Young workers think they're great but bosses say otherwise, poll finds

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 July, 2011, 12:00am


Employers are generally dissatisfied with the performance of young workers - and that is bound to surprise the youngsters, who gave themselves pretty good marks, according to a new survey by the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups.

The survey shows a 'considerable' disparity between the young people's evaluation of their work and that by the employers in areas including analytical skills, general knowledge and time management, Cheung Chi-wai of the federation says.

The disparity showed young people were unclear about what was expected of them, federation supervisor Gary Tang Leung-shun said.

The young respondents in the poll comprised 15- to 19-year-olds and university graduates - mostly associate degree holders - aged 20 to 24. The online survey was held in May and June after the HK$28 minimum wage law went into effect in May.

'Employers do have higher expectations after the launch of the minimum wage law,' Cheung said.

Attributes reflecting one's work attitude - including accountability, discipline and management of emotions - showed the largest gaps. Bosses rated the accountability of young workers at 2.40 out of five, whereas the young gave themselves 4.08.

The variance was quite serious, Cheung said, since attitude was considered the most important factor in job recruitment.

Common behaviour that reflected badly on one's attitude included not reporting to the boss about work progress or resigning from a job without informing the company in a timely manner, he said. 'They often don't have the courage or confidence to face up to [quitting].'

Despite a willingness to impress, he said, young people were not necessarily taught work manners at school, and so had little understanding of what was suitable for the workplace and the real world.

Employers seem to agree. They rate young workers' ability to deal with clients at 2.93 out of five. Many employers felt young job-seekers lacked 'people skills', Cheung said, urging employers to give young workers clear expectations.

Idy Leung Ching-mui, head of youth development at Action and Adventure Consultant, a firm that trains young people for work, said jokingly: 'Looking for work is like looking for a boyfriend.' Just like dating, Leung said, clear communication was needed in relationships at work in order to understand values and differences.

Cheung gave a few tips to young workers. 'Know when an assignment is due, be clear about the expected level of performance, and keep your boss in the know about your progress.' But most importantly, 'don't think you're really great'.