It is an unfortunate truth that many companies simply do not know what to do in terms of millennial leadership development. This generation has taken the blame for the decline of a myriad of industries, including department stores, luxury goods and casual dining chains. Companies are having to dig deep to figure out why they have had such a hard time adapting to Millennials’ needs.
Similarly, within organizations, there is frequent confusion among HR managers in how to attract, retain and develop this talented, yet seemingly disloyal, generation of workers. The issue is becoming more pressing as Millennials move past entry-level positions into more senior management roles. Even though Millennials job-hop in similar rates to previous generations, senior leaders rightly fret about reducing turnover among young workers. After all, why bother to train and develop promising new hires only to have another company reap the rewards of this investment?
Incentivizing Millennials to develop: A Sense of Purpose
To develop and retain great Millennial leaders, companies must go beyond traditional monetary incentives (though these remain important) and offer socially-conscious young employees a sense of purpose and pride in the work they do. There are several ways in which a company might help workers cultivate a sense of purpose.
For a start, managers should allow workers a measure of flexibility in designing their roles, focusing on their strengths and passions. Employees need to be encouraged to pursue projects that are personally fulfilling, above and beyond meeting the company’s output and profitability targets. Furthermore, instilling a positive and collaborative work culture will go a long way in showing Millennials they are not just another cog in the wheel.
Embrace diversity and inclusion
Millennials typically seek and value diversity in the workplace—which is hardly surprising, as they are they are much more diverse than previous generations. Companies need to make a serious commitment to diversity and inclusion. This not only means making progress in terms of diversifying in terms of race and gender across all echelons of the organization, but also creating a genuinely inclusive and welcoming environment where all thoughts and ideas are welcome. The more transparency there is around this process, the better.
Allow ample learning opportunities
Learning is key for Millennials. An engaged and curious workforce should be a boon for any employer, but capitalizing on this willingness to learn is difficult for many. Employers should provide two types of learning on the job: stretch assignments designed to challenge and push employees to quickly adapt new skills and behaviors, and more formal training programs to allow them to develop new tools and methodologies and test them in a risk-free environment. Learning initiatives targeted at Millennials should thus contain the right blend of topics that reflect these workers’ passions and interests, as well as fundamental skills such as strategy and business acumen, which remain vital in fostering great leaders.
Challenging confidence important in order to develop leadership skills
Millennials tend to be more confident about their soft skills but sometimes need to be challenged in order to develop their skills and perceptions. This can be achieved by placing them in positions of leadership in small projects , and encouraging them to take the lead in decision making without the need to seek approval first. Leadership won’t come naturally to all, and even when it does, adjusting to the position of decision maker can be difficult both from a social and personal aspect.
Don’t forget the importance of communication and transparency
Open communication is key across all areas of management, and context is important across all areas. Be sure to familiarise millennials with policies, ways of working documents and processes whilst also providing context to ensure the information doesn’t become overwhelming, but to also stress the importance of being aligned to these. Once this is understood, millennials will be able to gauge a better understanding over how and why decisions are made, which will make it much easier for them further down the line.
Offer regular feedback
This doesn't just mean positive feedback. Giving feedback shouldn't always be a one sided conversation, nor should it always be an indulgent experience for them. The days of the annual review have changed, and millennials are stressing the importance of regular feedback. The more regular and constructive the feedback, the faster improvements and development can take place. If a millennial is having to wait 3-6 months before finding out they could be doing something better, that’s 3-6 months of wasted development time. Recognising millennials for their work at least monthly.
Give them leeway, but ensure it is justified
Work life balance is a hot topic, and with so many companies putting a strong focus on this, it’s hardly surprising to hear that its top of the list for the majority of millennials. One of the best ways to encourage millennials to develop and grow in their career is to give them the freedom to make decisions about how and when they work. Working from home, remote working and flexible hours are just some of the perks that come as standard in a lot of the newer companies that are most attractive to millennials. On top of this, it is important to ensure company policies make sense. Gone are the days where employees followed rules “that’s just the way it is”. Many millennials would be willing to make sacrifices such as reduced pay in order to gain a better work life balance.
If you’d like to learn more about how to transform your Millennial workforce into the leaders of tomorrow, download our free Leadership Development guide today.
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