Among the many startling revelations of the recent presidential election was the emergence of a powerful new generational voting bloc: the Millennials. For the first time, this cohort of 21- to 34-year-olds, also known as Generation Y, made up the same proportion of the U.S. voting-age population as the Baby Boomers. This remarkably cohesive group is significantly more progressive than their parents -- in states as different as Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, 80 percent voted for Bernie Sanders; nationwide, they overwhelmingly backed Hillary Clinton -- and has the potential to shape politics for years to come.

They're already reshaping the workplace.

There's no disputing that Millennials are the next workforce. More than one-in-three American workers today are Millennials (adults ages 18 to 34 in 2015), and they have surpassed Generation X to become the largest share of the American workforce, according to new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

To become a Millennial talent magnet, forward-thinking companies need to understand what this generation wants and adapt accordingly. A recent study by the Center for Talent Innovation identifies three issues that are important to this cohort and explores ways in which employers can attract, develop and retain top Millennial talent.

  • A diverse and inclusive workplace. Millennials are the most diverse generation to date: 44.2 percent of Millennials in the US identify themselves on the Census with an ethnic or racial group other than non-Hispanic white. Many are the children of immigrants, and about 15 percent were born in foreign countries -- nearly double the proportion of foreign-born Gen Xers. Young Millennials are also more than three times as likely as adults aged 65 and older to identify as LGBT. Not surprisingly, Millennials want a workplace that mirrors their own values and offers opportunities to work and interact with a wide range of people of different gender, ethnicity, culture, generation and sexual orientation. Moody's "Bridging the Gap" Mentoring Program is the brainchild of Millennial employees involved in Moody's Multicultural Employee Resource Group (ERG). This Millennial-led taskforce developed the grassroots program in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of NYC to address the achievement gap specific to young black and Hispanic men in the New York area. The program matches these young black and Hispanic men to a diverse group of mentors at Moody's. The program was supported by Moody's senior leaders and The Moody's Foundation, as part of their ongoing work to support the needs of the community. With this mentoring program, millennial employees at Moody's have the opportunity to learn and understand different communities and perspectives.
  • More flexible work arrangements. With more than three-quarters (78 percent) of Millennials in dual-career families -- versus 47 percent of Boomers -- it's not surprising that EY's 2015 Global Generations study found that 75 percent of millennials want the ability to work flexibly and still be on track for promotion. But flexible work arrangements aren't just a matter of work-life balance; a​ Bentley University's study indicated that 77 percent of Millennials believe that a flexible schedule would make them more productive. Center for Talent Innovation's research on millennials found a similar trend: 89 percent of millennials say flexible work arrangements are important to them. Additionally, 83 percent of millennials are motivated by the ability to work remotely. At EY, the ballooning number of millennial managers has given new urgency to integrating workplace flexibility. Flexibility at EY comes in two forms: a culture of day-to-day flexibility known as "flex for all," and a formal system of flexible work arrangements (FWA). EY erases the stigma of flextime by encouraging employees to be transparent about their needs with their managers and teams, and by spotlighting visible senior role models who work flexibly. The culture of flexibility lays the foundation for formal FWAs for employees with a regular need for flexibility who can propose a business case for a reduced or seasonable schedule, change in hours, compressed workweek, or the ability to telecommute one or more days per week. Once approved, these employees are still on track for promotion and other opportunities. Organization-wide surveys underline the value of flex-time: Within the top-performing 25 percent of teams, those who say they have the flexibility they need notch a retention rate 6.1 percentage points higher than those who do not.
  • Equal opportunities for advancement. Millennials are particularly anxious to establish career credentials. Ambitious and more educated than any previous generation -- 61 percent of Millennials in the U.S. have attended college, compared to just 46 percent of Boomers -- these young employees understandably resent being perceived as perennial interns, relegated to getting coffee and making copies. Yet Millennials of color, particularly those who are not financially privileged (Millennials whose families could not support them indefinitely were they to quit or lose their jobs), are disproportionately shut out of the relationships that could help them advance their careers: 13 percent of Asian Millennials, 9 percent of Hispanic and a mere 6 percent of African-Americans feel they're experiencing rewarding relationships at work, compared to 25 percent of whites, sending a signal that is particularly discouraging for high-potential Millennials of color who dream of achieving top positions.Through its Talent Marketplace internal website, Pfizer encourages any employee to post or apply for short-term developmental opportunities within the company, ranging from joining a team in a different division for a three-month project to shadowing a senior leader for a day. Talent Marketplace opens doors that employees might not have known even existed, enabling them to share new perspectives and problem-solving approaches with project teams and leaders. "The opportunities to create their own change are now at their fingertips," says Senior Director of Performance Excellence Rob Lewis, who oversees the Talent Marketplace interface.

Millennials are the bench strength for leadership. Succession planners and talent specialists recognize that they absolutely need Millennials -- who number 83 million in the US alone -- to step into the leadership gap left by retiring Boomers and that the far smaller cohort of Gen Xers (who total just 46 million in the US) simply cannot fill.

Smart leaders recognize that they can't ignore the changing workforce. Their future is already here.

Published on: Dec 20, 2016