Soft Skills and Generational Differences

By: Refresh Leadership
Express Employment Professionals recently teamed up with the School of Media and Strategic Communications at Oklahoma State University (OSU) in Stillwater, OK, to conduct research about Millennials and their attitudes. Also known as “Gen Y,” Millennials were born between 1979 and 1995 and currently make up 30% of the population. As they enter the workforce and establish career paths, it’s important to understand the motives and desires behind this robust generation.

Express and OSU students surveyed Millennials, the majority of whom are working full or part time, to examine whether or not there is a soft skills gap between generations.

Generations in the Workforce
There’s no denying that the current workplace features multiple generations of employers and employees. As the Baby Boomer generation looks toward retirement, Generation Xers continue on their career paths, and Millennials enter the workforce, many different age groups are brought together. In fact, according to our survey, the majority of Millennials (57%) work with people outside of their age group.

Communication Among Generations
When asked how they best communicate with older generations, Millennials responded:

  • In person – 71%
  • By phone – 15%
  • Via email or computer chat – 13%

The Importance of Soft Skills
When it comes to the most important business etiquette and expectations in the workplace, Millennials and Non-Millennials tend to disagree. For Millennials, the top three skills are:

  1. Respect of authority
  2. Punctuality and timeliness
  3. Handshake and eye contact

For Non-Millennials, however, the top three skills are:

  1. Punctuality and timeliness
  2. Handshake and eye contact
  3. Mature vocabulary

While Millennials ranked “mature vocabulary” fifth out of six skills, Non-Millennials ranked it third. Likewise, “respect of authority” was number one for Millennials, but fifth for Non-Millennials.

More Workplace Skills
Other soft skills evaluated in the study include eye contact, professional attire, and the ability to seek out creative inspiration. Of the Millennial respondents, 93% feel comfortable with eye contact, and the majority (70%) would prefer to wear business casual attire in the workplace. The top five sources for Millennial’s creative inspiration are:

  • Art – 30%
  • Books – 23%
  • Nature – 12%
  • Spirituality – 12%
  • The internet – 11%