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Gen Y in the Workplace: HR expert Alice Waagen offers tips [The Parent Diaries]

Blog entry by Hope Katz Gibbs
The Parent Diaries
Oct. 17, 2008

I don’t know of a parent today who isn’t worried about how their children are going to fare in the future. Our young adults who have already entered the workforce are reportedly struggling to find their place — and evidence suggests that employers are struggling right alongside them.

Fortunately, Alice Waagen, PhD, president of the executive Workforce Learning, has some advice.

The founder of the leadership development company that since 1997 has provided managers and C-level executives with the skills and knowledge they need to build a more productive work environment, recently offered some tips to Washington Examiner reporter Heather Huhman on how to help Gen Y transition from the classroom to the workplace.

“A JobFox poll found Gen Y workers are perceived by recruiters as being the weakest performers among the four generations that now make up the U.S. workforce,” Huhman wrote. “ What can you do to make the transition seamless and foster success?”

Waagen suggests:

Dress to impress. “Pay no attention to published corporate dress codes. Dress to the level that you aspire. Don’t wear jeans just because your fellow entry-level workers wear jeans. What does your boss wear? Match your attire to one level up the ladder.”

Listen, listen and listen. “Keep a mental monitor on all interactions and make sure that you are speaking no more than 50 percent of the time. Use electronics only when you can’t talk face to face.”

Avoid office politics. “Find a mentor, someone who is considered successful in the organization that can guide you in navigating the political waters.”

Don’t loose your outward focus. “Build and maintain a professional network outside of your organization. This network will help you know when and how to move on. Have a plan – where do you want to be in three, five and 10 years? Work your personal and professional development toward those goals.”

Build and keep a budget. “Don’t get trapped in a job you hate because you can’t afford to quit and move on.”
Get enough sleep. “You need to be alert and functioning every day for at least eight hours. You can’t do that consistently on three hours of sleep. Tardiness and absenteeism are sure career killers.”

Ultimately, Waagen is concerned about how young workers will fare in the future.

“Research shows that the single reason most organizations fail to thrive is a lack of strong people skills among those at the top,” Waagen says. “We work to ensure organizations are healthy from the top down, and ultimately if an organization has happy, energized, effective employees they find it reflected in the bottom line.”

But if Gen Y doesn’t “get with the program,” what will our workforce look like a decade from now? Waagen plans to offer more thoughts on that in her November-December newsletter, Workforce Learning, due out in a few weeks.

Log onto www.workforcelearning.com for details.


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