The book — The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millenial Generation is Shaking Up the Workplace — describes what today’s new college graduates expect from their employers. Hint: You’re probably not going to like what the author has to say.
The “Trophy Kids” in the title refers to the fact that this new generation is the one doted on by parents, teachers and coaches — to the point that every one of the kids got a trophy, no matter how well or how poorly they performed. The result: high self-esteem, even when coupled with poor performance.
The book’s author, Ron Alsop, illustrates the problem in his own write-up in the Wall Street Journal.
Alsop tells the tale of a consultant who, while coaching a group of college kids for workplace interviews, asked the students to provide one word that showed how they believed employers viewed them. The consultant gave them a hint: The word began with “e.”
They responded: “excellent,” “energetic,” “enthusiastic.” And they were crushed and surprised when the consultant gave them the answer: “entitled.”
The story shows that, unfortunately, not only does this generation think they’re wonderful, but they’re also surprised that everyone else doesn’t feel the same way.
But enough with busting on the Millenials. The book also has some practical advice for HR and other managers who’ll have to deal with youngsters — and their expectations:
- They crave continual positive reinforcement. It’s not that you can’t tell them when they’ve dropped the ball, and not every part of every performance appraisal has to be glowing. But don’t forget the positives, too. And try not to save the pat on the back until appraisal time. If warranted, praise them monthly, weekly and, yes, even daily.
- They need to be taught about the link between independence and responsibility. Millenials want to be independent, but they’ve received a lot of hand-holding in life, so they may not understand there’s a responsibility that goes with independence. If you’re giving them a deadline, you have to make it clear they’re responsible for meeting it, and you won’t be reminding them of their oligation. You can’t explain too much about their responsibilities.
- Explain the purpose of run-of-the-mill, basic tasks. There’s a feeling among the kids that routine stuff isn’t necessary stuff. Straighten them out by explaining. For instance: “Bob can’t make his deliveries until you sort the products by color coding.” Or: “You have to master this part of the operation before you can move on to something more complicated and challenging.”
- Listen to their opinions, and give them feedback. You know you can’t just adopt every youngster’s hot, new idea. They don’t know that. At the least, take the time to listen to what they have to say, thank them for it and let them know what’s possible and what’s not.
And what do you get for all that? Well, loyalty wouldn’t be on that list. These folks see no problem with hopping around from job to job, and many have the safety net of being able to move back in with Mom and Dad in case things don’t work out.
And how will you survive? Just keep telling yourself: Just about all of us had our turn at being young and full of ourselves. It just happens to be someone else’s turn now.