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Generation Y
Generation Z

Feeling Alienated? How Big Companies Are Leaving Out Younger Generations

Is your corporation creating a revolving door for young talent? Are you using resources to recruit Gen Y just to watch them walk out the door in a few short months? Maybe Gen Y employees are lazy and lack loyalty, but more likely, you’re corporate policies are alienating young talent.

Is your corporation creating a revolving door for young talent? Are you using resources to recruit Gen Y just to watch them walk out the door in a few short months? Maybe Gen Y employees are lazy and lack loyalty, but more likely, you’re corporate policies are alienating young talent.

America is facing a workforce crisis, a shift like never before. In the next 20 years, 78 million Baby Boomers will retire. They represent 40% of the American workforce. By next year, Gen Y will outnumber Baby Boomers in the workforce. I think you get the picture; your corporation needs to attract, recruit and keep a younger generation of workers if you want to thrive in the future. And the future is now.

You can’t afford to let your organization age out. It’s time to stop alienating the younger generation of workers, and start making them feel welcomed.


Gen Y has always been part of a team. They were taken seriously by parents at a young age and had a say in family decisions. They worked on teams in school. They expect to be a part of a team at work. Probationary work periods that keep young employees from being an integrated part of the team from day one alienate them.

If Millennials aren’t part of the team from the start, they feel like cogs, hired just to fill a seat. They don’t feel trusted, and probably start looking for a new job. 67% of Gen Y admits that they’re already starting to think about their next job on the first day of a new job.

And as if that isn’t enough, Gen Z (1996-2009) is right on the heels of Gen Y (the oldest Zs turning 18 in 2014). Gen Z is likely entering the workforce with very little experience. You may need to teach them basic work ethics and office skills. But you need to do that by integrating them into a team quickly, not withholding them from the full experience.

If you want to keep the new employee that you just spent time and money to hire, create a welcoming environment from day one. Integrate them into teams and give them meaningful work from the start. Don’t make them feel like you expect them to leave, because then they will.


Gen Y employees want regular feedback. Annual reviews may have worked in the past, but Gen Y expects to build a give and take relationship with their supervisors. They want to be in a continual conversation about how they are doing and where they can improve.

Limiting reviews to once a year leaves Gen Y employees feeling uncertain about their performance and alienated from the overall conversation about workflow and methods. They don’t want to find out three months later that they did something wrong; they want to know now so they can improve on it going forward. They can take criticism, as long as it’s delivered in a timely and respectful manner.

Gen Z needs a structured environment with clear guidelines on what they need to do to succeed. They expect to be guided by their supervisors. If you aren’t giving them regular feedback; they won’t be performing to their maximum potential. And they can achieve a lot in the right environment.

The need for constant feedback is part of the desire for collaboration and to be treated as equals in the work environment. Giving that feedback helps younger generations build relationships and learn from their supervisors; it helps them feel like an equal and important part of the team.


Remember your first cube? Millennials don’t want a first cube. They want to collaborate and work in an environment that facilitates conversation and breaks down the traditional silos. Don’t put Gen Y in the corner; and if you do, make it a nice corner.

Give your employees unstructured breaks. Allow them the opportunity to decide when they take time to relax at the office and when they dig in and produce. Structured break times are constricting and go against creating informal connections with other employees, which is how Gen Y and Gen Z were taught to learn in school.


If you haven’t seen the video of the baby who thinks the magazine is an iPad that doesn’t work, it’s time. The video should give you a pretty good idea about how the younger generations feel about your outdated computers that have them twiddling thumbs waiting for an Excel file to load. It doesn’t work. And they don’t want to work for a company that doesn’t value technology or give them the tools they need to get their jobs done efficiently.

The younger generations are tech savvy. Fifty percent of Gen Z have their own tablets and 100% are connected online for at least one hour per day. Technology means something different to the younger generation of employees, and they expect a lot from it.  If your technology can’t keep up with them, at the very least don’t let it slow them down.

If your corporation can’t provide updated technology, it might be time to consider a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy. Gen Y expects their work technology will be as advanced as what they’re using at home, and if it’s not, they’ll want to provide it themselves.

If you aren’t creating a welcoming environment for new talent, you’re losing the talent war. You’re creating a landing pad from which young talent will grab some experience and then launch themselves into a new organization. Until your corporation understands how to on-board the younger generations  successfully, you’re at risk of aging out.

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.

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