Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Entry of "Trophy Kids" into Workforce

For those interested in emerging adults' entry into the corporate workforce, The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation is Shaking Up the Workplace, a recent book by Wall Street Journal writer Ron Alsop, is for you.

Drawing upon personal interviews -- with personnel/hiring managers, college career advisors, recent college graduates, and their parents -- and data from various surveys, Alsop examines the Millenials' (defined as individuals born between 1980–2001) arrival in the workforce. Whereas some of the findings in the book may apply to broad cross-sections of Millenials, others are probably more reflective of what Richard Florida calls the "Creative Class."

Fairly or unfairly, the Millenial generation has been labeled with a number of unflattering traits, such as having a sense of entitlement and being "high-maintenance." More favorably, the Millenials also seem to be inclined to volunteerism and social causes.

To me, one overarching trait that appeared to capture much about the Millenials is resistance to boundaries.

*They feel they should be able to work from home, rather than in the office, as long as long as they complete their tasks (the term ROWE, for Results-Oriented Work Environment, comes up, as exemplified by electronics/appliance chain Best Buy).

*They feel they should be able to be promoted at any time, based on work performance, and not according to strict timetables.

*They feel they should be able to talk personally with high-ranking officials in the corporation (and even call them by their first names, in some instances).

*They have no problem bringing their parents into work- and school-related matters (not that the parents are reluctant to insert themselves into these situations, either).

Many of these behaviors drive employers crazy, Alsop notes. However, faced with a need to bring in cadres of talented young employees to keep the company functioning and vibrant, businesses are forced to make some accommodation to the Millenials.

One must acknowledge the distinction between developmental changes in the transition to adulthood that presumably are largely invariant from generation to generation, on the one hand, and phenomena that appear to be unique to a particular generation, on the other. The book clearly seems to emphasize the latter. Still, I've already added quotations from The Trophy Kids to update my online lecture notes for the next time I teach Development in Young Adulthood. I'll have to caution my students that much of the material might be described more accurately as Development [of One Generation] in Young Adulthood.

Chapter 1 of The Trophy Kids is available free online at the above-linked webpage for the book.

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