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On developing millennial leaders

Millennials are no longer expected to become the majority of today’s workforce — they’ve done that already. Baby boomers, on the other hand, are slowly but surely leaving the employment scene as they reach retirement age. This is all, of course, very natural but there is one issue that threatens the stability and profitability of organizations facing this generational shift.

While there are innumerable jokes about Millennials in general and a lot of literature and statistics about them as employees, companies still seem to struggle when it comes to addressing the specific needs and requirements of these not-so-young-anymore people who work for them.

The issue goes far beyond employee turnover and satisfaction numbers because sooner or later there will be a leadership gap and the only solution is to start grooming millennial top talent to fill it.

The numbers don’t look great

In the Global Leadership Forecast, the top two challenges perceived by business executives were developing ‘next gen’ leaders and failure to attract new talent. HR professionals interviewed for the study did not seem very optimistic about the future of leadership in their organizations:

  • 31% said they had a weak or nonexistent relationship between annual strategic plans and their own plans to grow leadership talent.
  • Half do not have well-integrated and strategically aligned development programs or processes.
  • 35% do not have a program to develop high potentials and
  • 45% of those who do, don't measure the effectiveness of these programs.

All in all, it does not seem that organizations are well prepared for the future of leadership and it’s obviously high time they take this very seriously.

Leadership training needs to begin early

There is that very popular joke about millennials looking for their first job as CEOs. It’s true that this generation aims very high from the start but that shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing. And neither should their desire for flexible hours and a good work-life balance. If you think about it, most of the things that they are blamed for are quite sensible requirements for anybody who values themselves and their well being.

Instead of discouraging new hires and putting them ‘in their place’ it’s a lot more effective to enroll them in leadership development programs. It will give them the sense that they are valued and listened to and it will provide the organization with a large pool of employees to select and further groom talent from.

Read more: On leadership development for Millennials

Learning requirements are different than they were a decade ago

If in the golden age of Baby Boomers training was usually confined to the classroom, mandatory and mostly compliance driven, today’s L&D needs seem to be from a different world — a digital one. Learning has to be self-directed, accessible, relevant and tailored to the individual needs of the learner.

The fact that corporate learning is no longer compulsory and tied to certain dates and attendance groups does in no way mean that employees choose to skip it. If there is one thing Millennials thrive on it is continual self-improvement.

Yet probably the biggest difference in the way the new generation regard workplace learning is that it should be available from anywhere. The digital revolution came with numerous connection possibilities and these ambitious people want to be able to have the advantage of choosing when and by what means they learn.

Read more: E-learning for leadership development is on the rise

Leadership requires mobility and so do Millennials

The question ‘where do you see yourself in five years?” has been a favorite of recruiters for a long time. It was supposed to reveal if the candidate had a clear idea of their evolution in the company.

The roles have somewhat changed as of late and it is now new hires who ask ‘where can I be in five years?”. It’s not that they don’t have an idea of where they would like to go but they need to see how the organization can help them prepare to get there.

Training should no longer be aimed at improving those skills and competencies employees need in their current roles but rather target at mobility – to different roles, to diverse departments and quite often to remote geographical areas. It’s not news to anyone that Millennials do not want to retire from a job they’ve done for decades.

Read more: Why companies should consider the gamification of work

Building a leadership strategy is essential

This does not necessarily have to do with Millennials but with the dynamic business environment of today. Organizations need to develop a good capacity for acting decisively. They have to be able to both anticipate and react, maintain effectiveness and navigate unprecedented seas of complexity.

Competition is on the rise regardless of the field and digitization has taken over – let’s not forget that one of the main ‘blames’ placed by Baby Boomers on Millennials is that they killed the big department stores with their desire to do everything online.

Organizations must undergo digital transformation in order to stay competitive and they need to make use of all the Big Data available courtesy of the World Wide Web that connects all of us.

Wrapping up

In a world that is more and more tailored to the needs and expectations of digital natives, it’s compulsory that businesses start grooming leaders who will be able to step in and bring that much needed edge to stay ahead.