How to Be a Company for Millennial Women

With millennials projected to account for 75 percent of the workforce by 2025 and women accounting for about 50 percent of this total, how can your organization be the company millennial women want to work for and stay with?

The International Consortium for Executive Development Research interviewed executives and rising female stars to discover what millennial women value. The study identifies five themes that emerging women leaders want from their companies: “know me,” “challenge me,” “connect me,” “inspire me” and “unleash me.”

Know me.
Millennial women want their organizations to understand them as people. In the study, 94 percent of women said it was important for their organizations to understand that they are people with interests outside of work.

Consider inbound marketing firm HubSpot, which gives employees a chance to pursue their passions through its sabbatical program. After five years of employment, HubSpotters get full pay to take a four-week sabbatical. Plus, they receive a check for $5,000. There are no restrictions. The idea is to do whatever would enable employees to recharge for a month.

Diversity executives play a role in knowing employees’ needs by making flexibility available to people throughout the company, focusing on results rather than hours worked and encouraging executives to role model flexible working.

Challenge me.
Junior female stars relish opportunities to grow through challenges. “What millennials are looking for is ‘Am I learning every day?’ ” said Ted Higgins, vice president of talent development at Fidelity Investments.

Female stars benefit from skill building. Consider asset manager BlackRock’s Art of the Ask program. The program’s goal is to give women the tools to ask for what they need to be successful. The program educates women that they can ask in a way that is true to who they are. “Authenticity is essential. We want to dispel the belief that you have to be aggressive to ask,” said Maya Tussing, director of index asset allocation at BlackRock.

Diversity executives play an important role in challenging millennial women by providing skill-building initiatives for next generation women leaders.

Connect me.
Millennial women want to collaborate with a dynamic network of peers, leaders and sponsors. They want a community that pushes them to excel.

Women often have a difficult time accessing informal networks. BlackRock addresses this challenge with its Managing Director Chats program, which connects women directors with managing directors at the firm through small group sessions.

“MD Chats create a forum where people can connect where they otherwise would not. It puts more of that high potential female talent on the radar of senior leaders in the firm,” said Kara Helander, managing director at BlackRock.

Diversity executives can connect women by using technology to link senior leaders with junior women. For example, participants in Fidelity’s women’s group are able to dial in to sessions, watch speakers on Fidelity TV and ask questions live.

Inspire me.
Millennial women want to work for purpose-driven organizations. “A millennial woman will not necessarily leave because she’s offered a $10,000 increase,” said Connie Geiger, senior director of talent acquisition at eBay Inc. “It’s more the opportunity to work on the next cutting-edge thing. They want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.”

Diversity executives can inspire millennial women by tying development initiatives to the company’s mission. For example, a women’s group at an education company ran a Wikipedia edit-a-thon during which participants built Wikipedia pages focused on women in education.

Unleash me.
The next generation of women is engaged by leading initiatives and using entrepreneurial flair. “Keep in mind that the millennial generation is a generation of entrepreneurs,” said one executive.

EBay challenges millennials to create innovative services. During eBay’s orientation, university hires are tasked with creating eBay products that appeal to millennials.

At the end of orientation, new hires present their ideas to executives. “After the first round of presentations, the ideas were so good that we started bringing in patent lawyers,” said Sarah Brubacher, eBay’s head of university programs. “We are pursuing many of the terrific ideas at eBay.”

The themes “know me,” “challenge me,” “connect me,” “inspire me” and “unleash me” are common threads that millennial women value. Diversity executives can use this framework to assess how their organizations are doing in these areas and where they need to improve to be an employer of choice for the next generation of women leaders.

What’s more, the research found that the core values outlined here resonate with men as well. Millennial women’s inputs have broader talent implications: By implementing strategies informed by the needs of millennial women, leaders will simultaneously address what matters most to broader talent pools.