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How to Groom Next Gen Employees to Be Great Leaders

Empower the next generation of business leaders by honing their unique skillsets, addressing learning gaps, and understanding what makes them tick.

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BY Partners In Leadership - 11 Oct 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

By Marcus Nicolls, Senior Partner and By Mattson Newell (@MattsonNewell), Director at Partners In Leadership.

Millennials will make up over 50% of the American workforce by 2020. Individuals born between the mid-80s and early 2000s, this generation is already moving into professional leadership roles.

This influx is exciting for business owners--and scary, too.

Certainly, professionals across generations are united by their pursuit of universal desires: to feel empowered, happy, and engaged at work, to name a few. But millennials challenge traditional management in numerous ways. They want flexibility. They process and learn information differently. What motivates them might not be what motivates other generations. And they are uniquely vocal and active in their pursuit of these desires and priorities.

Given their near-majority in the workforce, we think it wise to pay more attention to what they're saying.

Where do you start? Focus on developing training systems that align with the specific needs and skills that millennial employees bring to your organization. The more mindful we are to hone their unique characteristics and talents, the more we empower them to grow and excel both as employees and as leaders.

Millennials Bring a New Approach to Learning and Problem-Solving

Millennials are the first generation to live their entire lives surrounded by computers and technology. Consequently, they gather and process information differently from earlier generations, learning or gathering information in "microbursts" rather than through extended periods of study.

Mobile devices, for example, have allowed them immediate access to unlimited information. If they have a question, they can almost always get a satisfying answer within moments -- and have come to expect this instant gratification as the norm.

As such, millennials excel at discrete projects that can be completed quickly. Long-term projects that need to be analyzed, manipulated, and revised push them outside of their comfort zone.

Fostering personal accountability, defining organizational purpose, and setting clear, measurable goals are important leadership skills that are developed over time. Thus, millennials must be trained in patience and persistence to succeed at the next level of their professions.

Bridging the Gap Between Information and Communication

While millennials are phenomenally skilled at accessing information, they are less accustomed to sharing and disseminating it in a professional setting. Imagine a manager, for example, who sits in an office and spends all her time gathering information critical to the company's success. If that manager doesn't effectively share that information with her subordinates, the information might as well have been left undiscovered. To become effective leaders, this generation needs to be trained in this critical communication skillset--most importantly, how to clearly define and communicate company goals.

Relatedly, millennial employees have been brought up in a world in which they're constantly bombarded with information, from social media updates to push notifications from news sites. As a result, many millennials are indiscriminate media consumers, absorbing information as it comes their way and then quickly moving on to the next thing. In the workplace, however, they need to filter useful information from irrelevant distractions, as well as present relevant insights to colleagues in an easily digestible format.

Fostering Valuable Social Skills

Finally, because millennials learned to do practically everything related to school or work on the computer, they can be isolationists in the workplace, choosing to connect with fellow employees from the comfort of their desks, sending emails, instant messages, or starting video chats to coordinate with coworkers.

Where these employees need development as they move into leadership roles is in interpersonal communication. They need to understand the importance of teamwork, and to be able to talk to clients and other business contacts face-to-face. This includes engaging in regular feedback exchanges that communicate how an employee's behavior aligns with company goals. Foster these skills by assigning group projects and role-playing exercises that encourage familiarity with conference call and business meeting etiquette.

There are important leadership skills that may not be deeply ingrained in millennials through their education and early careers, but helping them adopt these critical abilities ensures that you leverage the unique talents and abilities to promote and grow the organization to the next level of performance. These skills include:

  • Taking accountability
  • Effectively establishing expectations
  • Defining, clarifying, and communicating business goals
  • Digesting, filtering, and communicating information

There is no doubt that millennials are poised to assume and excel in important leadership positions in the workforce in the coming decade. With strategic training that builds on and highlights their unique skillsets, you ensure that this generation of workers is equipped for leadership success within your organization.

Need more ideas about how to engage and empower millennials? Check out our webinar series: Engaging the Next Generation.