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Talent Development

Gen Y Employees: Gain Loyalty Through Talent Development

Talent is the most important resource your organization has or seeks; the single most important factor in your business’s success. And you might not know this, but there’s a talent war on. Everyone is looking for talent, and as talent wars continue, someone will try to headhunt your top talent. You need to not only cultivate talent, you need to do it in a way that encourages loyalty.

Talent is the most important resource your organization has or seeks; the single most important factor in your business’s success. And you might not know this, but there’s a talent war on. Everyone is looking for talent, and as talent wars continue, someone will try to headhunt your top talent. You need to not only cultivate talent, you need to do it in a way that encourages loyalty.

Well, great because talented Millennials (those young employees who are about to make up a majority of your workforce) are known for their loyalty. Yeah right.

However, the outlook for you isn’t so bleak.

Millennials want to develop their talents. The most talented from the Gen Y employee pool are probably coming to you with little or no relevant work experience. They know they need career development to succeed in the job they want; they are looking for new skills and better experience.

Meanwhile, businesses benefit from hiring talent and potential over specific experience because that means they can develop employees into exactly what their organization needs to succeed. If you work with Millennials to develop their talents, not only is it a win for you, but engaging them and showing genuine interest in their career development is going to help you create the loyalty you’ll need to keep them.


Getting to know your talent is all about getting to know your employees. Millennial hires often come with myriad of talents and experiences that may or may not have anything to do with what they were hired for or even what’s on their résumés.

Find out what else they can do: where they’ve volunteered and excelled outside of their current job description. Get to know what they like to do in their spare time–hobbies and activities they enjoy outside of work. Building on existing talents will show you care about what your employees can offer and help you build a talent development plan that fits their strengths and interests.

It’s not up to you alone to come up with a plan. Ask your employees what they want in the future; what their professional goals are. They will tell you. Understanding what they want and actively helping them work toward it will gain you trust and loyalty.


Once you know what your employees are looking for and understand how their goals fit in with the organization’s goals, it’s time to create a talent development plan that will help your people and your business succeed.

Be strategic about assignments

Determine what should be assigned to each employee based on which skills they hope to develop and the needs of your business. Team up your Millennial employees with more experienced personnel. Your projects will benefit from the variety of input and your employees will learn from each other.

Expose your employees to cross-functional work

Strategically expose your Millennial employees to different people and aspects of the business where you think their talents would be of use.

Listen to your employees

Check in with your employees regularly to see how they are doing and what their challenges are. Answer their questions or find ways for them to get answers to their questions first-hand. As they get more involved with your organization, their goals may shift. Make sure you know about that shift and discuss how to change their path before they get frustrated and decide to leave.

Take an active interest in your employees to help them develop in ways they want and that will improve your business. Make an investment in the people who are investing time and energy into your organization, and you’ll not only have more engaged, happier employees, but you’ll be going a long way to develop loyalty with them. You’ll not only develop talent for your organization now, you’ll strengthen future leaders because your talent development plan works hand in hand with your succession plan.

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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