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Generation X
Generation Y

Best Buy To Receive Award For Engaging X And Y At Work

On October 20, 2009, business leaders from across the country will be attending the RockStars@Work Conference in Minneapolis–the nation’s first generation-themed business conference—to learn how to relate to the next generation of workers and address the approaching talent gap in America’s workforce.

Cargill, I Love Rewards, Greater Mankato Growth will also be honored

On October 20, 2009, business leaders from across the country will be attending the RockStars@Work Conference in Minneapolis–the nation’s first generation-themed business conference—to learn how to relate to the next generation of workers and address the approaching talent gap in America’s workforce.

The RockStars@Work Conference is expected to draw in 600 business and non-profit leaders who want to learn how to bridge the talent gap, obtain tools for succession planning, and learn about the workforce trends preferred by younger generations.

The conference will feature an awards ceremony, at which Best Buy, Cargill, I Love Rewards, and Greater Mankato Growth, Inc. will be honored for their exceptional efforts at bridging the talent gap.

Retail technology company Best Buy (BBY) will receive the Rockin’ the Future Award, an exclusive award recognizing a company’s steadfast dedication to the development of young talent within its organization.

To be eligible for the honor, Best Buy had to meet specific criteria, including the placement of young professionals (under 40) in key leadership or decision-making roles; active training programs to aid young professionals in reaching their career goals; and an outreach effort targeting college-aged students or younger. 

Best Buy’s notable talent development efforts include:

·         @15, a social change platform that creates personal growth opportunities for teens;

·         Gamma Girls, a network of teenage girl consumers that help Best Buy solve business problems;

·         Geek Squad Summer Academy,  which gives students ages 9 to 18 hands-on experience with technology;

·         The Learning Lounge, a one-stop training resource that employees can access from any Internet browser;

·         Plus the representation of young leadership throughout the enterprise and career paths suited to the strengths, talents, and passions of each employee.

“At Best Buy we truly believe in the power of our people. This is a core philosophy at Best Buy. We understand great ideas can come from anywhere and anyone, therefore we recognize employees based on their contribution and talent regardless of age or other demographic criteria,” stated Carolyn Aberman, senior manager of public relations for Best Buy.

“Young leadership has strong representation throughout our enterprise; in corporate headquarters, in the field and in our stores. Many of our stores’ general managers fall in the under forty category and are responsible for managing stores that are the equivalent to running a large multi-million dollar company.”

Cargill and I Love Rewards will receive Next Generation Employer of Choice Awards for extraordinary–and proven—methods for reaching a younger workforce.

Cargill is an international producer and marketer of food, agricultural, financial and industrial products and services. Founded in 1865, the privately held company employs 160,000 people in 67 countries. The company is receiving an award for its strengths‐based, entry‐level talent development, internship, and rotational program for IT which resulted in 100% employee retention.


I Love Rewards, headquartered in Toronto, Canada, is a provider of web-based rewards and recognition programs. The average age of an I Love Rewards employee is 29 years old. The company is receiving an award for not only creating a company culture that successfully recruits, retains, and manages Gen Y talent–but also providing solutions to help their clients engage Gen Y talent, too.

Greater Mankato Growth, Inc., a fusion of a chamber of commerce and economic development corporation based in Mankato, Minnesota, will receive a Next Generation Community Impact Award for creating successful workforce development initiatives.

As a college community, Mankato was concerned about the volume of students who left the Mankato region within two years of graduation.Greater Mankato Growth is receiving an award for its comprehensive talent development initiatives ranging from middle school students to young professionals and including career expos, leadership academies, internship programs, campus fairs, and a young professionals group.

 “With 40% of America’s workforce eligible to retire in 2010 and professionals under the age of 35 spending an average of 20 months on a job, the talent gap is a serious concern,” stated Sarah Sladek, president and CEO of Limelight Generations, the generational company hosting the RockStars@Work Conference.

“These organizations deserve to be recognized for their efforts in bridging the gap and engaging the next generation. They have secured a future for themselves and for others which is incredibly important. I hope other organizations will realize that they, too, can make a difference in their businesses, industries, and communities simply by taking the time to focus on the future.”

For more information about the RockStars@Work Conference, go to

Zs came of age in an era of disruption

In many ways, it’s symbolic that Generation Z is named after the last letter in the alphabet because their arrival marks the end of clearly defined roles, traditions, and experiences. After all, Gen Z is coming of age on the heels of what has been referred to as the most disruptive decade of the last century. America has become an increasingly changing and complex place.

