Blog Post

Using ERGs to Retain the Millennial Workforce

January 6, 2015

In his book, Tribes, author Seth Godin refers to the “tribe inside” when discussing how companies will discover future leaders, build trust, and empower workplace communities that form strong bonds around shared identities and interests.

Godin contends that the workplace is being redefined from the bottom up: leaders emerge from increasingly unlikely places based on new criteria, such as influence and resonance with audiences. Groups form more organically versus along the lines of traditional org charts.

Sometimes common ground and shared identity and experience are so powerful and distinct, as is the case with each of the four generations in the workplace today, that we need to proactively monitor and build inclusion around this__ rich diversity. This is the next challenge ahead for many of us in the diversity world: diversity is nothing, or worse, without a strong culture of inclusion.

As we’ve attempted to show in this blog series, even in the world’s leading companies, generation-related misunderstandings and miscommunications are common. Different generations have distinctive communication modes, platforms, and preferences, not to mention core values, which can cause friction in how work gets done—hampering efficiency, affecting relationships, and ultimately hitting the bottom line.

Is the C-suite ready to take a hard, honest look at this dynamic? How can we invest in awareness and understanding and then challenge age-old assumptions about the nature of traditional business practices that may be out of step with the changing world? Make no mistake, this will be on one of the biggest retention challenges faced by companies in the coming years.

Download our Generations in the Workforce presentation

In a recent client engagement, Jennifer Brown Consulting (JBC) shared the importance of creating flexible workplace cultures that effectively respond to the desires and needs of different generations.

As part of the presentation, JBC explained how fostering leadership growth through Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) should be a core operational function for companies. When ERGs are structured to harness and enable the talents and goals of their members, with particular attention paid to generational diversity within each, company leadership can gain insight not only about the nuts and bolts of employee engagement, but also potential business opportunities.

Download our Generations in the Workforce presentation.

Encouraging Examples with Millennials

Leading Fortune 500 companies have reported on ERGs focused on generations, with an eye towards the professional development and retention of Millennials specifically. More and more generational ERGs are being launched as we speak.

These groups will serve a critical purpose in helping organizational leaders understand what’s coming: over the next 10 years, Millennials will make up half the U.S. workforce, but their attitudes towards their career prospects are strikingly different from previous generations. These ERGs are poised to not only retain these professionals, but also collect data on the changing workforce. Companies could benefit from a veritable professional laboratory in their own back yard.

Consider some further findings, according to the Deloitte Millennial (Generation Y) Survey:

  • 70 percent of Millennials see themselves as working independently at some point, rather than being employed within a traditional organizational structure.
  • Gen Y wants to work for organizations that foster innovative thinking, develop their skills and make a positive contribution to society.
  • They want work flexibility, mobility and non-traditional workspaces.
  • Mission-driven institutions are going to be particularly attractive to Gen Y, both as employees and as customers.

Instead of not recognizing or denying these preferences, the companies have proactively created their internal Millennial “tribes” and bolstered the conversation within younger generations—and between the generations. Many of these high-performing ERGs are helping tackle core business functions like product development and the identification of new emerging talent pipelines.

Moreover, the companies who encourage any employee to join these ERGs, regardless of age, can allow for authentic conversation between younger employees and their older counterparts.

The Opportunity to Lead

Originally an “ally” was an individual or an organization that visibly supported and advocated on the behalf of acceptance, inclusiveness, and engagement of a particular underrepresented or marginalized group (perhaps the less visible “tribes” of old). Historically, these original allies hailed from the “majority”. In the 2015 workplace, an ally is any individual of any background who uses their influence proactively to further more inclusive workplaces for all kinds of talent. In fact, those who are committed to inclusion and equality at work are starting to find each other and create new tribes of their own.

In today’s workplace, ERG Executive Sponsors have a unique and powerful opportunity to model ally behavior on a broader scale, benefiting not only the groups, but also benefitting themselves on a professional and personal level.

By publically aligning themselves with emerging leaders from a variety of backgrounds, sharing their executive voice and social capital on behalf of historically-underrepresented workplace communities, and being open about their own diversity story, executive sponsors also resonate with several core Millennial values: inclusion of all kinds of diversity, lessening hierarchy and bureaucracy, and leader transparency.

The upcoming JBC white paper “Executive Sponsors Fuel High-Performing ERGs” discusses the key advantages to leveraging differences among employees and gives solutions to some of the challenges leaders face with sustaining and scaling up their ERGs, including some particular important nuances to consider when managing multiple generations, and generational ERGs.

Be one of the first to get the new white paper and see the rest of our downloadable white papers and presentations at

To speak to one of our subject matter experts, email us directly at [email protected].


Astron Solutions. (January 24, 2012.) Does Office Etiquette Exist? Retrieved from:

Deloitte Millennial (Generation Y) Survey. (January 2014.) Retrieved from:

Diversity Inc. (May 2011.) Do You Need a Generational Resource Group? Retrieved from:

Godin, Seth. (2008.) Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us. New York: Portfolio.

Jenn T. Grace. (February 2014.) Ally versus Advocate: What’s the difference? Retrieved from: