By Melissa J. Anderson

A new report [PDF] by the Institute of Leadership & Management and Ashridge Business School has revealed that even though Gen Y employees are “broadly engaged” at work, the majority of Gen Y employees say they are looking for a new job – many of them in a hurry. Why the impending exodus of younger employees? Why is Gen Y so nomadic when it comes to the workplace?

According to the study, a breakdown between expectations may be to blame. The report says, “This rift in understanding is bound to affect graduate job satisfaction, long term talent planning and management, and individual and organisational performance, and needs to be addressed.”

The researchers polled 2000 individuals – both recent recruits and line managers – to gauge how to improve the workplace dynamic. In their opening letter, Peter Cheese, Chairman, Institute of Leadership & Management and Kai Peters, CEO, Ashridge, wrote:

“By approaching this research from the perspectives of both graduates and managers, we have gained a clear and compelling picture of the similarities and differences between them, and the potential impact of the disconnect in certain key areas on individual and organisational performance.”

The report highlighted several areas where disparate expectations are creating friction between younger employees and their managers. Here’s why.

Confusing Data on Engagement

According to the report, “Graduates are broadly engaged at work, but this does not translate into a long-term commitment to their employer, with most looking to move on within two years.”

In fact, 75% of graduates say they are are proud to work for their employer; and nearly as many (73%) say they want their company to succeed. Sixty-eight percent say “would recommend their employer as a place to work.”

But just over half (57%) of Gen Y employees say they plan to leave their employer in two years. And almost half (40%) say they will leave in less than a year. And, the report continues, “16% intend to go as soon as possible – more women (19%) than men (11%).”

Is Gen Y a generation of nomads, ready to change jobs for any new opportunity? The report reveals it’s not that simple. In fact, while so many younger respondents said they loved their companies, almost a third (32%) said they were dissatisfied with their boss.

Is a bad boss-employee dynamic behind Gen Y’s drive to go elsewhere?

Mismatched Expectations

The study revealed key divergences in Gen Y employees’ and managers’ expectations of how work should be supervised, performed, and rewarded. According to the report, “Graduates say the following are below their expectations – salary (45%), job status (30%), and achievement in work (28%).”

From their managers they are seeking respect and support. “Graduates want their managers to: respect and value them (43%); support them with career progression (36%); trust them to get on with things (35%); and communicate well with them (34%).”

On the other hand, managers “see regular feedback about performance (50%) and setting clear objectives (49%) as the most important behaviours.”

To sum it up, Gen Y see their role at work as part of a career – and managers see it as a job.

Autonomy, Independence, and Coaching

According to the report, one of the main disconnects is the way in which Gen Y wants to be managed – and how managers approach this. The report says:

“The current generation of graduates values a high degree of freedom and autonomy, whether that is in the way they carry out their work, or the relationship with their boss. Graduates do not want their managers watching over their shoulder and behaving in a controlling and micro-managing way. Managers, however, tend to favour a pragmatic approach that involves a more balanced blend of freedom and control. Consequently, graduates’ expectations regarding the degree of autonomy they are afforded and the relationship they have with their manager are not always met.”

Additionally the report says “75% of managers believe they are fulfilling the role of coach/mentor, but just 26% of graduates agree.”

Younger employees want to be able to take ownership of their work, with managers serving as coaches. Managers feel they need to be a bit more hands-on than merely providing guidance and mentoring, and this leaves both parties dissatisfied.