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Talent Development

Your Mission Statement Stinks

Quick! What’s your organization’s mission statement? Don’t have the mission memorized? Do your eyes glaze over at the mere mention of it? Then perhaps your organization isn’t on a worthwhile mission

Quick! What’s your organization’s mission statement?

Don’t have the mission memorized? Do your eyes glaze over at the mere mention of it? Then perhaps your organization isn’t on a worthwhile mission.

No doubt you’ve seen something like: “Our mission is to maximize shareholder profits, in relationship with both internal and external stakeholders, as we explore new paradigms to improve the world.”

Blah, blah, blah.

When it comes to recruiting the next generation of talent, one of the worst mistakes an organization can make is to be vague. And let’s face it – most mission statements are vague. Not to mention long-winded, outdated, and rarely memorable. So isn’t it high time to rethink the mission statement?

Interesting enough, the world’s longest paragraph is a carry-over from the 1980s workplace, which thrived on formalities. We’ve long since retired dot matrix printers and pantyhose, but the mundane mission statement still lives on.

I think that’s about to change.

Generation Y (1982-1995), the youngest and largest generation in history seeks an authentic, trustworthy, and credible employer. They cherish brands that are successful at humanization and innovation. And at 80 million people, their quest to work for a company with a meaningful mission is one that employers need to heed.

As this huge generation begins to flood the workforce, an immersion of work life and personal life will come together. This shift is neither good nor bad, but it’s definitely a different approach to work.

Generation Y is driven by the opportunity to make a social impact — not a big paycheck or working for a prestigious corporation. Make no mistake about it; mission really matters to this generation.

Gone are the days of formal and forgetful mission statements. Here are three things to keep in mind when crafting a mission:

  1. Be relevant. A mission statement that appeals to Generation Y will express values and purpose, inspire collaboration, build trust, and benefit the greater good.
  2. Get to the point. When you’re sharing your organization’s mission with a 20-something who has a 7-second attention span, it’s best to be brief.
  3. Have a point. A mission statement is a blueprint for the present and near future. It should communicate the job that you and your team have come to do. FedEx’s early mission statement was a succinct call to action: Get it there. ‘Nuff said.

Here are some additional examples of Gen Y-friendly mission statements:

  • Starbucks: Inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.
  • GlaxoSmithKline: Improve the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better, and live longer.
  • Facebook: Give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.
  • Whole Foods: Sell the highest quality natural and organic products available.

Your organization’s mission statement has always been important, but it’s about to become more important than ever before. For the love of Gen Y, make it meaningful, motivational, and memorable. Make it your mission to make a difference.

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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