What can today's CEO do to enable Gen Y… our 2020 leaders?

Generation Y are our leaders of 2020 – what do today’s CEO’s need to be doing to enable this?

In just eight short years, approximately 46% of the North American  workforce will be comprised of millennials/Generation Y . In many cases, these are the people that will be running companies of all sizes as well as holding leadership roles in multiple levels of government.

Two studies that have recently been released provide insights into both the demographics and behavioural attributes of Gen Y in the workplace today. The study by Payscale highlights the following:

  • Over 63% of Gen Y workers have a Bachelor’s Degree but are often underemployed, only 15% of Gen Y workers are in a management level position
  • More professional full-time Gen Y employees have an MBA than have no higher education at all
  • Median tenure with an employer is two years

The study by UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School & the YEC dives into the cultural attributes of Gen Y workers in today’s economy:

  • 65% said the opportunity for personal development was the most influential factor in their current job
  • 22% saw training & development as the most valued benefit from an employer
  • Millenials are motivated by more than money – 1 in 3 said they would prioritize social media freedom, device flexibility and work mobility over salary in accepting a job offer
  • Millenials want to lead – 92% feel entrepreneurship education is vital, 30% started a business in college and 35% have started a side business

As you consider the above, one of the most interesting statistics is that the highest concentration of Gen Y workers is at small companies with less than 100 employees (47%), followed by medium companies that have between 100 & 1500 employees (30%), and the fewest work in large companies with more than 1500 employees (23%). They are choosing flexibility, diversity and innovation over corporate stability.

In 2011, to mark their 100th year, IBM created THINK: A Forum on the Future of Leadership , which brought together leaders from government, business, academia and science along with an audience of up-and-coming leaders from around the globe.

David Jones, Global CEO Havas and Global CEO Euro RSCG Worldwide states “this is probably the only time in history when it is the 22-23 year olds that know more about the biggest revolution going on in the world, the world of social media”.

Polly LaBarre – Editorial Director, Management Innovation exchange (MIX) states “great ideas can come from anyone anywhere in the world, as long as you are smart enough to ask for them” .

In order for organizations to be successful in 2020, we need to start to focus on the Generation Y employees in our organizations today. We need to be laying the foundation for them to become successful leaders.

  1. Generation Y employees are actively looking for leadership.
  2. They are looking for someone to work with, not work for.
  3. They are looking for leaders that are passionate, approachable and appreciative of their efforts.
  4. Most importantly they are looking for a leader who’s vision they can see, who’s direction they can follow and who they can learn from to help them become a future leader themselves.

At the Future of Leadership conference, His Majesty King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein, King, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan states “connectivity is a given and we all have an interest in working together, because for all the wonders of what technology can do, here is what it can’t do – it can’t make our choices for us”. Gen Y employees don’t need help with technology, or collaboration. What they need most from CEO’s today is to mentor them on how to make choices for the future.

Stay tuned for our next blog post where we dive into some specific tactics to help CEO’s successfully connect with the GenYers in their organization.


Lee Vincent is AVP Human Resources at Northwestel and an Impact People Practices team member. In her role at Northwestel she is accountable for leading all strategic and operational people practices throughout Canada’s North. Her innovation and creativity, coupled with her strong business background and execution focus, have enabled Northwestel to continue to grow and succeed in this challenging operating environment. Leveraging her MBA, Certified Human Resources Practitioner certification (CHRP), Royal Roads Executive Coaching Certification and Strategic Masters in Human Capital, Lee brings a passion for solving business and people problems to the organizations she works with and is focused on increasing organization wide results (employee, customer, financial) through the creation of impactful workplaces.