Talent Management in the Age of Millennials: Opportunities and Pitfalls

2016-08-30-chicago-cubs-executive-summitI had the opportunity to participate in the Chicago Cubs/Aon Executive Summit last week. It was led by Tom Ricketts, the Executive Chairman of the Chicago Cubs, and Greg Case, the President and CEO of Aon. The agenda included several interesting panels that were attended by more than 100 Chicago executives. I moderated a panel on “Talent Management in the Age of Millennials: Opportunities and Pitfalls” that included Alex Suarez, the Director of Player Development for the Cubs, and Sue Townsen, Managing Partner for Human Resources for KPMG. (picture attached)

It was fascinating to hear the challenges of managing and developing young baseball players from around the world. Alex explained that setting clear expectations, holding people accountable, and explaining consequences were essential to building a strong organization. We discussed that situations where millennials may have unrealistic expectations as to how quickly they should be promoted may be the fault of management in not setting “clear expectations”.

Sue did a great job of explaining the desire of millennials for “purpose in their work”, that it is much more than money and a job. They expect the organizations for which they work to also have “purpose”. It is very clear to me that millennials want to make a difference in the world NOW, not 10 or 20 years from now. I gave an example of how I perceive the difference between my generation and millennials…it is a little bit of a generalization, but it rings true. My generation wanted to make a difference, but there was a view that we would do it after we were settled and more secure in our lives. The millennials I have the opportunity to teach at Kellogg don’t want to wait until they are 40 or 50 years old; they are ready to make a difference now. For example, while 30 years ago maybe 5% of students were involved in not-for-profit activities while in school, today more than 80% of Kellogg students are involved in at least one not-for-profit.

Have a great week! I always appreciate your thoughts and comments.


  • Good post, Harry. I surmise a big challenge for educators and human resources professionals is to be able to predict what future generations’ expectations and needs will be and to be able to design and develop programs that will address those changing needs. All the best ! Paul Grooms

    Sent from my iPhone



  • Harry, this is something we are asked about all the time and our answer is: “no; there is no difference in millennials”. We see the patterns described as not about their generation but is more about the typical pattern between generations. There is a maturation that occurs in adults and the “young ones” often look “selfish”, overly ambitious, or “impatient” (words we hear). We think that’s a mistake – the older generation forgets they were that way once too. To your specific point, I have seen the need to be involved, to find purpose, and to make a difference in your class. Others I work with note this too. I think you are on to something. It may be that the sense of the larger organizations/institutions (schools, church, large organizations) with which they interact aren’t doing meaningful things – or perhaps not in a way meaningful to the individual person. Thus the draw to NFPs. My wish would be for them to be involved in local government. There are many great things happening in the community, and municipalities need competent/passionate managers!


  • Kathleen Goryl

    Thanks for a great session this morning learning about Becoming the Best at the Catholic Value-Based Leaders meeting. Can’t wait to dig in to the book! One issue in talent management is Diversity & Inclusion. I believe these programs were well intentioned – to help us broaden our horizons and learn about the diverse workforce of today. That is great. I find these programs may have missed the mark in achieving their desired objectives. While not politically correct to say so, I find these programs play out in ways that actually seem to discriminate against some people and favor others. I don’t believe that was the intent. From my experience the losers are white people-especially males and those that share a biblical definition of marriage. Winners in diversity initiatives are people of color and the LGBT community. This has been confirmed with information interview(s) with two executive recruiters and has proven to be true in at least one of the professional organizations to which I used to belong which set up an LGBT professional group. Yet, when I wanted to create a pro-life group, I was denied. (This is true even though there were actually more pro-lifers in the membership than LGBT.) As we look to the future, I believe we can do better. How about focusing on “dignity” instead of “diversity”? We are called to treat all persons with dignity. While diversity focuses on our differences, dignity focuses on what makes us the same. We are all children of God with unique gifts and talents. I love the Matthew Kelly goal of “becoming the best version of ourselves”. That is the goal for all of us, is it not? That is God’s plan for all of us.


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