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Gen Y: The Green Generation

Generation Y is very attuned to the growing concern over the state of our environment. Having grown up with recycling efforts and the movement towards more sustainable products and practices, and technology that made much paperwork unnecessary, Gen Y values a “green” environment. Wanting to make the world a better place leads to young professionals looking for jobs at organizations that not only further their careers but also make an effort to protect the environment. More so than older co-workers, Gen Yers may be vocal about practices that could be improved in your office to be “greener”.


Action Steps for Addressing Green Concerns:

  • Having a low carbon foot print is important and can be very cost-effective, so let your Gen Yers take charge when it comes to “greening” your office spaces.
  • Being environmentally conscious as a company can be an important factor for young professionals in their job search – make your office an appealing place in terms of sustainability to attract Gen Y.
  • Have company-wide awareness seminars about sustainable practices at the office so that older generations can understand where Gen Y employees are coming from when they express the desire to want a “greener” office environment.

Gen Y Tips: Engagement

Members of Gen Y are ambitious and want to break the mold. They are confident, connected, and open to change. More than previous generations, Gen Y employees want to engage with their company and feel connected to the people and the work that they do — so it’s up to companies and more specifically managers, to find ways to keep the Gen Yers in your workforce engaged.

Engagement is a critical factor for all employees but especially Gen Y employees as they are more likely than previous generations to look for a new job if they do not feel satisfied, so it is important to keep them interested in the work that they are doing.  Based upon research that we have done as well as what we have discovered through working with clients, we are listing some key tips for engaging Gen Y employees at your company:

Action Steps

  • Get to know your Gen Y employees and find out what they hope to gain from working with you.
  • Let them use their creativity in your favor by assigning them to creative projects.
  • Let them self-manage their time but set clear boundaries, as Gen Y needs structure in the workplace and check-in with them on a weekly basis to give feedback.

Gen Y Tips: Teamwork

Gen Y employees thrive in team settings and for the most part will be highly engaged while working on team deliverables. This is due in part to growing up with the expectation of connection and with technologies that have allowed them to be in constant contact with like-minded peers. Gen Y enjoys being able to brainstorm collectively and to receive immediate feedback on ideas from their coworkers.  Gen Y engages with teamwork because it gives them a chance to practice new skills and allows them to learn from older colleagues while collaborating on a project together.  Listed below are ways to take action upon Gen Y’s inclination towards teamwork:

Action Steps

  • Assign Gen Yers to projects with a diverse group of colleagues, making sure each individual brings different skills to the table. This will maximize the learning opportunity for the Gen Y.
  • Allow young employees to be mentored by older colleagues through team work – assign Gen Yers to work with someone specific, this will help them to learn about a certain aspect of the work their more experienced colleagues do.
  • If you are assigning individual projects to Gen Yers, allow them to run it by their co-workers for feedback.

Gen Y Tips: Civic Engagement

The youngest generation is taking a big interest in doing good in the world. Not only do they enjoy volunteering and advocating for a better environment, Gen Y has also put great emphasis on looking for jobs at companies that engage in CSR. In fact, your company’s CSR activities, or lack there of, could be a deciding factor for many young professionals when it comes to deciding what company to work for.  Below are a few tips to consider in regard to Gen Y and your company’s CSR program:

Action Steps

  • Survey your current employees to find out about their interests and needs in terms of civic engagement so that your company can make adjustments accordingly.
  • Review your company’s CSR policies and improve them to retain and attract young professionals to your company.
  • Have Gen Y employees spearhead new CSR initiatives – this will show them that you are equally as interested in being a socially responsible organization.

Defining Moments of a Generation: The Discovery of HIV/AIDS in the United States

Started in 1985, the quilt is comprised of over 480,000 panels remembering loved ones who died from AIDS. It weighs 54 tons and is displayed all over the world. (Photo: Public Domain)

On June 5, 1981, the Center for Disease Control published the first report of a new strain of pneumonia that resulted in the deaths of 5 young homosexual males in Los Angeles, CA.  Within six months, 5 to 6 new cases of the disease were being reported weekly. At first, the disease appeared to be targeting the gay community, earning the acronym GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency). However more cases appeared documenting the disease in heterosexual males and females, infants, intravenous drug users, and patients receiving blood transfusions. By September of 1982, the term AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) was first used publicly, at which time the number of reported cases had risen to 2 per day.

