Today, I spoke with Ron Alsop, who has been a Wall Street Journal Columnist and author for a while now. One of the most written about topics in the world today is my generation, the millennials (also known as Gen-Y). Ron shares some great insight on what my generation demands from companies and how companies can recruit millennials. Whether you are a “trophy kid” or not, this information will be useful for you as you interact with millennials now and in the future.
What issues are companies facing as the millennials enter the workforce and baby boomers retire?
Companies are primarily struggling to deal with millennials’ sense of entitlement and their unusually high expectations. Older adults routinely criticize the high-maintenance rookies for wanting too much too soon. In particular, they resent the impatient millennials for expecting overnight advancement from their entry-level jobs. “They want to be CEO tomorrow,” is a common refrain from frustrated corporate recruiters. Baby-boomer bosses recalls just being grateful to have a good job and being willing to do just about anything to keep it.
Employers also bristle at millennials’ need for lots of attention and near daily performance feedback from bosses. Millennials also want to learn as much as they can and have as many different experiences as possible. They love praise and count on getting regular promotions and pay raises. By regular, they mean every six months or so.
What are some examples you’ve heard of millennials interacting with the older generations at work (the good and bad)?
Employers complain about millennials who try to get out of unappealing but important work. A manager at a big accounting firm recalls one prima donna who found part of a project boring and didn’t want to do it. The manager responded that she was glad to know how the employee felt, but that it was an important skill to develop.
Some employers clash with millennials over written communications. Many older managers object to young employees’ use of text-message shorthand in e-mails and even memos. The head of a New York PR firm estimates that 80% of the e-mails from her young workers have spelling and grammar errors. If millennials get a proper noun wrong in a press release, she says, their attitude is it’s close enough and not worth the bother of Googling for the proper spelling.
On the positive side, some millennials enjoy working with older managers to boost their technology skills. A millennial manager at IBM told me it’s unlikely that her older colleagues can juggle an instant-messaging meeting, e-mail, and a mobile phone call simultaneously. So says she tries to be patient and teach them some of the tricks of multitasking.
Why do you consider the millennials “trophy kids“? Is this a negative or positive perception and what impact will it have on them?
I consider millennials “trophy kids” for a couple of reasons.
- First, they often received trophies and other praise just for participating and not necessarily for excelling in sports and academics. They were rewarded whether or not they made the grade or the home run to avoid damaging their self-esteem.
- They are also trophy kids because many proud, protective parents view their accomplished children as their prized possessions.
It isn’t necessarily a negative or positive perception. On the one hand, trophy kids feel confident and accomplished. However, the coddling of the millennials has led them to feel entitled and to have the great expectations that employers complain so strongly about.
What is the anatomy of a millennial? How is this different than Gen-X and the baby boomers?
Millennials are proving to be a complex generation with some conflicting characteristics. Although they are technology savvy and achievement oriented, most millennials don’t excel at leadership and independent problem solving. They crave the freedom and flexibility of a virtual office, but they also want rules and responsibilities to be spelled out explicitly. “It’s all about me,” might seem to be the mantra of this self-absorbed and exhibitionistic bunch of young people, yet they also tend to be very civic-minded and philanthropic.
Millennials are more optimistic than members of generation X, and they are closer to their parents and more trusting of authority figures. Unlike baby boomers, millennials do not define themselves by their careers and don’t live to work. Rather, millennials work to live and want a balanced life.
What tactics are companies using to recruit millennials and how is that different than years ago?
Corporate recruiters are realizing that they must go beyond formulaic recruiting techniques if they hope to generate any buzz with this generation of students. As competition for the most talented millennials has intensified, the old tried and true hiring strategies simply aren’t working as well anymore. Merely inviting students to corporate presentations and cocktail parties won’t command the attention of the tech-obsessed millennials.
“In fact, nearly two-thirds of the M.B.A. recruiters in a 2007 Wall Street Journal/Harris Interactive survey said that to attract top job candidates, they must resort to new tactics, ranging from searching online resume databases to joining social networking sites.”
Companies must meet millennials on their own turf, and today that usually means not on campus but rather somewhere in cyberspace. Companies also are starting to understand the importance of creating engaging career Web sites. To get millennials’ attention, career sites must address the generation’s hot buttons: work-life balance, training and development, corporate social and environmental responsibility, and diversity.
The most effective Web pages also provide a vivid sense of the corporate culture and a look at specific jobs, typically through video interviews, employee profiles, case studies, virtual tours, blogs, and podcasts.
Can you name a few dream jobs that many millennials share?
- Management consulting
- Accounting firms
- Innovative technology companies,
- Nonprofit organizations, and
- Government agencies
These all rate high on this generation’s wish list. Some millennials seek the stability of established and reputable companies like General Electric and Procter & Gamble, while others prefer small and medium-sized businesses where they believe they will enjoy greater access to senior executives and take on major responsibilities earlier in their careers. Alternatively, a growing number of young people are bypassing the corporate world and striking out on their own to satisfy entrepreneurial passions.
Ron Alsop, a longtime reporter and editor for The Wall Street Journal, is a freelance writer and consultant. He is the author of eight books, including his latest, The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation Is Shaking Up the Workplace. His other books include The Wall Street Journal Guide to the Top Business Schools and The 18 Immutable Laws of Corporate Reputation: Creating, Protecting, and Repairing Your Most Valuable Asset.
He also has served as editor of the Journal’s Marketplace page and its annual ranking of M.B.A. programs. He is a frequent speaker at conferences on the millennial generation, corporate reputation and business education. A graduate of Indiana University, he lives in the New York City area.