HR Management, Leadership, Strategic HR

3 Ways to Prepare Millennials for Leadership Positions

We’re in the middle of a substantial workforce gap. As Baby Boomers and Gen Xers proceed into retirement, Millennials are taking over as the largest portion of the U.S. workforce, according to Pew Research—leaving a huge gap to fill in terms of leadership.


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In fact, a study by Deloitte found that less than 27% of Millennials believe they have strong leadership skills. It’s time for employers to start thinking about succession planning and how they can prepare this younger generation to take on leadership roles. Here are three specific ways to do just that:

Adapt to Their Learning Style

Training is a great way to develop future leaders. Chances are you already offer some sort of corporate training, but you aren’t quite seeing enough utilization among the younger generation. One reason? They haven’t been designed with Millennial behavior and expectations in mind.  Millennials value learning and development, but as a digital-first generation in the smartphone era, they’re accustomed to instant access to information—the ability to learn anytime, anywhere.

The corporate training programs that tend to be the norm today often involve outdated, instructor-led sessions that can take up an entire day or longer. Some companies have implemented digital solutions, but even those usually involve long, monotonous digital lessons that don’t keep learners engaged.

Instead, consider digital training options that include mobile solutions and microlearning that can be accessed on-demand. Bite-sized content that is available anytime, anywhere not only helps learners retain concepts, but fits nicely into Millennials’ on-the-go lifestyle.

Offer courses that can help them develop soft skills needed in leadership roles; like communication, strategic thinking, team management, and more. Combine this on-demand learning with hands-on training and practical application for a blended solution that incorporates the best of both worlds.

Empower Them to Try … and Fail

In addition to training, give Millennials the opportunity to have real on-the-job leadership experience. Millennials were brought up in a culture where it’s ok to try and fail, so they have a natural inclination toward testing new ideas and learning from any failures. Embrace that mantra of trial and error and empower your Millennial employees to take the lead on a new project.  If a project fails, guide your employees to use that as a learning opportunity to quickly adjust their strategy based on immediate results.

You can take this a step further by having Millennial employees partner with current leaders on a new idea. With Baby Boomers and Gen Xers exiting the workforce, there’s a significant knowledge transfer that needs to happen. Partnering with or consulting current leaders on a new project allows Millennials to gain that multigenerational perspective—especially as they navigate through failures. Plus, generational diversity in leadership can often drive disproportionately better business results.

Improve Retention by Focusing on Purpose

Because Millennials are the most likely generation to switch jobs (according to Gallup), one of the main facets of developing your Millennial workforce is ensuring they stick around long enough to grow into management positions.

One significant driver of retention with this group is company purpose. Millennials want to feel good about their work and make an impact on society at large. They’re more likely to stay at a company if they feel personally connected to the work and the mission.

Make sure your company mission emphasizes how you’re making a difference in the world and show them how their work directly ties back to that mission. And if you don’t have any community impact initiatives, start something. Even a small initiative like offering employees the opportunity to volunteer locally will have a big impact on today’s talent.

Finally, it’s important to note that while Millennials may not feel particularly prepared for leadership positions, they do possess a variety of qualities that will indeed make them strong leaders. Millennials are excellent team players, they care about employees, and they’re interested in making an impact, to name just a few strengths. If you take the time to invest in and develop these and other important leadership qualities, the future of your workforce will be in good hands.

Adrian RidnerAdrian Ridner is CEO and Cofounder of online learning platform Fed up with the high cost of education, Ridner started with the mission of making education affordable, effective, and engaging. Today, the Mountain View, California-based startup not only helps students from elementary school through college excel with its unique video-based platform, but it also provides a flexible, convenient way for employees to develop their professional skills so companies can advance their business.  Follow Ridner and on Twitter: @adrianridner and @Studydotcom, respectively.