Investing in tomorrow’s leaders

Published 9:25 am Wednesday, June 10, 2015

by Bryan K. Stephens

Tomorrow’s leaders have arrived.

The largest generation in American history is rising in the ranks of the workforce. At 92 million strong, Millennials will make up 50 percent of the U.S. workforce by 2030. Their arrival represents the first time we have seen three complete generations together in our nation’s workforce — with improved health care, Baby Boomers are working into their 70s right alongside Generation X (1965-1979) and now Millennials, born between 1980 and 2000.

One of the challenges, however, (and our biggest opportunity) is that Millennials are joining the business world with a very different point of view and skill set from their older colleagues.

Millennials are the first generation of digital natives. They have never known a world without computers, without Internet and with almost instant communication access and methods. Hiring managers describe this generation as creative, adaptable and open to change, with an entrepreneurial spirit and ownership mentality.

Millennials, they say, prioritize flexibility, control, healthy work-life balance, mentorship and enjoyable work environments. As a result, recruiting, retaining and incentivizing Millennials requires a leadership paradigm shift from conventional hiring and professional development practices.

So how do we identify, nurture, develop and retain in Hampton Roads the young and talented Millennials this region’s companies will need during the next five, 10 or 20 years? Mentoring these young leaders and helping them move into the executive suite must be not only a business priority; it must be a regional priority.

These young and dynamic professionals will be the next board members in both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. They will be our government leaders. They will be the ones driving the economic engines of this region. We unquestionably need them if this region is going to thrive economically.

The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce understands that growing our future generation of business leaders is paramount to economic success and must be a priority for the Hampton Roads business community. To address this priority, we are launching tHRive, a regional young professionals’ group.

The HR in tHRive is capitalized to emphasize the “regional” Hampton Roads aspect, as this new program directly focuses young professionals toward a path of success by putting the reins of regional future economic and business success firmly and confidently in the hands of our Millenial workforce.

The group will focus its efforts on professional development, cultivating relationships, civic responsibility and community engagement in a fun learning environment. tHRive is free of charge, available to both members and non-members of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, and open to those ages 21-40.

The tHRivekick-off event is July 16 at O’Connor Brewing Company in Norfolk from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. We encourage all Millennials to take this opportunity to cultivate relationships with other top young professionals in the area while enjoying a live band, snacks and beverages.

There will be a short overview about the tHRive program and information on upcoming opportunities and events. What tHRive brings to the table is immediate access to, and the engagement of young professionals across multiple careers and interests.

It is our duty as senior business leaders to keep our best and brightest here in Hampton Roads. The time has come to invest, either as a current or future regional business leader, in our Millennials and provide our regional young professionals with the tools to thrive!

I hope you will join me on this path to future economic success for Hampton Roads. For more information regarding tHRive or the kick-off event, contact Anne Baumler at 664-2518 or

BRYAN K. STEPHENS is the president and CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce. Call him at 664-2535.