Fast-Tracking Millennials to Leadership Roles

By Elaine Biech

As a trainer, you are accountable for developing Millennials to take on leadership responsibilities in your organization. This newly defined role is urgent because Generation X is half as large as the current retiring generation, the Baby Boomers. That means, as the Baby Boomers retire, only half of the positions will have experienced workers prepared to replace those who are retiring.

Therefore, nearly 80 million Millennials may be expected to step into leadership positions at a much earlier age than usual. These early promotion opportunities require you to provide an accelerated rate of training and development. This is where you step in to identify ways to fast-track this new generation to leadership roles.

Acknowledging generational challenges

You’ve heard complaints from millennials about the rest of the workforce. Millennials believe that other generations are not open to new ideas, work in siloes, aren’t accessible, are slow to adapt new technology, insist on rigid schedules, and use political games for gain.

The rest of the workforce believes that the millennials don’t follow dress codes and other rules, are not diplomatic, complain more than they should, do not show appropriate respect, expect promotions and incentives without earning them, and do not turn their phones off during discussions.

There is some truth on both sides. Acknowledging these issues and focusing everyone on the positive aspects that the other generation brings is a place where you can begin. You can focus on similarities such as a desire to do a good job and the need for consistent feedback. Helping everyone identify these similarities gives you a starting point. Enlist the baby boomers to help by disseminating the knowledge they’ve gained over the years. Enlist the millennials to show how technology can help gather, store, and retrieve the baby boomers’ knowledge and data.

Preparing Millennials for leadership roles

Designing and delivering leadership development opportunities for millennials can be both challenging and exciting. It is challenging because the need is imminent to prepare employees who view the world through a unique lens. It is exciting because when done well, your company will benefit immensely.

Organizational perspective

Ensure that your organization’s culture is ready to address the millennials’ needs and to help them understand the culture and how they fit into the company. Is your company ready?

  • Ensure they are knowledgeable of the organization’s vision and how they fit into it. They want to know the strategy and how they support the organization. Millennials require meaning to their jobs and need a clear sense of purpose.

  • Polish your organization’s reputation. Millennials want to work for an organization that has a sterling reputation. In fact, recent research shows that Millennials are willing to work for less pay at a reputable organization.

  • Allow Millennials time for social consciousness and personal projects. Both of these increase Millennials’ sense of control over their work and results in higher levels of engagement.

  • Guarantee flexibility by allowing Millennials to work flexible schedules. Their technical skills allow them to work anytime and anywhere.

  • Ensure that your organization has an objective, methodical process in place to identify high-potential employees.

  • Ensure that your managers are well versed in excellent communication and consistent feedback. Millennials respond well to immediate feedback and want to know how they can improve.

  • Encourage Millennials to develop a clear professional development plan for their growth. They are eager to progress and to put their development into practice. Therefore, have positions for them to be promoted to. This may mean that you need to create additional half-steps and new titles that do not currently exist.

Learner perspective

From the Millennials’ view, they prefer that you tap into the ways that they like to learn and be treated in the workplace.

  • Clarify Millennials’ expectations. They want to know what is expected of them, how they will be promoted, and how the knowledge and skills they acquire relate to their on-the-job performance evaluations.

  • Find ways to use Millennials’ technical expertise. Millennials’ tech-savviness is amazing. They have never known an environment that was not subject to constantly changing technology. They view learning and technology as one. In your classroom, use Twitter to share the results of a small-group discussion or encourage online research during activities. Online, provide links to additional resources that learners can access if they want to learn more. Implement gamification where possible. Design content so learners can access it on their laptop, tablet, or other device.

  • Coach Millennials to ensure that they receive feedback, hear advice, and tap into various social networking opportunities. Using mentors or senior associates during or after training is a practical approach.

  • Look for networking options for Millennials. Capitalize on their affinity for networking. They are comfortable with teams and group activities, but your Millennial employees also like to network around the world electronically. Use social media to continue to enhance their skills as quickly as possible.

Once Millennials are developed, their loss to other organizations is a concern. Millennials post their resume electronically on job boards that are viewed by millions of employers. Forty-eight percent of millennials recently surveyed admitting to job hunting while in their current positions. They can be loyal employees, but they still keep their options open. Your organization needs to determine what it takes to keep them loyal.

Circumstances are different throughout the world, and what has been successful in the past may not be successful in your organization today. As of 2015, about half of the Millennials have joined the workforce. This means you have some time to gear up, but not much. Your organization expects a plan for how you will address this exciting business reality.