Unfortunately, due to lack of scientific understanding about the HIV virus and the negative stigma that surrounded the disease because of homophobia and lack of compassion for intravenous drug users, the government remained remarkably quiet about the issue. People were confused about the cause of the epidemic and many were unsure whether it was airborne or transmitted through touch, intercourse, or in the blood. It was not until 1985 that scientists even understood how the virus was transmitted, and even then there were many misconceptions in the general public. This was partly due to the fact that President Ronald Reagan did not publicly mention AIDS and the spreading AIDS epidemic in America until September 17, 1986. Reagan’s administration was unwilling to educate people on safe-sex practices. Instead they decided to promote abstinence and issued a ban to refuse admittance of HIV positive immigrants and travelers into the United States. Many local state and LBGT and humans rights activist groups tried to compensate for the Reagan administration’s silence by raising money and awareness.

Ryan White, diagnosed with AIDS at age 13, became a spokesperson against discrimination. His mother has continued his work creating the non-profit Ryan White Foundation. (Photo:

Despite their efforts, widespread ignorance about the illness and homophobia lead to rampant discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS and against people of the gay community. In 1985, Ryan White, a 13-year old boy who had contracted the HIV virus from blood transfusions for his hemophilia, was banned from attending his middle school out of fear he would contaminate the other students. He was re-admitted after taking legal action, but was treated so cruelly, he and his mother moved to a new town to start over. White became the poster child for HIV/AIDS awareness in an effort to end instances all over the country of people with HIV/AIDS being refused work, school, and treatment.

Pedro Zamora (Photo: Public Domain)

Another important figure for HIV/AIDS awareness was the MTV reality star Pedro Zamora, a Cuban-American who was diagnosed with HIV at age 17 and toured the country lecturing on HIV/AIDS. In 1993, he joined the cast of MTV’s Real World: San Francisco and through the reality show, made a huge impact creating sympathy for both homosexuals and people suffering from AIDS. He and his boyfriend were even married live on the air. Weeks before Zamora’s death in 1994, President Bill Clinton personally called him to congratulate him on his great efforts.

Figures like Zamora and White greatly impacted how the young Gen X generation was trying to navigate this very scary and confusing time.  Aids victims were their contemporaries, children and youths just like them, who were afflicted and treated as outsiders. Many members of young Gen X showed compassion for people suffereing from AIDS, as their generation was more accepting of differences due to a global mindset. Many people also lost family members, friends, and loved ones and this opened up their compassion for those suffering from AIDS. This was contrasted with others, who felt a plague had come to finally destroy modern society. The contrast in how our society viewed AIDS gave Gen X a cynical view of the world, where instead of being passed down the ideals of free love from the Baby-Boomers, they were dealt the painful realities of a world where AIDS was a serious threat and discrimination was rampant.

By 1992, AIDS had become the number one cause of death for men age 25-44 and by 1995, nearly 500,000 people had died from AIDS in the United States.  However, 1995 was also the year that researchers discovered the positive effects of the protease inhibitor drug saquinavir when accompanying ATZ. The combination of the “cocktail” of drugs changed being HIV positive from a death sentence to a manageable condition.  Now, due to the anti-discriminatory legislation that has been passed, HIV positive members of society have the same rights as any person with a disability and most people who are able to get treatment early on in their diagnosis can live long, normal lives.


Generations Quick Tip Newsletter for December 2012

A red ribbon hung on the front portico of the White House to remember the victims of AIDS on World AIDS DAY. (Photo: Public Domain)

The latest edition of Culture Coach International’s (CCI) Generations Quick Tip newsletter is out now. This month we have come up with more great content for managing and understanding the generations in the workplace based on their cultural experiences. December’s Defining Moments of a Generation section features The Discovery of HIV/AIDS in the United States and how it affected the young Gen X generation at the time. Additionally, the newsletter includes:

Website Spotlight: Makers
Generation Trivia
What is Trending with Gen Y? Viral Video Chart
Quotes about the Generations

… And of course our monthly inspirational quick tip to help you better understand and manage the 4 generations currently in the workplace.

Click here to view the full tip through icontact. If you’d like us to send you the tip on a monthly basis to your email inbox, please sign up here.

