Leadership Development For Millennials Not Seen As A Priority
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Millennials. A generation which has frequently been labelled as loyalty-lite, hungry for feedback and with high expectations for rapid career development. Yet harnessing the talent and loyalty of this generational cohort will be absolutely critical in the next 10 to 15 years’ time as many of these Millennials ascend to leadership positions. Deloitte estimates that Millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025. However, it appears as if the leadership development of Millennials isn’t seen as a priority for organizations, according to a Brandon Hall Group’s 2015 State of Leadership Development Study.

The study found that just 20% of organizations identified the Millennial leader segment as critical for development over the next 24 months. Neither are organizations invested in coaching and mentoring of Millennial leaders. Millennial leaders crave advice particularly from senior leadership yet on average, just 7% of organizations invested in offering Millennial coaching, mentoring and dedicated time with their chief executive and other senior leaders.

Attracting and retaining the best of this generation is critical to the future of any business, remarked Seb O’Connell, executive vice president and managing director for Europe at Cielo. “While the Millennial population in the workforce is increasing rapidly, many baby boomers have already reached, or are fast approaching, retirement age. The flight of baby boomers, and consequent loss of skills and experience built up over many years, could leave a significant skills gap.”

O’Connell believes that employers must identify Millennials with high potential and create a strong pipeline of talent that can fill the void left by Generation X employees as they move into senior leadership roles. “Once these talented Millennials are on board, organizations need to invest in their training and development to ensure they have the tools to progress rapidly.”

If anything, Millennials are the best-placed generation to develop as leaders because of their understanding of the reality of today’s world, commented Angus Ridgway, cofounder of Potentialife. “Millennials don’t need traditional classroom-based leadership training. They don’t want to spend time studying. In their time-pressed world, they are eager to get to action. They will respond much better to approaches that allow them to practice and ritualize new leadership behaviors without leaving the context of day-to-day life.”

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This is also a generation that is not particularly loyal to their employer. A Deloitte 2016 survey found that two in three Millennials expected to leave their organization by 2020. Chief executives have cited attracting and retaining younger workers as one of their biggest talent challenges, according to PricewaterhouseCooper’s 14th annual chief executive officer (CEO) survey.

One of the main challenges for organizations when it comes to retaining Millennials stems from their focus on company culture, transparency and employer brand, argued O’Connell. “Gen Y employees are more likely to turn down a job offer or even resign if they feel that the organization’s mission doesn’t resonate with them. Millennials aspire to work for companies that are good corporate citizens. As a result, there is greater pressure for organizations to build a compelling employer brand, which reflects their moral integrity. The values that inform the employer brand must be embodied at every level of the organization, so that they are perceived as consistent and genuine.”

Lisa Mullen, global human resources manager at Halogen Software believes that organizations need to retain and engage top talent, including Millennials, by making ongoing performance management part of their business rhythm. “One way that organizations can retain top talent is to provide its leaders with the resources and tools to manage employee performance on an ongoing basis. Creating a culture of ongoing performance management enables leaders to build a framework to regularly discuss what is and what isn’t working, identify learning opportunities and establish and follow a career development path.”

So what type of leader will a Millennial be? Millennials tend to be an enormously collaborative cohort who find strength and purpose in working together towards a common goal, commented J Walker Smith, executive chairman of global foresights and research consultancy The Futures Company. “As employees, Millennials’ inclusionary nature means they’re less inclined to blindly follow orders and more comfortable understanding the big picture and their part in it. As leaders, Millennials clearly must be mindful of the financial metrics of success. But they’ll likely consider ‘softer’ metrics, as well, including employee wellbeing statistics, CSR and brand reputation measures. I believe success for Millennials won’t be a story told solely by balance sheets.”

