By: Sol Bukin and Anne Griggs

The current workforce is a rich blend of 5 generations of leaders, each bringing their own unique experiences and perspectives to the table. Among these generations is a significant population of young professionals, ages 20-29, who are ready to take on leadership roles in their organizations. According to the 2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics, this group consists of over 20 million individuals working full-time across the public and private sector in the United States. Of that population of young professionals, the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) estimates that 42% aspire to move into more formal leadership roles. 

If you are a young professional eager to lead and ignite change in your organization, navigating the landscape of the world’s current workforce may seem challenging. This article shares the inspiring journey of the young professionals at CCL who successfully banded together, influenced up, and drove an organizational initiative. The key lessons learned by CCL’s young professionals can empower you to take the lead in your organization. 

Leadership as a Social Process & the Role Employees Play

Young professionals are keen to foster connection among employees, drive engagement, and promote EDI initiatives. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) can be a strategic asset in achieving these goals. These voluntary, employee-led networks unite individuals with similar interests, and in doing so, provide a platform for employees to connect, collaborate, and grow. They enable diverse groups to share unique perspectives, influence organizational strategy, and boost employee engagement. At CCL, the Young Professionals ERG embodies CCL’s view of leadership as a social process, providing a space for emerging leaders to discuss developmental priorities and brainstorm ways to actively lead. 

CCL and Y20’s study reveals that 41% of young adults express a desire to lead in the future but face barriers such as lack of intergenerational trust, confidence, and psychological safety. ERGs such as CCL’s Young Professionals provide a community for people to share ideas and voice their opinions, enhancing a sense of trust that creates a safe environment for leadership to emerge

Harnessing the Power of ERGs: The Birth of CCL’s Mentorship Program

The need for an organizational mentoring program at CCL emerged within the Young Professionals ERG. Such a program provides a targeted opportunity for talent development, role awareness, and enhancing understanding of the organization, emphasizing the importance of talent development and organizational effectiveness. 

As emerging leaders, the young professionals at CCL knew that gaining organizational buy-in across various leader levels would be critical, particularly buy-in from senior leaders. To do this, ERG members set out to be data-driven, compiling research to build a compelling case for mentoring, including referencing CCL’s research that underscores the value of formal mentoring programs (Gentry & Walsh, 2015). Not only do such programs strengthen leadership pipelines and succession planning, but they are also actively linked to increased salaries, promotions, job satisfaction, and retention. CCL’s study additionally highlights the role of such programs in cultivating political capital, clarifying career paths, and understanding one’s value. 

CCL’s Young Professionals leveraged their connection with the ERG’s executive sponsor to gain insight into the priorities of the organization’s executive team. This insight allowed them to gain the critical buy-in to move forward with a pilot mentorship program in Fall 2022. Members of the Young Professionals ERG specifically drove that initiative forward by leaning on their data-driven approach and surveying participation interest across all ERGs within the organization. The group also capitalized on their cross-functional membership, leveraging the skills of members who specialized in operations, instructional design, and research and analytics to help scale and implement the program. But the dream didn’t end simply at a pilot – the Young Professionals at CCL believed strongly that a mentorship program could benefit the entire organization. To have the greatest impact, the program needed to be scaled even further.  

Start Small, Scale Smart

Scaling an initiative like a mentorship program within an organization requires more than just presenting existing research; it involves gathering and presenting evidence of the program’s value to the entire organization. For the members of the Young Professionals ERG at CCL to collect evidence that the program was valuable enough to scale, they designed an evaluation strategy which consisted of a midpoint and end-of-program survey.  

Upon completion of the mentoring pilot at CCL, the ERG presented evaluation results to numerous members of the executive team, aiming to secure the resources and partnerships necessary to continue the program. The data spoke volumes about the program’s value and the organizational need for it to continue – participants reported improved interpersonal and professional growth, an enhanced sense of belonging, and an increased ability to develop and sustain cross-functional relationships (see Figure 1). This data was not only shared with senior leadership, but also with CCL’s Board of Governors, highlighting the role young professionals can play in driving organizational strategy from the ground up. The initiative evolved from an ERG pilot into global program with participants across various career stages (see Figure 2). What began as an initiative fully backed by the Young Professionals ERG, eventually transformed into a formal, organization-wide initiative, supported by Human Resources.  

The journey from an ERG pilot to global program demonstrates the power of a data-driven approach in driving change and influencing strategy within an organization. It underscores the potential of ERGs, and particularly the young professionals within them, to identify needs, propose solutions, and use data to advocate for their implementation.  

Figure 1: Participant Responses to Mentorship End-Of-Program Survey 

Figure 2: Number of Mentors and Mentees Across Various Career Stages and Regions in the First Run of CCL’s Organization-Wide Mentorship Program 

Key Takeaways 

So, if you’re a young professional aiming to lead and make a difference in your organization, what can you do? Here are some key takeaways from our experience: 

  • Empower Emerging Leaders: Young Professionals are brimming with innovative ideas and the potential to execute them. Create opportunities for them to take the lead and shine. 
  • Harness the Power of ERGs & Executive Sponsor Support: ERGs can be instrumental in elevating the voices and ideas of groups that might not typically have formal influence within an organization. The role of an executive sponsor in supporting and advocating for these groups is crucial. 
  • Promote a Data-Driven Approach: Making decisions based on data can lend credibility to initiatives, help secure buy-in from stakeholders, and ensure efforts are targeted effectively. 
  • Lead through a Social Process: This story illustrates that leadership is not about individual heroes but a collective effort. It’s the collaboration of diverse individuals, each with unique backgrounds and skill sets, working together towards a common goal. 
  • Think Big, Start Small, Scale Smart: This journey from an ERG-driven pilot to an organization-wide, global program demonstrates the power of starting with a focused initiative, proving its value, and then scaling it strategically. 

Inspired by our story of the Young Professionals ERG at CCL? It’s time to harness the power of ERGs in your own organization. Empower your emerging leaders, leverage the collective strength of diverse individuals, prioritize data-informed strategies, and scale smartly.


Anne Griggs is an Implementation Manager at CCL and manages a wide variety of strategic leadership development programs for global clients. Anne interfaces between clients and CCL’s internal design and delivery teams during all phases of customization. She works to build close and intentional relationships with an array of both internal and external stakeholders to ensure operational excellence in strategic program design, program logistics, materials design, program objectives, and process improvements. In addition to her client-facing work, Anne is a co-lead of the CCL Young Professionals Employee Resource Group and led the most recent cohort of CCL’s Global Mentoring Program.


Carr, E. W. (2021, December 21).The value of belonging at work. Harvard Business Review. 

Center for Creative Leadership & Y20 (2020).Building bridges: Empowering G20 youth to be leaders[White paper]. Center for Creative Leadership.  

Gentry, B., & Walsh, R. (2015). Mentoring first-time managers: Proven strategies HR leaders can use [White paper]. Center for Creative Leadership. 

 Lloyd, B. E. M. a. C. (2023, October 18). It’s time to synchronize your DEI and wellbeing strategies. 

 Staff, L. E. (2023, September 11).Direction + Alignment + commitment (DAC) = leadership. CCL. 

In crafting this blog, we leveraged our expertise and insights to write the initial version. We then utilized generative AI, specifically GPT-based language models, as a tool for advice on refining our sentences and enhancing grammar. The AI’s role was confined to providing suggestions for improvements, while the core ideas and content remained ours. We meticulously reviewed and incorporated the AI’s suggestions as needed. We hold full accountability for the final content of the publication.  

  • Sol Bukin Senior Analyst
  • Anne Griggs
    Anne Griggs Implementation Manager