Defining Moments of a Generation: The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami

2004 Tsunami in Ao Nong, Thailand (Photo: Public Domain)

On the morning of December 26, 2004 the Sumatra-Andaman mega-earthquake occurred 106 miles off the coast of Indonesia in the Indian Ocean. The earthquake, which measured an estimated 9.0 and released the same amount of energy as 1500 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs, was one of the largest in the recorded history of the world. The shift of the earthquake displaced massive volumes of water, resulting in a tsunami that hit the coasts of 14 surrounding countries several hours after the initial earthquake. In certain areas, the tsunami waves were believed to reach 80 feet high when they struck land. In many places, the rushing floodwater surged inland as far as 1.2 miles, completely destroying some of the coastal towns and cities.

The devastation of the tsunami was one of the worst natural disasters in recent human history with an estimated death toll of over 230,000 people. The high casualty rate was due in part to the fact there was no tsunami warning system in place for the Indian Ocean, unlike the Pacific Ocean, which has the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. Many of the tourists and even locals were not aware of the signs of an impending tsunami and did not know to run to high ground. Over one third of the victims who died in the tsunami were children who were not strong enough to fight the strong surging currents. More than 1.5 million people were left homeless or displaced throughout Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, the regions hit worst by the tsunami.

The world was shocked to witness such severe devastation. Countries and large companies from all over the world donated unprecedented amounts of supplies, personnel, and funds totaling over $10 billion to disaster relief fund to try to stem the outbreak of disease and starvation in the afflicted areas. Many volunteer groups worked for years to rebuild the homes, schools, roads, and economies of the territories destroyed.  By 2006, the United Nations had worked with scientists to create a new Indian Ocean tsunami warning system had been set up in over 25 countries along the region.

For young Generation Y, the 2004 Indonesian tsunami was the first time they had witnessed a natural disaster of that magnitude in their lifetime. It was also the first time many of them had heard of a tsunami, a new type of natural disaster which was yet another force that posed a threat to their safety. The quick action of the international community to provide aid helped many of this generation to reaffirm their interest or to become interested in doing work that gives back to the community, through non-profit organizations and volunteer work. The disaster also helped to them to understand that the world is a precarious and unpredictable place, and as a very environmentally conscientious generation, they viewed  the disaster as an opportunity to take action to help stabilize the environment through environmental and green efforts that may possibly help to avert future disasters of even greater proportion.


Defining Moments of a Generation: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy

President John F. Kennedy with wife Jackie Onassis in Dallas in 1963 (Public Domain)

JFK’s assassination is a very important event in American history and was devastating to Americans and world citizens living at the time. However, it had an especially significant impact on the Baby-Boomer generation (born 1946-1964) who were young children or coming of age during the time of his presidency.

By 1963, only 2 years into his presidency, JFK had successfully navigated the Cuban Missile Crises of 1962 and was in the process of drafting a bill that was the foundation for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – a landmark piece of civil rights legislation outlawing discrimination to racial, ethnic, and religious minorities and women and banning segregation at school, work, and public facilities. Kennedy was not only viewed as a Cold War hero and progressive civil rights leader, but he and his wife “Jackie O” were also beloved popular icons and figures of the ideal American family. Through their example, the young, glamorous couple sparked a new passion for public service and civic duty that united America and nations all over the world in the pursuit of freedom.

On November 22, 1963, several months after proposing the progressive civil rights bill in June of that year, President John F. Kennedy was fatally shot while riding in a motorcar parade in downtown Dallas, TX. The nation was shocked and devastated as special news bulletins began pouring in. Even for many of the youngest baby-boomers, this tragic event is one of their first strong memories and many can recall exactly where they were when news of the tragedy first struck. The older baby-boomers, who were old enough to take inspiration from Kennedy’s charismatic speeches, internalized his idealistic attitude towards progressive change and social responsibility:

“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger…do not shrink from this responsibility…welcome it…The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it — and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.” (Inaugural Address, JFK January 20, 1961)

During the 60s and 70s, the baby-boomers carried the torch of progressive social change. They lead many cultural and political movements, such as the peace movement with the anti-war protests against the Vietnam War, sexual freedom movements with the Summer of Love, and the great advancement of environmental, civil rights, and women’s rights movements during the 60s and 70s.

Generations Quick Tip Newsletter for October 2012

John F. Kennedy was Assassinated on November 22, 1963 while riding in a motor parade through Dallas, Texas. This moment in history was featured in the ‘Defining Moments of a Generation’ portion of the October Newsletter.

