. Knowledge referring to that which ‘dwells in people’ … and not in books or libraries or the classroom.
And in today’s business world we will actually be hiring new first time employees who have knowledge the older folk do not have. So, yes, the current young unemployed … despite being unemployed … have knowledge that does not currently reside within the existing organizations.
Now. They don’t know everything they need to know … they just happen to own some knowledge that the older folk don’t have.
What does this translate to?
Competition for knowledge … and recognize it goes both up and down an organization.
These knowledge people, who are highly relevant for the company, must be identified and tied into the organizational global mind.
I purposefully called it ‘competition’ mostly to make an organizational behavior point.
The newly hired young are competitive just because that is what young people are when hired. And it used to be that in this competition the young could only get knowledge by either experiencing it or sucking it out of an older experienced person. Well. Technology has changed that dynamic. Knowledge will come whenever a young person wants it at his or her fingertips. Now. It may not be the best, or right, knowledge but it is knowledge and it is in the moment.
Older experienced people do not want to compete with young newly hired. They believe they are not only above doing so but also believe they deserve respect. Well. that only really matters if you are not ‘working to live.’ The young are playing by different rules.
I told Jen a variety of things:
you know I am an education guy and i do believe there are some things that need to be fixed as well as I believe too many kids are going to college and getting degrees just because that is what they are supposed to do … but … youth unemployment is not an education issue . They are just as qualified as you and i were coming out of school … they just aren’t being given a chance to work. And when they do they have been unemployed for a while. The core issues remain the poor global economy overall and businesses. i cannot fix the global economy but business organizations are at the true core. as slaves to the financial statement and the financial community businesses have become leaner & leaner and less forgiving of mistakes and lack of maximized productivity. That is why middle & some senior management have been squeezed over the past decade or so as they are consistently being asked to ‘play down’ in an organization to ‘flatten’ the organization. so young people are getting screwed on the employment front in several ways by businesses. attitudinally and financially. It is cheaper for an organization to slam an overqualified higher paid older person in a lower slot because they justify it under the ‘less risk/less mistake/less supervision time’ theory. I also believe technology has thrown upper/older management a curveball. every new generation has a gap between them and the older generation but new constantly evolving technology has increased the gap significantly and increased pressure on the younger generation to ‘explain their expertise’ and if you can remember to when you were a young whippersnapper and you are honest with yourself … we, when young, our strength is never clarity of justification/rationale. Therefore you have a very qualified knowledgeable group of young people who not only struggle to explain what comes naturally to them but there is an older management group who just wants it to be the way it was. That last thought combined with an economy which makes businesses hesitant to hire anyway is killing the young qualified out there.
In the end I believe there is not a talent gap.
And there will always be an expectation gap. The expectation gap is almost unsolvable but can be worked through if you seek to manage the knowledge gap.