Generation Y students no slackers about work, university study says

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Those in the hospitality industry looking for employees with a strong work ethic and a positive attitude might do well to hire Generation Yers this summer.

According to research by Bharath M. Josiam, a University of North Texas associate professor in the School of Merchandising and Hospitality Management, Generation Y students - those between the ages of 18 and 29 - are no slackers.

But they're not obsessed with chasing the almighty dollar either.

Josiam, who was part of a team that surveyed more than 200 Gen Y hospitality students about their work attitudes, says he was surprised by some of the findings. For the most part, the results bode well for those in the hotel, restaurant, entertainment, and resort industry, he says.

"The more they (Gen Yers) work, the less cynical they are about work," he says. "That's the good news."

In the study, Josiam and his co-researchers - Christy Crutsinger, associate dean of UNT's School of Merchandising and Hospitality Management; Johnny Sue Reynolds, a retired associate dean in that same school and professors and lecturers from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and South Korea - discovered that Generation Yers:

• Are less likely to take a job based solely on the salary offered. "They're looking at the whole package and not just the money on a job," says Josiam, explaining that lifestyle and work experience gained might be stronger incentives.

• Were not more cynical about work even though one or more of their parents had been laid off in the past. The researchers speculated that either the Generation Y students were too young to really remember what it was like when their parents were laid off; perhaps their parents sheltered them from the harsh realities. Or, their sense of autonomy or invincibility is so great that they probably dismiss the possibility of ever being laid off themselves.

• Were not cynical about job promotions. While a previous generation may have thought that promotions aren't worth the headaches or hassles, Gen Y hospitality students believe the advantages of job promotion outweigh the disadvantages.

• Have higher than average social motivation and work ethic scores. They were more likely to answer that a person who does a good job is highly respected in the community or that their friends would not think much of them if they didn't have a good job.

In addition, the study found that older students - those who are juniors or seniors - have a more positive work attitude than younger students and are the least likely to be cynical about work. Josiam speculates that those who have worked longer may have a more realistic idea of what happens in the workplace. Meanwhile, younger students who lack that exposure to the workplace may base their work perceptions on second-hand information.

Josiam says a generation's viewpoint or attitude about work can impact everything from absenteeism, deviant behaviors, work quality and quantity.

"Employers should be heartened that (Gen Y hospitality) students on the whole are not slackers," Josiam says. "They have a positive attitude toward work, a low level of promotion cynicism and a strong work ethic."

Josiam will present three papers on the study at conferences in Malaysia, China and India this summer.

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