Book a Speaker
Grow Membership
Reduce Turnover
XYZ University YouTube Page LogoXYZ University Instagram Page LogoXYZ University LinkedIn Page LogoXYZ University Twitter Page LogoXYZ University Facebook Page LogoXYZ University Vimeo LogoXYZ University RSS Feed Logo

Work Ethic: Lost Cause For Millenials?

You aren’t even sure you want to hire those lazy Millennials, so why should you worry about keeping them productive? Well, Millenials are going to be 75% of the workforce by 2025. So, the truth is, if you aren’t recruiting and engaging with Gen Y, you won’t have to worry about keeping them at all. And that will be an even bigger problem for you.

You aren’t even sure you want to hire those lazy Millennials, so why should you worry about keeping them productive? Well, Millenials are going to be 75% of the workforce by 2025. So, the truth is, if you aren’t recruiting and engaging with Gen Y, you won’t have to worry about keeping them at all. And that will be an even bigger problem for you.

First of all, if you’re under the impression that these kids are just lazy, you are not alone. Turns out, even Millennials have a low opinion of their generation’s work ethic. I was surprised recently to find myself in a heated debate with a group of Millennial friends about kids these days, how they don’t want to put in the hours at work.

Regardless of whether they do or don’t want to be in the office for 40 hours a week (hint: they don’t), Millennials are looking for jobs, and you’ll need to hire some eventually if you haven’t already. So, let’s talk about how to keep them engaged and productive once you have them. Millennials might get distracted easily, but…wait, what were we talking about…right, give them a few years and the right encouragement, and you won’t have to argue about work ethic anymore; it’ll be clear Millennials’ productivity drives progress.


Yes, I said encourage us. I know, I know, everyone else puts their noses to the grindstone and don’t need no stinking trophy. But, Millennials like trophies. We were getting them for participating, just showing up. We didn’t even need to win. However, we were always participating. They don’t need to be shiny trophies, find ways to give your Millennials positive feedback. If they do a good job, tell them.

Although Millennials like trophies, we are adults now; we want to earn them and will not accept insincerity. Giving feedback doesn’t always need to be positive. Millennials seek continuous feedback as a way to learn from mistakes and identify ways to grow. Suggesting ways to grow engages them and benefits you.


Of course, when it comes to feedback, you don’t have to do all the work. Millennials also like to give feedback, and they want you to listen. Ask for their ideas; show them you are paying attention. Giving them your ear creates “a cycle of kindness that becomes the foundation for loyalty and retention” according to Chanelle Schneider, the founder of GenYChat on Twitter.


Millennials are most productive in non-traditional flexible work environments that leave room for a bit of fun. Let them surf the Web. It might seem like goofing off, but people who surf the Web at work are actually more productive. According to Cisco’s Connected World Technology Report in 2011, 40% of Millennials think access to the internet is even more important than dating (could personal online time reduce distracting workplace romances? Maybe!) The report also shows that 56% of Millennials won’t even accept a job that bans social media.


To keep Millennials engaged, you need to keep them moving forward with fluid job descriptions. Allow them to pursue interests and grow professionally with you. Only 1/3 of Millennials have jobs in their prospective careers. With you, they want to engage in growth towards their desired career. While this might not mean you keep them forever, it does mean that while they work for you, they are productive. Allow them to take on projects that interest them, can beef up their résumés and benefit your organization. They might even find their niche with you and stay.


If you can’t keep them, be prepared to lose them. Capture what they know by documenting it along the way. Gather what you can from them in exit interviews before they’re gone. Use it as an opportunity to learn and don’t take it personally. Millennials, as we’ve established, love to give feedback, and they are a valuable resource for you to learn how to engage and keep the next Millennials you hire.

What do you do to engage your Millennials? Are they worth it? Go ahead, tell me; I love feedback!

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.

Take the first step towards your future.

Looking for a game changer at your next event or a strategy unique to your organization?