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How to develop millennial leaders

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With the likelihood that Millennials (aka Gen Ys: a person reaching young adulthood around the year 2000) will make up 75% of the workforce in the next 10 years, developing them into future leaders should be a business priority.

Gen X and Baby Boomers often see Millennials as different. When comparing generations, senior leaders describe many positive behaviours in Millennials such as ambition and confidence. However, they also identify negative traits that can hinder development such as a stronger sense of entitlement, poorer communication and social skills, and diminished impulse control. Of course, these traits can differ across cultures as with any generation, but in general, Millennials tend to exhibit greater extroversion, individualism and self-esteem.

Millennials are the first to grow up immersed in technology. The internet and social media offer instant access to data. But the advent of technology has also changed the expectations and needs of this generation when it comes to careers and development. For instance, opportunities to move across organisations for more exciting and challenging roles have increased. There is less loyalty and more focus on doing what is right for their career and their development. Millennials are not afraid to jump ship to further their career and their CVs reflect this with movement typically every 2-3 years.

So how does an organisation not only attract the top Millennial talent, but also retain and develop them into future leaders for the business?

Unless companies can challenge and provide Millennials with the stimulation they require they are unlikely to stick around for very long. Due to technology, Millennials have been raised with immediate gratification. Waiting for the traditional mid/end of year reviews is not enough for them They need regular one-to-ones resulting in constructive and actionable feedback which is key to their engagement.

Clear career pathways also help them to see where and how they can develop and what they need to do to move through the business. Challenging and stretching opportunities can keep them stimulated, as well as explaining their role in the organisation.

Millennials also do not see the traditional hours of 9-5 as the only time to get work done. Work/life balance is important to them and flexible working practices can be a key talent retention tool. Millennials are driven to succeed and they want to develop. A key difference between this population and prior generations is that they need and want to see results sooner. They are less patient. Organisations will need to provide, at a minimum, challenging roles, transparency and frequent feedback if they want to ensure they are equipped to develop their Millennial leaders for the future.

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