THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Demanding: Young workers have negotiating edge

Companies are having a hard time recruiting and retaining young talent, and as a result are accommodating what would have once been considered extreme demands. "The scales have tipped in favor of knowledge workers, creating a seller's market for the next 5 to 10 years," writes to Stan Smith at Deloitte.

Here are some reasons why so many younger workers have gained the negotiating advantage:.

The workforce is shrinking.

The Department of Labor reports that by 2010 there will be 30 percent fewer workers in their 30s and 40s. In addition, many Generation X parents are choosing to leave the workforce or cut back on hours in order to be home with their children. 

Many young people want their own businesses.

The barriers to starting an Internet business are low. Viral marketing via a personal e-mail list and a few key mentions on prominent blogs can jump-start a successful business. The flexibility of owning a company is not only appealing, but also a way to avoid menial labor at the bottom of the corporate ladder. Many young people are choosing the excitement of entrepreneurship over the stability of a good salary.

Parents are a safety net.

More than 50 percent of college graduates will move back home with their parents this summer. And most parents will like it. Returning home after college used to be a sign of failure. Today, however, such homecomings are considered a smart response to exorbitant housing prices in cities and peon-level wages.

With such parental support, there's no need for a company to play the parenting role, which is what happened when baby boomers entered the workforce. And if there's no paternalism in corporate life, it becomes a scramble to figure out what businesses can leverage to scoop up young employees.

The intimidation factor is diminished.

"People going to college today are working harder than I ever did in school," says Bill MacGowan, chief human resources officer of Sun Microsystems. In return for their effort, they expect to be well compensated. As consummate consumers, they use technology to customize the way they view information, and they expect the same kind of customization when it comes to selecting jobs. They negotiate for vacation time, mentoring and training, flexible schedules, and even tricked-out laptops.

And when it comes to negotiating, young people assume the adults at the office are on their side. Generation Y has been raised by parents who often acted more like friends and mentors. In fact, often a wide community was involved in helping a Generation Y child succeed– including teachers, coaches, and private tutors. As a result, young people bring unprecedented confidence to the negotiating table. Some even have their parents in the room for added help, and many respected companies are willing to engage parents in the hiring process if that's what the candidate wants.

Indeed, the scales have tipped and young people are in charge. For many people who have been in the workforce for a long time and expected to be in charge, the new reality is difficult to accept. But it's possible all employees will benefit from some of the changes. After all, demands such as more flexible schedules, are appealing to all employees regardless of age.