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Do Millennial and Generation Z candidates want to work for you?

If not, here are six bad habits to fix so you can attract newer generations.

The signs are clear – companies need to improve how they hire, lead, and retain employees. If your organization is too slow to adapt, or plans to retain the old management habits of yesteryear, you’re doing more harm to your business than you may think. 

The newer generations of Millenials and Gen Z job seekers already make up 46% of full time workers. They’re leaving their current employers for better jobs, especially those who’ve been stuck in low wage employment for years. In fact, new data shows that 72% of people who make less than $30,000 per year are planning to hunt for a new job. 

Making your company appealing to new generations will take more than just flashy benefits and higher pay. Here are six bad habits that leaders need to address in order to create a more welcoming work culture for the next generations of employees.

1. Prioritizing profits above all else

While prior generations were more concerned with securing a stable job that can support their families, newer generations expect far more from their leaders. They’re looking for employers who want to hear their ideas on how to make a positive impact on the world.

When rigid hierarchies are in place, people feel boxed into their roles and don’t have the satisfaction of working towards something bigger. Make sure that your employees understand the purpose of your business and can connect to it personally. This is so important that six out of ten employees who responded to a Deloitte survey say that a sense of purpose is the main reason they choose their employers.

2. Practicing one-sided hiring

Today’s candidate interviews are a two way conversation. While you’re vetting the candidate to see if they’re the best fit for your company, they’re also vetting you as an employer. Instead of thinking that candidates should be grateful for the opportunity to work for you, you need to sell your business as a great place to work. 

Businesses with positive workplace cultures will include an entire section in their job descriptions about what the company can do for the candidate, like training programs, mentoring, exercise stipends, volunteer opportunities, and more. If this is missing from your open job postings, you’re sending a message that you’re only interested in what you can get from the candidate. 

3. Insisting on everyone being in the office

Traditional workplace rules are also on their way out. Only some jobs require workers to be on-site and in-person and millennials know they can be just as productive working remotely. Since most of our modern responsibilities involve emails, phone calls, and using online apps, there’s really no need to be sitting at a desk forty hours a week.

If your business doesn’t trust employees to manage their workloads without keeping on eye on their movements, you’ll lose out on the most talented professionals.  Flexible scheduling and remote work must be supported options in their place of work.

4. Enforcing rigid hierarchies

Companies that operate in a traditional management structure see employees as assets to be managed and optimized. Younger workers are pushing back on this attitude. If your office culture only values the most senior person’s opinion, you’ll have a hard time hiring. 

Older millennials who started their working careers during the recession of 2008 are especially skeptical when decisions are made behind closed doors. They take a “trust but verify” approach to leadership and want facts and third party validation of any important decisions. 

They need to understand why a decision has been made and aren’t happy to hear their boss say “because I said so.” They don’t want, or need, micromanagers and babysitters. The saying “people don’t quit jobs, they quit managers” resonates with newer generations like never before.

Leaders who believe they know what is best for their company and workers won’t secure the loyalty of younger employees. There are so many other job opportunities for millennials and Gen Z-ers that will allow them to contribute to the growth of the business, not just complete daily tasks.

5. Ignoring professional growth and recognition 

Recognition in the workplace is more important to younger generations than it was to baby boomers. They want to know that their workplace genuinely cares about their contributions and that they’re not just cogs in the machine. Instead of CEOs that take all the credit for their organizations success, millennials want their efforts acknowledged too.

For the newest Gen Z college graduates, the pandemic interrupted and interfered with their professional education. They didn’t have the advantages of in-person internships and face to face support from managers and teammates – and they’re aware that they’ve missed out. 

Employers need to provide these opportunities in-house through coaching and mentoring programs. Guidance from experienced colleagues has always been part of our professional growth and now it needs to be formalized as part of your employment package. 

6. Treating diversity and inclusion as a “nice to have”

Even some of the most progressive companies are falling short of Gen Z expectations around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I). This lack of progress is especially visible in sales and engineering departments that have mostly white male leaders.

Improving your diversity and creating a welcoming atmosphere for women, minorities, LGBT workers, disabled workers, and people with non-traditional backgrounds requires more than just intention – it requires action. Consider hiring a DE&I consultant to help you understand the problems in your hiring, management, and promotion processes.

Encourage employees to create employee resource groups (ERGs). These forums provide trusted and safe spaces for employees who need advice from others who understand their perspective. This is very important for long term employee wellbeing.

This doesn’t mean senior leadership can pass the buck on DE&I programs. They must play an active role as ERG sponsors and be open to the feedback you’ll receive, no matter how difficult it is to hear. It’s not always going to be positive feedback, but it will always be constructive.


Younger workers’ expectations have changed significantly from those of Baby Boomers and Generation X. New generations aren’t satisfied to work towards a company profit goal or to satisfy investors without having a greater purpose behind their contributions. Now is the best time to start adapting your hiring and management practices so your company can be a great place to work.