Because I’m Worth It! Trophy Kids Offer a Mixed Bag of Traits
The next time you watch those beauties flaunt their shiny tresses during a L’Oreal hair product commercial on the tube, pay more attention to the message than the models. If the words sound like they are targeting women who like to team up, are optimistic, full of themselves but impatient –– well that’s all intentional. As author Ron Alsop mentions in his latest book, The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation Is Shaking Up the Workplace, L’Oreal’s got a thing about millennials, those kids born between the years 1980 and 2001. At 92 million, this generation is a full 30 percent larger than its smaller predecessor generation, the Gen-Xers. Millennials even outnumber the baby boomer generation by nearly 20 million. If numbers count, then the millennials are a marketer’s dream.
But L’Oreal isn’t just interested in capturing the millennials’ discretionary cash; they want to hire them too. The beauty company’s research shows that this generation’s penchant for innovation, creativity, open-mindedness and entrepreneurial spirit is a great match for L’Oreal’s corporate culture.
In fact, there are a lot more companies interested in the behavior of this new generation, says Alsop. But if their interest is laced with more than a little concern, that’s understandable too. He notes that this newest generation brings a mixed bag of beneficial as well as negative behaviors to the workplace.
With Trophys, You Get a Two-for-One
Although armed with a sense of entitlement that was conferred on them at an early age by their doting parents, these trophy kids haven’t had the luxury of basking in too many fantasies –– images of the Columbine High school shootings, the 9/11 terrorist attacks have found their way into their lives very early via the media.
While the millennials may lust for the trappings of money and celebrity, they are not willing to pay the piper if that price means sacrificing their network of friends and family or their passion for volunteerism.
They are also much less willing (or economically able) to divest ties to their parents. This particular trend, Alsop points out, is part of a larger phenomenon: the emergence of “helicopter parents.” These are the parents who are now inserting themselves into environments once considered the province of young adults: classrooms, boardrooms and any other areas where the trajectory of their children’s future is on the line. They want to know why their kids aren’t getting into the best schools and aren’t getting the best salary deal for their first job. Given that paying for tuition at a four-year college can equate to a mortgage (or two), it’s not hard to connect the dots, he says. These helicopter parents are simply trying to leverage their return on investment.
What the Market Will Bear
With economics, a strong emotional bond, or both tethering the millennials and their parents to a co-dependent nest, what can companies expect from this newest generation?
For starters, their sense of discretion, or lack of, is a planet away from their parents’ generation, as witnessed by their no-holds-barred, anything goes displays of behavior on such sites as Facebook and YouTube. And they have a tendency to rant in blogs and e-mail. Companies, especially those that have well-established brands, are wary that these trophy kids may harm their image by failing to understand the consequences of their unexamined behavior.
Millennials who follow their entrepreneurial urge may be able to sidestep another barrier that companies enforce –– the dress code. As Alsop suggests in the chapter, “A Generous Generation,” the most successful point of convergence for millennials and the companies eager to recruit them may be in the area of social consciousness. The need to “give back” is one of this generation’s most admirable traits and a principle that is becoming a priority in the traditional workplace as well.