Beware of the “Trophy Kid”

by | Farr Factor

(The Bane of Salon Operation)

Growing up with the Baby Boomers and working with the millennial generation, it’s fascinating to see the differences in worker values and mentality.

We, the Baby Boomers, seem to think we’re the only ones with great work ethics and that the Millennials are tattoo-laced with enough body piercings to pick up a good FM signal. Of course, we Boomers forget that we smoked some strange weeds, grew hair down to our shoulders and listened to the Jims – Hendrix and Morrison – banging out melodies from another planet! But, we also had Depression Era parents who felt that having a job was a privilege and that the reward for working hard was that you got to work hard some more. For us, it seems that work is its own reward and most of the time, I feel that way about helping my clients understand HR and marketing for the tanning industry.

There is one thing that seems radically different between the generations and that is the constant need of today’s society to recognize every child for everything they do or even attempt. What this has produced is the infamous “trophy child” – the worker who seems to always ask, “What’s in it for me?” Those are the employees who got a soccer trophy at seven years old for just showing up. It seems that the comments you hear at any child’s athletic or performance event today is, “Good job, Buddy!”, “Nice dance, Honey!”, “Okay, you missed that catch – but you tried!”…

“I really liked the way you toasted your brother’s fingers with Mom’s iron”… and on, and on.

What we’ve produced in these young adults are employees who feel that they have to be rewarded for just showing up. What works best, for those who work best, is recognition for true performance (consistently high PTA and EFT closing ratios) and true effort. True effort is coupled with great attitude and attitude makes all the difference. So, what to do with the adult kid who wants a gold star just for breathing correctly? Try not to hire some of them in the first place.

During the interview process, probe to see what their work passions truly are and whether they are willing to walk the walk. To do that, get them to talk about their past work experiences and why they were successful, and what they want to learn from working for you. Only wanting a paycheck is not a good enough answer!

Down and dirty, here’s what you should provide for the “younger generation” as meaningful “trophies”:

  1. Give them structure (salon organization and policies like staying off cell phones during their shifts) but also flexibility … especially in customer service. Requiring a Millennial to get permission every time they could give a free session to mollify a disgruntled customer at the counter will negate their sense of pride and independence.
  2. Be a mentor. Too many kids were given too many recognition “gifts”. Let them earn your praise but show them HOW to get it.
  3. Communicate often, honestly and with tact. Remember, the goal is to be the “employer of choice”.
  4. Challenge them. These younger gen workers love to play games and rack up a score … just look at the competition for “Likes” on Facebook!
  5. Take advantage of their tech instincts. Millennials grew up with computer labs and cell phones at ten years old. Get them involved in your digital marketing. They’re probably well versed on Facebook, Pinterest, Yelp, social media and all that stuff that makes a slide rule gen guy like me go crazy to understand.
  6. Train, train and train them some more. With Millennials, the best way to do that is to assign the training process to one of their peers. This gen is also very accustomed to online training programs, and will be more open to and learn better from a source less intimidating than a boss … especially one who still thinks Jimmy Buffet’s music is hot!

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