The Game Changing Generation

katz_judith.jpg“Over the next two decades, 76 million Americans will be retiring and only 46 million will be entering the workplace to replace them, according to the American Society of Training and Development. The vast majority of those 46 million workers will be from Generation Y, also known as the Millennial generation.” (from Management Techniques for Bringing Out the Best in Generation Y) In the 1970s, organizations were beginning to focus on the need to be more diverse in response to consumer demands. Now more than ever, it is the marketplace of talent driving the need for diversity and organizational change. Because of the imminent talent shortage caused by the retirement of 76 million Americans over the next 20 years, the Millennial generation is in a position to challenge workforce conventions and make organizational demands that previous generations had no leverage to make. These demands include fast-track career positioning, greater life work integration , additional training and cutting-edge technology, but the demands don’t stop there.

The Millennial generation is working to change the rules. They see themselves as consumers in a different sense – they are CHOOSING where and how they are going to work. This generation is unwilling to be pioneers of diversity and inclusion. Many of them watched their parents play those roles and their expectation is that organizations have become more diverse, instituted workplace flexibility and removed the barriers that have been identified over the past twenty plus years. They know they are expected to deliver – and they expect organizations to live up to those same rules. They are ready to contribute.

A recent New York Times article discussed one such example of Millennial expectations. Stanford Law students have undertaken a project to evaluate and hold accountable the prestigious law firms for their results with respect to diversity (the numbers of women, people of color and gay lawyers who are partners) and inclusive practices (including workplace flexibility and the number of required billable hours) by handing out "diversity report cards" to the big law firms

Beyond refusing to accept positions at firms that scored poorly, these “best and brightest” students have bigger plans. They will be lobbying top schools and universities to restrict recruiting by firms who scored in the bottom of the rankings. The students also have plans to send the scores to the general counsels of all Fortune 500 companies with the recommendation that the rankings be considered when selecting lawyers and law firms.

This is the first generation who can say, “Here are the rules we want to play by, so if you want the best and the brightest you need to be positioned to utilize our talents.” For this generation, it’s not all about the money; it’s about a healthy life work integration, an inclusive environment that is conducive to collaboration and innovation, a culture that invites their voice, their input and their ideas and most importantly, it’s about feeling valued and able to contribute.

"Firms that want the best students will be forced to respond to the market pressures that we're creating," said Andrew Bruck, a law student at Stanford and a leader of the project. This is just one more example of how the game is changing for organizations, and for those that say they just need more time to make improvements, it just might be too late.