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Talent revolt

Hillary Wicai Apr 25, 2006

Talent revolt

Hillary Wicai Apr 25, 2006


The class of 2006 graduates soon and employers will get their annual pick of the crop. Some young people say they don’t want to become workaholics — they’re committed to having a life as well as a career. From the Marketplace Work and Family Desk, Hillary Wicai says there’s a talent revolt brewing among the youngest workers.

[Sound of arena — “Did you have a specific question I can answer for you?”]

That’s the sound of the next generation getting jobs. American University recently held a job fair for 170 employers and thousands of soon-to-be graduates eager to put their shiny new degrees to the test. But they’re not willing to take any old job.

Twenty-seven-year-old Anar Pathak is about to graduate with an MBA. She wants to ensure that it’s possible to work from home and still get big projects.

ANAR PATHAK: I would take flexibility and less pay.

She’s not married and doesn’t have children. But she wants a family and is unwilling to make the sacrifices she’s watched others make, like fellow MBA candidate James Cozart.

He’s 40 and a father of three. After working years of 12-14 hour days, including weekends, he left his accounting job and went back to school.

JAMES COZART: This evening my daughter’s in soccer. So I’d like to be at her first soccer game. That’ll be very nice.

In interviews, Cozart now asks prospective employers about flexible work schedules before he talks pay or 401k.

It’s not just AU grads. Ellen Galinksy at the Families and Work Institute says corporate leaders tell her promotions are being turned down. Galinsky says her research shows that workers used to want responsibility, now they don’t.

ELLEN GALINKSY: This is phenomenal. In 10 years there has been a huge change.

In 1992, as expected, fully 80% of 18-23-year-olds wanted to begin climbing the career ladder toward more responsibility. By 2002, that had dropped to just 60% for the same age group.

Paul Bernthal is with DDI, a human resources research firm. He says a survey of 4,500 leaders from 1,000 companies show attracting and retaining talent is their top concern. He says corporate leaders wonder where their replacements will come from if today’s talent is revolting against all work and no life.

PAUL BERNTHAL: We may start to see some organizations begin to fall by the wayside because they don’t have the strong leadership.

Back at the AU career fair, HR manager Michelle Engle says AOL has been experimenting with job sharing and part-time schedules. Their current employees tell AOL they want flexibility instead of more pay. She hopes by next year’s round of job fairs she’ll have more tailored options to entice grads.

MICHELLE ENGLE: We already think we’re lagging. We’d like to be ahead of the curve and we’re not.

But DDI’s Bernthal says only about 20% of corporate leaders surveyed admit that their company is proactive when it comes to dealing with work life balance. And at this job fair, it seems the grads won’t work for the other 80% of companies, or at least won’t work for them for long.

In Washington, I’m Hillary Wicai for Marketplace.

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