Encouraging Millennials to Step Into Leadership

Amanda Dreher - Monday, December 11, 2017


Liz Selzer, PhD, MA, MDiv

Millennials. A huge topic of conversation within our current workforce. Often laced with frustration, these conversations take up valuable energy that could and should be spent addressing the demands of our VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) work environment.


What is the issue? Simply put, older generations often characterize Millennials as entitled and too dependent on technology. While these generations still appreciate that millennials are the most tech-savvy and creative at work (Workfront), they criticize that Millennials are often uncooperative, responsibility resistant and the first to complain. Millennials are seen as inexperienced and not willing to pay their dues


But, the fact is that more than a third of American workers today are Millennials (Pew Research), and they will comprise 75% of the workforce by 2025 (Forbes). Regardless of your personal feelings about this generation, they are an important force to be reckoned with. So, encouraging Millennials to step into leadership, and helping them to do this well becomes a key business strategy.


While older generations sometime think Millennials don’t want to take responsibility, my research and experience show that Millennials are ambitious and ready to take on leadership positions to bring needed changes to work environments. They believe technology has the ability to transform work, and they value innovation.
Millennials believe what makes businesses successful in the long term is employee satisfaction, loyalty, and fair treatment (Deloitte).They exhibit a more inclusive and empathetic leadership style, and value leadership development through the entire organization, not just for “high potentials.” The problem is 63% of Millennials feel their leadership skills aren’t being fully developed (Deloitte).


How can we provide the leadership development that Millennials need and want?


Create a learning environment focused on everyday leadership development. Millennials are avid information gatherers and 35% see training as a benefit that they look for in a prospective employer. Providing training also helps with retention—new research has found that personal and professional development is the number one reason millennials stay in a job.
The following strategies will encourage needed learning and leadership development for the Millennial generation.


•Organize active coaching/mentoring
Set up a framework so that it is easy for your young leaders to find mentors. Communicate the benefits of being in a mentoring relationship for both mentors and mentees. Help them set aside time each month for mentoring meetings.


•Provide micro-learning burst/just in time learning
Proactively develop short learning experiences that can be immediately applied to their work efforts. Customize actions to fit job demands.


•Encourage social learning
Create opportunities for young leaders to learn together and from each other. Form groups from different departments to encourage a higher level understanding of how the organization works together.


•Develop virtual learning
Make this interactive, practical, and available when people have time to engage with it. Add incentives for completing each block of learning.


•Tie learning to professional development/career plan
Clearly communicate how developmental and learning activities fit into the overall career plan for each employee. Let them know how their role fits into the mission of the organization.


•Model and train for emotional intelligence (EQ)
Due to increased interaction with technology over face to face interaction, Millennials need additional help developing emotional intelligence. As Daniel Goleman asserts, a high EQ is worth twenty IQ points. Emotional intelligence can be taught, so putting purposeful action to developing these skills is a must.


Intentionally building an environment that encourages learning and leadership development for Millennials will reduce turnover and help this growing part of the workforce be more effective as they step into management and leadership positions. Because of this, developing Millennials becomes a critical strategy for businesses that want to stay competitive in today’s markets.


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