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Generation Y
Generation Z
Generation X

Downsizing With Dignity – And Perks!

In November 2008, the Victaulic pipe plant laid off nearly 260 workers. After the workers were laid off, the United Steelworkers union applied for special unemployment benefits from the U.S. Department of Labor, citing that the company produces products that also are imported from other countries. The benefits will give the workers up to two years of unemployment pay and re-training.Unfortunately, not every company is eligible for benefits that will allow laid-off workers access to re-training or other valuable perks. But perhaps it’s time for companies to consider offering ‘perk packages’ for laid-off workers.

In November 2008, the Victaulic pipe plant laid off nearly 260 workers. After the workers were laid off, the United Steelworkers union applied for special unemployment benefits from the U.S. Department of Labor, citing that the company produces products that also are imported from other countries. The benefits will give the workers up to two years of unemployment pay and re-training.Unfortunately, not every company is eligible for benefits that will allow laid-off workers access to re-training or other valuable perks. But perhaps it’s time for companies to consider offering ‘perk packages’ for laid-off workers.

Why? Because the economic situation we’re sitting in is temporary. Sooner or later the economy will edge its way back to normalcy and we will return to our panic-stricken state as we face an ever-widening talent gap due to retirements.The U.S. Census Bureau predicted a shortfall of 10 million workers in the U.S. by 2020. Furthermore, the U.S. is woefully behind other countries in our efforts to bridge the gap.

If employers would really stop to consider how fragile our workforce is, they would become more concerned about stablizing it and preserving it.Layoffs, large or small, force organizations to cut loose the talent in which they have invested salary and training dollars. While talent released during a layoff today may seem like little more than an expense, tomorrow it could be the difference between success and failure.Here are a two perks to consider when downsizing:Career CoachingInternal Relations, a professional coaching service, has launched an innovative program for companies forced to downsize. Realizing that many downsized employees are either Baby Boomers, re-entering the workforce after many years of service at the same company, or Generation Ys, getting the boot early-on in their young careers, the company started offering a coaching solution to outplacement.

Smooth Landings™ includes a half-day workshop led by professional coaches followed by three months of one-on-one coaching designed to help outplaced employees successfully transition. Participants reflect on their achievements, evaluate their strengths and goals, develop a personal action plan, receive job search and interview training, and gain back their confidence.For employers faced with downsizing, this is a great ‘perk’ to offer downsized employees. They are giving employees a great opportunity to hone their skills and improve their chances of success in a job hunt, while practicing good corporate citizenship and lessening the liabilities associated with transitioning employees.Boomerang ProgramsAnother great perk to consider is the development of an alumni, or boomerang, program. Alumni programs allow you to maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with former employees who may someday provide significant value again, providing you with an excuse to remain in contact and a mechanism to recruit them back quickly when needed.

Because so much great talent is being released into the labor market right now, it is a great time to either start a formal program or upgrade your existing corporate alumni or “boomerang” program.While the primary reason organizations develop alumni programs is recruiting-related, lots of research demonstrates that investing in corporate alumni programs increases the sales lead generation and deal closing capability of the organization.If you treat them right, former employees (i.e., alumni) can be converted into “ambassadors” for your organization. Despite being laid-off, odds are that a significant number of former employees remain loyal and committed to your organization.If you proactively build and maintain a relationship with them after they leave, they will continue to “talk up your firm” and maybe even become a customer when they land in a new role.The Treasury Alumni program of the Australian Government offers former and retired employees access to networking, events, and employment opportunities. KPMG maintains an active alumni directory, publishes a magazine for alumni, and also offers a social networking forum.Do you know of or have ideas for other ‘perks’ employers can provide during a downsize? If so, our readers would love to hear from you. Please post them here!

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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