Summer 2013

Cheering Trophy Graduates

When American author Ron Alsop coined the phrase “trophy kids” to describe Generation Y, he was noting that these young people expected to turn up to a competitive event, take part and get a trophy simply for being there.

This sense of entitlement is real. A survey in 2012 by MTV, found 90% of Y’s expected to achieve their dream job, 81% expected to be able to set their own hours and 70% needed to be given ‘me time’ at work. Many of them have been brought up viewing their parents as friends rather than authority figures. This means that they expect to be given the chance to air their views and expect to be listened to as equals, even if they’re the youngest in the room. If they don’t feel appreciated – like the US student who resigned after being refused time to check Facebook – then they’re gone. Many of their friends will be jobless, so there’s little social stigma attached to being unemployed.

We do have to think differently with Gen Y. We could accuse them of being presumptuous, spoilt and selfish and order them to get in line, show some respect and be quiet. Or we could welcome them, embrace them and cheer them on. And realise that the heart of what they value – flexibility, autonomy and respect – can energise, freshen and improve many business cultures.