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Industry - Education
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Scary Stats

The Terrifying Truth About Teacher Talent and Turnover

Despite being an up-and-coming, in-demand generation, and one that’s consistently shaping how we think about work, Millennials—ages 22-35 and the largest percentage of the workforce—are still having a hard time finding reasonable jobs. Presently, the Millennial unemployment rate stands at an unfortunate 12.8 percent compared to the national average of 4.9 percent.

Despite being an up-and-coming, in-demand generation, and one that’s consistently shaping how we think about work, Millennials—ages 22-35 and the largest percentage of the workforce—are still having a hard time finding reasonable jobs. Presently, the Millennial unemployment rate stands at an unfortunate 12.8 percent compared to the national average of 4.9 percent.

Why is this happening? The modern American workplace needs Millennials to gain experience and replace previous generations—but they seem to be facing a uniquely difficult challenge doing so compared to other generations. 

In a survey by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, many employers believe recent college graduates are underdeveloped in key workplace skills like interpersonal communication, critical thinking, and organization. These skills aren’t taught in higher education. Instead, students focus on theoretical studies making it harder for Millennials, who believe themselves to be highly qualified, to land even the most basic jobs. 

This isn’t just a higher ed problem. Data collected at Learning Sciences International found most U.S. classrooms from primary to high school, even advanced AP classes, are not supporting the level of cognitive complexity and student autonomy necessary to prepare students for the new economy workforce. 

While how we educate has fallen under scrutiny, concerns about who will educate have also emerged.


Since 2013, XYZ University has celebrated Halloween by reporting on the scariest workforce stats and we felt it was important to spotlight the education industry this year, especially considering these industry stats: 

  • The school-going population will increase by roughly three million students in the next decade 
  • Public schools in 48 states and the District of Columbia report teacher shortages. 
  • Teachers make about 20 percent less than college graduates in other fields. 
  • Millennials now make up the majority of new teacher hires. Unfortunately, less than half of them will still be teachers in five years. 
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The teaching workforce continues to be a leaky bucket, losing hundreds of thousands of teachers each year—the majority before retirement age. Of those who leave teaching voluntarily, most teachers list some type of dissatisfaction as very influential in their decision to leave the profession. Young teachers often cite feeling ostracized and excluded.   

If changing attrition would change the projected teacher shortages more than any other single factor, why isn’t there more emphasis placed on workforce culture and employee experience in our school systems?  

We have moved rapidly from a manufacturing-centric economy to a global, technologically advanced, knowledge-based economy. The pressure is on for teachers to prep students for a world we can’t even imagine. It’s become painfully obvious that our schools will struggle to properly educate and prepare students for the workforce without the support of a stable, engaged teaching workforce. 

Clearly, education needs to be revamped. A change is required, and every school needs to be reassessing and prioritizing how it raises talent – on both the student side and the teaching side.  

This is an awesome and urgent responsibility. Talent is our nation’s greatest asset. Talent is the heart and soul of every organization, and developing that talent starts as early as grade school. We can, and must, do better at educating future generations and engaging our educators in this worthwhile and important cause. 

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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