So what type of leader will a Millennial be? Millennials tend to be an enormously collaborative cohort who find strength and purpose in working together towards a common goal, commented J Walker Smith, executive chairman of global foresights and research consultancy The Futures Company. “As employees, Millennials’ inclusionary nature means they’re less inclined to blindly follow orders and more comfortable understanding the big picture and their part in it. As leaders, Millennials clearly must be mindful of the financial metrics of success. But they’ll likely consider ‘softer’ metrics, as well, including employee wellbeing statistics, CSR and brand reputation measures. I believe success for Millennials won’t be a story told solely by balance sheets.”

Walker Smith argued that in order to understand how to develop Millennials as leaders, it’s necessary to take into account how they differ from other generations but also to consider how the conditions under which they will be leading business will have changed, as this is bound to have a key influence.

“First off, growth is slower,” said Walker Smith. “The first wave of baby boomers came of age in the 1960s when growth was through the roof. All boomers have made their mark during the ’80s, ’90s and ’00s when growth was a series of huge bubbles- dot.com, real estate, digital and social. Boomers are a generation of leaders who were weaned on how to lead in times of strong growth.” Not so for Millennials who are now likely to be the generation of leaders who were weaned on how to lead in times of strong growth, added Walker Smith. “Millennials are now likely to be the generation of leaders weaned on the busts after the boomer bubbles and who will have to lead in times of slow growth and they’ll need to be trained for this. Secondly, data has exploded and this is only going to increase. The fight for data has defined the evolution of business models forever. But’s we’re about to enter an entirely new phase. So if you want to train Millennial leaders for something, it better be to make them data savvy.”

Case Study: Enterprise Rent-A-Car

The world’s largest car rental company employs 60 to 70% of Millennials with an average age of 27 years old. The company only promotes from within and upon joining the management training scheme, Millennials have to basically learn how to run a business-from accounting to fleet management, HR to national marketing. Donna Miller, HR director for Enterprise explained that every employee gets the same training and opportunities for promotion. “Whether they are a good branch manager or a poor branch manager, they will have the same access to training and development. However, they also like to be treated as individuals so we’ve now rolled out a management development program that includes a lot of individual programs that are personalized to the needs of the particular manager. Everyone has their own unique development plan, Millennials love bespoke development as it’s inclusive and directed towards them.”

Miller explained that Enterprise takes into account different styles of learning when they develop leadership skills. “We offer a range of resources to suit different learning styles. So one option could be to shadow one of the senior managers for a time. Another could be to watch a series of TED talks, to read a book or to use resources online. We’ve had to recognise that not one size fits all in terms of learning.”

Enterprise are also making sure their classroom sessions are very active, said Miller. “We are now organising these in a much more activity led structure rather than sitting in a room listening to someone talking to address the attention span issue. We move tables around, we set up smaller groups.”

Promotion is based on performance and can be rapid and not tied to being in the management program for two years, remarked Miller. “People can move very rapidly and it means that Millennials will often be doing a variety of tasks every day. We also get Millennials managing Generation X and baby boomers. We do a lot of generational training so people understand that there are different generations.” (See case study of Victoria Brignall below.)

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Miller added that it was important for Enterprise that 99% of its employees came through its graduate training program. “Development and retention of Millennials is part of our career strategy. The Millennials are the first generation that have primarily lived with their parents. One of the things that our Millennials enjoy is our commitment to community at any given time. People might be out reading at school or mentoring kids.”

Victoria Brignall is a Millennial and has had a number of roles at Enterprise, starting straight from university in 2007 as an Area Accountant. She has now progressed to become ‘Manager – European IT Business Management’ a position which she has held since May 2013. She was given a huge amount of responsibility from day one. “I’ve been pushed and given a lot of responsibility but I’ve also been given a lot of support. I’ve had both informal and formal mentors almost from day one, often from outside my own group. My managers have always provided me with a good range of goals.” Victoria currently has two people who report directly to me and they are both Millennials as well. “One is a little older than me and the others is a couple years younger. Their development is my main focus and this is largely because I’ve seen my managers do this for me. I need to make sure they are growing and heading in the direction that they want to. I’m keen on identifying learning opportunities that might not be a direct part of their job.”