Developing great Millennial leaders


They’re driven. They’re hardworking. They’re focused on upward mobility. Millennials are now the largest segment of the US workforce, and Millennial leaders are poised to bring a new style of management into the workplace—one that emphasizes collaboration, autonomy and continuous feedback.

While Millennials are tech savvy and well networked, they often lack the soft skills necessary to become successful leaders, for instance, the abilities to express complex ideas clearly and to communicate within groups of all sizes in an engaging and professional way.

As Millennials begin to climb the corporate ladder, it’s critical for companies to ensure that they’re adequately prepared for the new challenges they’ll face as leaders. While an increasing number of companies have recognized the importance of adjusting their workplaces and practices to accommodate their Millennial employees, few have programs in place to address their leadership development needs.

It takes more than a training manual to teach skills like workplace communication and professionalism. Instead, companies must embrace an individualized approach to leadership development, taking into account the teaching styles that tend to work best for Gen Y.

Mentor your Millennial leaders

Millennials are more likely to thrive under a great mentor than a heavy-handed manager. In a 2015 study by Virtuali and Workplace, 53% of Millennials surveyed said that they were eager to learn from a mentor.

Pair Millennials with leaders who embody your organization’s values, are approachable and patient, and enjoy sharing their knowledge. Remember that mentoring itself is an essential leadership skill. To teach it, create a layered mentoring program, allowing more seasoned Millennial employees to mentor newer hires while receiving coaching from their own mentors.

Leverage social networking

Millennials often turn to their social networks when they need guidance. Instead of relying on scheduled reviews and check-ins, companies should look for ways to leverage this desire for continuous input. Setting up an internal social network will enable Millennials to tap into colleagues’ knowledge and access their mentors for real-time coaching.

Because written communication skills are as important as face-to-face communication, use online interactions between co-workers as opportunities to teach diplomacy and professionalism. An ability to problem-solve across departments and geographical lines is essential for success in today’s more flexible organizational structures and distributed workforces.

Reward soft skills development

It’s important not to overlook soft skills when setting goals for Millennial employees on the management track. Lay out clear expectations and explain how success will be determined. Focus on specific situations like giving/receiving feedback, working with colleagues assertively and tactfully, and approaching a supervisor with a concern.

Millennials perform best when they understand the big picture. Be sure to present the “why” along with the “what” when setting goals. A clear picture of the outcomes they can expect to achieve by improving their leadership skills will prove a powerful motivator for a high performing Millennial.

Let them learn by doing

Teach tomorrow’s Millennial leaders how to lead by allowing them do it. Give trainees frequent opportunities to apply their newly acquired skills to motivate and engage others as a project or team lead. Give them the freedom to incorporate the leadership skills they likely already have, like encouraging collaboration and allowing for autonomy.

Given the investment in development they deserve, your Millennial employees can become some of the most successful leaders in your organization.

Want to learn more about how to engage and retain your Millennial employees? Check out Your New Workforce.