For example:

  • ‍Zs were born into a “modern family era” in which highly involved dads help out at home, and the nuclear family model (two parents, married, with children) represent only 46% of American households.
  • ‍Zs are the first generation to be born into a world where everything physical, from people to places to pennies, has a digital equivalent.
  • From the time they were infants, Zs had access to mobile technology. As a result, their brains have been trained to absorb large amounts of information, and Zs are especially adept at shifting between skills and subject matter.
  • Zs tend to have crystal-clear memories of sitting up for the first time at six months old because they can easily and quickly reference the photos and videos their parents shared on social media or saved in the “cloud”. 

Members of this generation have undoubtedly been shaped by crisis and disruption. This generation will largely be responsible for confronting the aftermath of the Great Recession, high youth unemployment, the effects of climate change, terrorism, energy sustainability, and more. These dark events have undoubtedly made this generation more cautious and pragmatic, but they have also provided this generation with the inspiration to change the world – and their grit will likely allow them to do it.

Coming of age during disruption means that most Zs will be comfortable being the disruptors. While Millennials tend to be collaborative and innovative, this generation tends to be sincere, reflective, thick-skinned, and self-directed, and will likely approach work in much the same way.

Zs were raised to be competitive

In the era following World War II, Boomers (1946-1964) were born and eventually became the wealthiest, most prosperous generation in history. Raised to aspire for the American Dream, this very large generation moved into positions of power and influence, and served as the workforce majority for 34 years.

With the American Dream alive and well, Boomers had no reason to teach their children, mostly Millennials, about competition. Instead, they taught them to focus on academic achievement and to be team players because if everyone works hard, everyone can win.

Enter Generation X (1965-1981). In contrast Boomers, Xers came of age during a time when change and economic and political uncertainty began to take root. They have lived through four recessions, struggled with debt and economic decline most of their lives, and watched the best educated and accomplished generation of all time (Millennials) graduate during the Great Recession and become the most debt-ridden generation in history.

Gen Xers can be defined by their independence and anti-status quo approach to life, and they have taught their Gen Z children to be competitive, believing only the best can win. They have encouraged their children to be realists, finding something they are good at and aggressively pursuing it.

Xers have raised their Zs with an intense focus on competitiveness -- in academics, sports, and other activities. This approach to parenting has many implications, but one stands out in terms of business: Gen Z is likely to lead.

Millennials in the workplace created and aggressively advocated for collaborative work environments. In fact, their aversion to leadership has been so strong, some Millennials sought out companies that boasted boss-free or team-managed workplaces.

In contrast, Zs have been raised with an individualistic, realistic, and competitive nature. They have been taught the skills to successfully defy the norm. This means we’re going to see the pendulum shift away from collaborative workplaces towards a widespread demand for, and pursuit of, leadership development.

Zs are career-focused.

While Millennials have been criticized for their “delayed adulthood”, Gen Z is showing signs of “early adulthood”. Educators and parents often describe this generation as being more serious and contemplative about the world. Zs are thinking about their career paths and exposing themselves to career training at an earlier age than Millennials. It’s probable that some of this early onset of adulthood is caused by parents, who are pressuring their children to be competitive and successful and to avoid the debt that plagued both the Gen Xers and Millennials.

The numbers from our global research found 46% of Gen Z said they know what career to pursue and 51% have taken a class at school focused on their career interests. Forty percent joined an extracurricular program (team, club) based on their career interests.

Zs are seeking financial security. 

Zs have been shaped by the aftermath of the Great Recession. They watched Millennials become debt-ridden and are concerned about falling into the same trap. XYZ University’s survey results show 66% of Zs said financial stability is more important than doing work they enjoy, which is the exact opposite of Millennial survey results.  Also, 71% of survey-takers have a paying job.

Zs value leaders who are positive and trustworthy.

When presented a list of leadership traits, Zs ranked positive and trustworthy the highest. While Millennials and Gen Zs both value trust in a leader, Millennials usually cite collaboration and vision as most important. In other words, Millennials focus on the outcomes leaders inspire, whereas Zs are more likely to consider leaders’ attitudes and personalities. To Z, what leaders encourage others to do isn’t as valuable as how they make them feel.


Zs want to be challenged.

Both Millennials and Gen Zs place a very high value on feeling challenged and appreciated in the workplace. However, according to our survey results Millennials rank appreciation slightly higher than challenge, whereas Zs rank feeling challenged slightly higher than appreciation.

Time will tell how Zs go down in history, but we know this generation’s influence on history will be unlike any other.


Does your organization have what it takes to engage the next generation? Take this quiz to find out.


Sarah Sladek is CEO of XYZ University. Our generational intelligence can assist you with engaging and retaining young talent and members.

Sarah Sladek

Concerned about declining engagement in our nation’s membership associations, non-profits, and workplaces, Sarah Sladek founded XYZ University, the nation’s first and only generations-focused training and engagement strategy company, in 2002.

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