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Generation Y

Why Social Media Isn’t Working For Your Company

A recent study conducted by Dan Schawbel with the help of American Express, takes a look at 1,000 Millennials and 1,000 of their managers and reveals some interesting findings about how seriously social media is being taken in the workforce when it comes to promoting careers. The results of the study are fairly surprising. But are they being taken seriously?

Social networks at work need work.

recent study conducted by Dan Schawbel with the help of American Express, takes a look at 1,000 Millennials and 1,000 of their managers and reveals some interesting findings about how seriously social media is being taken in the workforce when it comes to promoting careers. The results of the study are fairly surprising. But are they being taken seriously?

It turns out, even the Millennials aren’t taking their social media skills to work.


Only a small percentage of Millennial employees, 17%, view building their social media skills and using them as a means to drive business forward as very or extremely important. Using social media to get involved with industry-based conversations is something that could be, but is not happening at a lot of companies.

In fact, 26% of companies are still blocking social media sites at work. It’s going to be hard to prove yourself as an industry leader to those online if, say, Twitter or Facebook are both blocked at work. Not that it matters much if nearly 80% of managers and Millennial employees don’t see using it to promote the company as being all that important anyway.

The tools are there. Employees have the skills. Why aren’t managers capitalizing on this? Your greatest brand advocates can be your employees if you give them the chance.


Millennials see social media as a way to build relationships and network in their personal lives. But this isn’t necessarily bleeding over into career advancement. Seventy-six percent of Millennial are uncomfortable connecting with their managers on social networking sites. And, they’d be met with resistance if they did try because only 14% of managers are “very to extremely comfortable” connecting with employees online, according to Schawbel’s study.

Sure, Millennials see their managers as people to go to for wisdom, mentoring and experience, and they even believe they offer valuable assets. But Millennials aren’t comfortable connecting on social media with their superiors.

What’s everyone so afraid of? Although those stories of Millennials getting fired for posting photos of themselves licking tacos are sensational, they really aren’t that common. Perhaps everyone expects everyone else is looking them up online, so they are careful about what they post, but it doesn’t matter; no one’s looking. Schawbel’s study found that 81% of managers don’t go online to look up information about their employees.

You’re all missing an opportunity.

If managers and Millennial employees are afraid to connect online, and Millennials build relationships online, will there be a breakdown of trust for management? Could stronger relationships be built with an added online element? If managers aren’t connecting with employees in a way that is meaningful to them for networking, it’s going to be harder to build loyalty for the companies these members of the younger generations work for.

As more Millennials move into management positions, it’s likely that we’ll see more social media being used to drive business and promotions. I find it rather surprising that these numbers are still as low as they are. Managers should be thinking about how they can use social media tools, and their employees who understand them, to gain a competitive edge both in recruiting new talent and making their business stand out above the competition.

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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