Millennials, Boomers & The Leadership Gap


Molly Brennan, of leading national executive search firm Koya Leadership Partners, examines the massive leadership gap that’s coming as Baby Boomers in executive roles retire with too few Gen Xers to take their places. She explains why millennials should be developed now as “emerging leaders” so they’re well prepared to handle future leadership roles.

A massive leadership swing shift is coming as Baby Boomers in high-level executive roles retire with too few Gen Xers to take their places. As a result, millennials will be tapped to fill this leadership gap. Millennials should be developed now as “emerging leaders” so they’re well prepared and motivated to handle higher-level responsibilities in the near future. According to PwC, millennials will make up over 50% of the workforce by 2020. Therefore, it’s critical that organizations develop a strategy to attract and retain millennials – and prepare their young talent for future leadership roles.

CEOs say that attracting and keeping younger workers is one of their biggest talent challenges, per PwC’s 14th annual CEO survey. It’s estimated that 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 every day between now and 2030, per the Pew Research Center. As those workers leave the workforce, their roles will increasingly be filled by millennials. The leadership gap is something that non-profits and for-profits must be aware of and prepared to confront.

It’s important for companies to proactively recruit talented millennials into entry and mid-level positions to allow them to grow and make meaningful contributions to the workforce and the world. Organizations should develop these emerging leaders, so they’re able to become high-impact, mission-driven frontrunners in the coming years. By doing so, companies will be ready and prepared to close this imminent leadership gap.

In order to engage, attract, retain, and prepare millennials for senior-level positions, organizations need to:

Be more mission-driven: Seventy-five percent of millennials believe that businesses are focused on their own agendas, and not on helping to improve society, per a Deloitte study. Millennials are much more mission-driven than previous generations have been. Deloitte’s researchers call this an “impact gap”, where millennials think that businesses are not doing enough to improve the world and make a positive impact. According to Forbes, 64% of millennials say it’s a priority for them to make the world a better place.

Challenge them with meaningful work: Millennials want to be challenged and engaged or they’ll just move on to a new company and a different role. Millennials want meaningful work at socially responsible companies. Six in 10 millennials say that a “sense of purpose” is part of the reason they chose their current employer , per Deloitte.

Commit to diversity, equity, and inclusion: This generation wants – and demands – diversity and inclusion. In addition to being a critical strategy for attracting and retaining millennials, when companies embrace the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion, their various business outcomes are far better.

Let go of stereotypes: Some people believe negative stereotypes about millennials – like they’re all entitled. Let go of preconceived notions about this younger demographic, and embrace their innovative ideas, fresh perspective, collaborative approach, and passion around social justice.
Lead differently: Millennials have very different ideas about leadership and are focused on bettering the world, being authentic, making a positive difference, and providing enriching experiences for employees. Millennials strongly believe that previous generations of leaders are problematically and adversely more concerned about profit and personal reward.

Offer more than just a salary: Millennials want more than just a paycheck. In addition to working for a mission-driven company and doing meaningful work, they want different workplace benefits than their predecessors did. According to Forbes, 74% of millennials want flexible work schedules.

Having a healthy work-life balance is important to this younger generation, who want to be able to change the world, while also maintaining a personal life outside of their mission-driven careers. An Ernst & Young study found that 71 percent of full-time workers quit their positions because of excessive overtime hours, and 69 percent quit because of a boss who didn’t allow them to work flexibly. Organizations that offer flexible schedules and allow young leaders to achieve a better work-life balance will widen its talent pool, and also give high-potentials a reason to stay .

Offer opportunities for advancement: Career advancement is the number one reason why people switch jobs, according to LinkedIn. Some young leaders leave organizations because they don’t have the opportunities for advancement and leadership development that they crave. Millennials – more than other generations – want to feel like they’re growing in their roles and advancing into higher positions. Organizations need to retain their millennial talent and can do so by training millennials and giving them opportunities to elevate their roles. This way, young talent will be better prepared to take on leadership positions that will open up in the coming years.

Focus on succession planning: Be proactive about building succession planning into your overall talent strategy. Develop emerging leaders, helping them foster the skills, knowledge, and experience they’ll need to step into high-level positions. Recognize which positions and roles will be opening up – not just immediately, but also years down the line. Create a formal, strategic succession plan to fill these key roles with passionate, talented power players.

Provide ongoing feedback and training opportunities: Millennials value regular, ongoing feedback and want directions for improvement regularly – not just during an annual review. Additionally, they crave meaningful connections and mentorship opportunities. Ryan Jenkins wrote on that the majority of businesses still have “a devastating lack of professional development” for millennials who are next in line to replace retiring managers and executives. Companies must invest in millennials’ professional development and provide mentoring advice and support.

Empower young talent, demonstrate to millennials that they’re valued and appreciated, and help them grow and develop .

Successful (and emerging) millennial leaders are passionate and vocal about making a difference in the world and are doing work that advances important social issues. Millennials often donate money, time, energy and professional expertise to causes that are personally meaningful. Millennials have been called the “most educated” generation – constant learners who are eager to be innovative and to embrace new technologies. Typically, millennials are more accepting of diversity (race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) and inclusion than previous generations have been. They enjoy working collaboratively and cooperatively to make a positive difference – in their companies and in the world. With smart, motivated, tech-focused, mission-driven millennials at the helm, our future looks bright and our companies will be in good hands.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *