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Generation Y

Recruiting The Latest, Greatest Talent

Let’s pretend for a moment that you are a talent agent sitting across the table from a very famous rock star. Let’s pretend it’s Elvis. Every talent agent out there wants to represent Elvis for obvious reasons—his records and concerts sell out within minutes, advertisers want him to endorse their products, and even Hollywood is calling him to make movies.

The following article was published today on the National Association of Women Business Owners Web site:

Let’s pretend for a moment that you are a talent agent sitting across the table from a very famous rock star. Let’s pretend it’s Elvis. Every talent agent out there wants to represent Elvis for obvious reasons—his records and concerts sell out within minutes, advertisers want him to endorse their products, and even Hollywood is calling him to make movies. This scenario really isn’t all that different from being an employer, sitting across the table from a young, prospective employee. In a workforce where talent is scarce, your company—and every other company out there—will want to hire the latest and greatest talent. What will you say or do to convince them to work for you?Today’s young professionals certainly aren’t swayed by yesterday’s tiresome incentives like stock options.If you really want to recruit Generations X and Y (young professionals under the age of 44) to your company, then focus on the following four values: Freedom to WorkAccording to the Society of Human Resource Management, employees under the age of 35 consider work-life balance as the single most important consideration when deciding whether to join or remain with an employer. Simply put, while Generations X and Y are renowned for being high achievers and dedicated employees, they want the freedom to work when they want, where they want.Work-life balance options include flexible time off, flexible start-stop times, working at home, working less overtime, part-time work, two people sharing a single job, and compressed workweeks.BenefitsXers and Ys also want benefits packages with options specific to their needs.For example, this demographic is, or soon will be, caring for aging relatives and children under the age of 18. They want child care and elder care coverage to help them foot the bills and maintain balance in their lives.They also expect parental benefits including paid maternity leave, access to near-office child care centers, on-site lactation rooms, and the option to work from home or to take children on business trips.Learning OpportunitiesAccording to the Gallup School of Management, 80 percent of young employees say that job training is key to keeping them as employees.Xers and Ys want to understand what is expected in their present capacity, and more importantly, what will be required to move into the next opportunity. Engage them in the company’s growth strategies and help them understand how they affect the bottom line.Community Giving Generations X and Y pursue employment that is worthwhile and meaningful. These generations are attracted to companies that are supportive of community causes, like the consulting company that pays employees to work with nonprofits, the pharmaceutical company that gives employees the opportunity to work on diabetes research, and the financial planning company that built a playground in a disadvantaged neighborhood.Like Elvis, young generations are bright and talented and heavily sought after by every company out there. Take the time to craft a competitive and compelling offer that addresses their specific needs and interests and they are certain to jump on board.Don’t let the latest, greatest talent pass you by.In other words, don’t let Elvis leave the building.

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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