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Grooming millenials for leadership tomorrow… and today

September 21, 2016 by Raymond Lee

Baby boomers are retiring in droves and millenials are taking over. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, this year 20 percent of all management jobs are held by millenials (people born between the mid-1980s and the year 2000). That’s up from only three percent in 2005.

Millennials sign in a conceptual image.jpeg

Millenials are currently the largest generation in our workforce. And with each baby boomer who retires, that number continues to grow. 

So how is this generation being prepared for leadership? And are they responding?

A recent study by the leadership training company Virtuali found that millenials want to learn through experience rather than traditional forms of education and training. This study also revealed that 71 percent of respondents already consider themselves leaders.

This is mostly the result of two increasingly common approaches to management training: experiential learning and teams pairing a millenial with a baby boomer. Many younger workers in big and small companies are developing leadership experiences through project leadership. They are taking responsibility for a small group and specific projects and while producing, learning the skills it takes to achieve objectives, generate buy-in and earn cooperation often among a diverse group of workers.

Rotational assignments are also effective development opportunities and ones commonly embraced by millenials. While they are learning the broader organization, millenials can experience different forms of leadership while working on a variety of projects. So their hands-on practical knowledge is increasing while they see that leadership can take a variety of forms.

Coaches and mentors are important in developing mentors as well. Outside career coaches can offer younger workers a advice and feedback on challenges while offering a broader perspective of what’s happening in their larger industry or work trends that cross industry lines. These coaches are proving more effective when they are external… millenials feel more comfortable confiding in them because such coaches aren’t part of their company’s internal structure.

On the inside, mentors are found to be effective sources of development for millenials. Mentors can focus on getting things done internally, the “company way” while guiding younger workers toward influencers and decision makers. While coaches can provide strategies for success, mentors can offer more relationship advice within a particular workplace.

BloombergBusinessWeek reports extensively on training for millenials in an early 2016 article. That column describes a program used by Deloitte, the global financial services and accounting consultancy. Baby boomers approaching that company’s mandatory retirement age of 62 are paired with younger colleagues to prepare for generational change. They meet regularly for training and project work.

Jonathan Copulsky, Deloitte’s chief marketing and content officer, told BloombergBusinessWeek that he meets regularly with his younger colleague, “puts him in a good position to succeed, gives him enough ‘got your back’ (encouragement and reassurance) and the freedom that he could be successful while coaching him as opposed to directing him.”

Teams such as these pair millenials mastery of data and analytics with boomers’ practical experiences, the articles points out.

Finally, millenials respond to developmental action plans where objectives are communicated and roles are understood. Several industry leaders point out that in the long run, such structure has much greater impact than practices common a few generations ago where a rising star would be identified within a company, groomed for a top job and others would-be leaders maybe make it, or maybe not.

Here’s a link to a CIO.com article on millenials and developing leadership skills.

Raymond Lee

Raymond Lee

Raymond Lee is the President of Careerminds, a global outplacement company based in Wilmington, Delaware. He has over 20 years of human resource, outplacement, and career consulting experience. He has his bachelor’s in psychology and holds a Master’s Degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Louisiana Tech University. He is active in SHRM and ATD. Raymond’s been featured on SiriusXM Business Radio, CareerTalk, and the Wall Street Journal and he’s published a book titled, Clocking Out: A Stress-Free Guide to Career Transitions.

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