The latest edition of Culture Coach International’s (CCI) Generations Quick Tip newsletter is out now. This month we have come up with more great content for managing and understanding the generations in the workplace based on their cultural experiences. October’s Defining Moments of a Generation section features The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and how it affected the young Baby Boomer generation at the time. Additionally, the newsletter includes:

Website Spotlight: Google Hot Trends
Generation Trivia
What is Trending with Gen Y?
Quotes about the Generations

… And of course our monthly inspirational quick tip to help you better understand and manage the 4 generations currently in the workplace.

Click here to view the full tip through icontact. If you’d like us to send you the tip on a monthly basis to your email inbox, please sign up here.


Retirement Savings: A New Investment Reality for Generation Y

Planning for retirement is a tricky endeavor for a person of any age. For members of Generation Y that are just leaving college with what seems like a mountain of debt, a shaky economic recovery underway and a less than welcoming job market; retirement planning can seem like an exercise in futility. While the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, and Gen X all had retirement portfolios containing combinations of a pension, Social Security, or employer matching 401k accounts available to them, Gen Y is increasingly less likely to have one or more of these financial tools at their disposal. However, financial planners still agree that starting to save and plan for retirement early on is the way to go, and despite all the debt and employment burdens that Gen Y carries, those who can are starting to save early on in their careers.

Today, the most popular vehicles for retirement planning for the Baby Boomers on down to Gen Ys are 401k and individual Roth IRA accounts which allow for a person to defer their income into a long-term investment account. For 401k accounts, these contributions are sometimes partially matched by employers. While 401ks and Roth IRAs have been standard since the 1980s, their rates of return took a turn for the worse in 2007-2009 during the Great Recession, just as many Gen Ys were establishing themselves in the workplace and experiencing what it was like to save long term for the first time. Gen Y was not the only generation affected, but they were perhaps one of the most traumatized. What money this generation had managed to put in quickly diminished 45% over 18 months from 2007-2009. While these investments may have begun rebounding since then, nearly half of all Gen Ys have dipped into their accounts in order to pay their living expenses. Seeing one’s investment savings dip so low in such a short time without ever having a chance to see them grow was not only disheartening, but also downright detrimental to Gen Ys ability to invest and save.  The Great Recession left many Gen Ys unemployed, and it also has played a part in why this generation has been timid to invest in their own future.

The 2012 HomeGain Home Ownership Satisfaction Survey: Gen Y's are the least satisfied group.

The 2012 HomeGain Home Ownership Satisfaction Survey: Gen Y’s are the least satisfied group.

As the Baby Boomers and Gen X can attest, starting to put away money early is the best thing to do, yet many Gen Ys find putting away even small amounts of money troubling with the generation’s high rate of underemployment. What the Great Recession has done is turn this generation into a risk-averse one when it comes to their money. Gen Y’s conservative attitude, much like that of the Silent Generation which experienced its own Great Depression, has meant that Gen Y is less likely to even put money into other retirement vehicles such as a house or even investing individually in the stock market. Even with low mortgage rates and falling housing prices, Gen Y still prefers to pay rent instead of making the commitment and associated attachment to a long term investment. According to the latest US Census in 2010, homeownership among Gen Ys (those who were 18-29 in the census) was the lowest of all generations. While those in the 18-25 category peaked at nearly 25% during the height of the housing bubble in 2006 and 2007, ownership rates have since fallen to 22.8% in 2010. While this trend is on par with many generations besides the oldest of Baby Boomers and above, the 25-29 age group saw one of the largest drops, alongside some of the members of Gen X, dropping 5 percentage points since the market height only a few years ago, to percentages that have not been seen for the age bracket since the early 1990s. The 2010 census along with the latest homeownership satisfaction survey, confirm that Gen Y prefers renting for the time being, particularly given their mobility with school and careers.

However, not everything is bleak for this generation. For those members of Gen Y who have been gainfully employed despite the instability of the economy in 2012, saving and investing for retirement has continued to grow. They are using auto-enrollment in their company’s 401ks and setting up their own Roth IRAs to become the generation that has begun saving at the earliest age of all past generations in recent memory according to a survey by Financial Advisor Magazine.  This behavioral change points to Gen Y’s general concern with the government’s ability to provide for them down the line into old age as well as their awareness of the importance of financial security.

Saving and putting away small amounts of money may seem insignificant, but it is the right start for a generation that is not expected to have Social Security around to buffer their income when retirement comes. While Baby Boomers and Gen X are more likely to be hands on with their investments, Gen Y is leaving it up to the pros in the wealth management division. Obviously this is just the beginning of the investment story that will be told concerning Gen Y and much remains to be seen, especially as the global economy continues to evolve into a post crisis reality.