Millennials are the largest living generation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and also make up the largest segment of today’s workforce. Bersin by Deloitte’s “Predictions for 2017” reported that more than 40 percent of millennials have four or more direct reports. Are learning and development professionals doing everything we can to develop this group of leaders?

Change is certainly happening, yet progress is still needed. Statistics are still high in regards to the percentage of millennial leaders who feel their leadership skills are not being adequately developed, leaving at least 38 percent looking to leave their jobs and companies in the next two years, according to the 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey. So, what can we do?

Start with Engagement

First and foremost, developing your millennial leaders does no good if you haven’t worked on the other things that will keep them engaged and wanting to stay. A few things to consider:

  • Are you giving them a chance? According to the 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey, “millennials appreciate working in a collaborative and consensual environment rather than one that directly links accountability and responsibility to seniority (or pay).” Eliminate tenure-based rewards, hierarchical structures, and command-and-control leadership styles.
  • Are you offering access to senior leadership? Trust in the workplace is been at historical lows, so it’s no surprise that a study by The Center for Generational Kinetics, LLC reported that “confidence in leadership” was a top driver of engagement for millennials. Having the opportunity to interact with and learn from senior leadership was rated as more valuable than a raise or promotion.
  • Do you value millennial leaders as individuals? Finding purpose and meaning at work is more important to these leaders than perks or salary. They need to be treated as unique people, not numbers or titles. With that comes the ability to share opinions and a manager who is a coach and invested in providing feedback that will help them grow.

Build a foundation for engagement before exploring what comes next. When millennials leaders are engaged, they are more likely to take on personal accountability.

Experiences, Not Training

Millennial leaders want experiences – not training. They don’t want traditional classroom lectures. Millennial leaders are eager to take action and practice in the context of their real work. They don’t want to wait to be ready, because they recognize that business is changing so fast that our traditional leadership development strategies are too slow. As Bersin by Deloitte’s “Predictions for 2017” report states, we need to “redesign our leadership strategies to empower and support these people earlier.”

Personalized and Flexible, Not One Size Fits All

Millennials leaders also want flexibility. Not only do they reject the pre-determined multi-year programs and career paths, but they also want to be able to tailor and create their own personalized development plan. One leader might want to shadow a leader in a different department, while another might prefer to watch a TED talk and go through a series of online activities. That is why computer simulation, “bite-size” microlearning and video-based learning are so effective. They can be combined to create personalized learning plans.

Help Them Build a Brand, not Collect Badges

Next, as millennial leaders develop and grow, help them build their brand. Millennials have grown up with an entrepreneurial mindset, understanding they need to work to stand out from the crowd. They fully recognize that to be successful they need to be agile and innovative. Millennial leaders don’t want the badge or certificate to show they attended training or completed a learning experience. They want something to build their brand, something they can post on social media that can help them gain access to influential people, build a network and stand out so they are given more opportunities to advance their career.

Build Transportable Skills

Lastly, what are the areas of most urgent need for this group? Regardless of industry, there are some transferrable skills that this group needs. Some of the top skills are communication, self-awareness, time management, business acumen and resilience.

As learning and development professionals, are we offering our millennial leaders enough opportunities to develop and grow in ways that fit their preferences and styles? Are we harnessing the incredible breadth and depth of entrepreneurial spirit and ideas? A study by Inc. shows we need to do more. It reported that approximately 70 percent of this generation aspire to be leaders but are likely to leave their organizations in the next two years due to dissatisfaction with how their leadership skills are being developed. It seems we need to do better and move faster.

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