When Generations Clash - The New Role Models

Updated: May 14



On June 6, 2021, Logan Paul a multi-millionaire YouTuber is going to be boxing undefeated 50-0 professional boxer Floyd “Money” Mayweather, arguably the greatest professional boxer of all time. This fight was set after Logan’s kid brother Jake Paul, also a multi-millionaire YouTuber now turned boxer fought in two of the biggest pay-per-view events of all time and knocked out two other professional athletes. Wait what? Yes, I know you’re asking, “what does this have to do with recruiting, managing and marketing to young people?” I’m getting there, but before I provide solutions, I need to provide perspective so we can gain empathy. Not in the form of sorrow so frequently used in breakup songs but rather an empathy in the sense of understanding what sources of inspiration and media consumption young people are using.

TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, Clubhouse, Twitter and kinda sorta Facebook… I mean Facebook is the OG (Original Gangsta) so we have to keep it on the list, no cap! With this sentence, I may have already lost our Boomers, Gen Xers and some Millennials but stick around I promise there’s a lot of value below.

Let’s start with some simple “vocab” AKA vocabulary, that was an easy one. I know many of you are now saying, “slang isn’t appropriate in a business/formal setting.” Yes, this may be true but with the 36% of the workforce already consisting of Generation Z coupled with the certain future that Millennials will represent 75% of the workforce by 2030 - U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; conventional norms such as these are constantly being challenged. Language is constantly evolving and for whatever reason, new generations like to create new words and acronyms that leave the majority of us clueless or confused as to what they’re talking about.

However, what’s different with this generation’s rendition is the rate of change. This is due in large part to… take a guess, I’m sure you already know. It starts with a T and ends with a Y “won’t this thing connect.” Yes, technology but more precisely social media. Okay let’s run through what’s “lit” right now, also “lit” has been on its way out for years now.

  • DM: Direct message within a social media platform

  • Cap (maybe just an emoji or the word): Something or someone lying or greatly exaggerating the truth. “He said Kim Kardashian slid into his DM’s but I knew that was cap”

  • No cap: the opposite of “Cap” meaning very true. “I asked him to show me his DM’s and I was shocked but No cap she actually DM’d him”

  • IYKYK: If you know you know

  • WYA: Where are you?

  • Simp: Someone who will do anything for their partner at a pathetic level

  • SUS: Suspicious

  • Rona: COVID-19

  • AKA

  • Panorama

  • C-19

  • Vid

There are far more like “WAP” which I suggest you don’t google or dive into but the words above lend as a good starter pack. Here is a great example from Elon Musk’s SNL’s Gen Z Hospital skit.


Pop culture, celebrities and famous people have always captured the attention of young people and thus these people have become idolized and seen as role models. Before the social media boom, if a celebrity had a scandal, you could just remove them from ads, events and other appearances. Their IP and brand were directly tied to their sponsors, distributers or whoever is cutting the cheque. Today, you can still cancel celebrities but their presence or association with your brand can have long-term damages. You can’t "delete" on the internet; however, this also emboldens some to profit on the fringes of liberal and conservative ideologies. This series of events has created new-age role models that are not tied to political correctness.


Fast forward to 2021, traditional careers are in direct competition with content creators AKA YouTubers, TikTokers, Instagram models, etc. Although the majority have a realistic lens on the probability of, “going viral” most do believe it’s something that is attainable and to some extent, a lot of Zoomers will/have “gone viral.” Whether or not they can build a career out of their 15 seconds, literally 15 seconds of fame like the Paul brothers, will they be able to springboard an entire career from that moment? Well, that’s a completely different question.


There is a direct impact of these new “role models” that are shifting how young people are entering the workforce. The options and creation of new career titles such as “YouTuber” are in direct competition with traditional jobs. Many employers have had the luxury of picking their recruits and being able to retain the best talent due to competitive salary, branding, and reputation. However, even companies that have been highly successful in recruiting and retaining young people are struggling and having to pivot. This is in large part due to the expectations young people are bringing to the workforce.


Some young people are chasing jobs strictly as a springboard to something else, yes this is true but causation is just as important. Many grew up in the era of mass layoffs witnessed family members that had spent their entire career at one company get laid off for higher share prices. It’s not all doom and gloom though, organizations can still recruit, manage and retain effectively by providing a pathway for impact. Impact is the number one thing young people are looking for when deciding where to lay down their career roots.

Employers are being challenged to offer more than just competitive salaries but also opportunities for growth & development and impact. Impact can be in the form of increased responsibility, project planning/execution, or as simple as having a voice within the boardroom. Depending on the firm and industry impact can vary and can be highly unique to the employee. This appetite for impact is fueled by the content on our screens from social justice crusades to YouTubers fighting real boxers, and everything in-between. Young people all over the world are now competing and measuring themselves in real-time on a global scale.


As we move out of this pandemic many employers are looking forward to some normalcy and will hopefully be looking to hire young people. How these organizations attract top talent seems to be quite a feat and many are scratching their head saying, “We have competitive salaries, great benefits but our applicant pool is low or poor.” This has a few of our clients stumped as well, and unfortunately, this issue is only going to become more prevalent with globalization and increased popularity of remote work because well… remote work works… with SOME industries(I’ll write on the topic of remote work soon).


It can be very difficult, daunting, and sometimes impossible to communicate if we cannot speak the same generational language, there is always friction with change, but friction does not negate movement. If you or your organization are facing some of these issues give me a call and we will work on bridging the gaps.


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