By 2020 it’s predicted that millennials - those born between 1981 and 1996 - will make up a third of the workforce globally.
Although studies have suggested that up to 91% of this generation has leadership aspirations, up to 63% feel their leadership skills aren’t being fully developed.
Add to this the fact that fewer feel long-term loyalty to their current employers than ever, with 43% expecting to leave their current companies within two years (a figure up from 38% the previous year).
All this makes it increasingly vital for businesses to focus on developing millennials as leaders. Who can blame them if they feel underutilised and undervalued, jumping ship for an employer only too glad to give them greater responsibility?
A structured training programme is key to leadership development, but many millennials don’t think they’re getting enough - or the right kind of - training.
For the first generation to grow up with computers, it makes sense to engage them with tech-based learning.
Explore webinars and bite-sized content that can be accessed on demand anywhere, anytime. Make training available on multiple devices so they can learn flexibly, and at their own pace.
Harness the power of social platforms and online forums to get future leaders engaged. And consider gamification, too, which can turn even the most mundane learning experience into fun. Done right, this kind of training also encourages a sense of collaboration, which many millennials say they value in the workplace.
It’s vital that millennials believe their job meets their needs and goals, and as we know by discovering the aspirations of candidates we meet through HR GO, opportunities to learn and grow are often cited as one of the top items on the job wish-list.
Tap into this by bringing millennial employees into their leadership development plans as early on in their time with you as possible, showing how they’ll be able to develop in your business with a clear path to leadership and milestones along the way.
Even if they’re not ready to move into a leadership position just yet, this kind of approach can help them imagine what kind of role they might fill in the future.
An experienced mentor can be invaluable for employees at all stages of their career. This kind of advice and guidance can help people develop strengths, work on weaknesses, learn how to make better decisions, introduce fresh perspectives and bring insight to a company’s policies and procedures.
For millennials especially, mentorships are proving even more crucial when it comes to helping them develop the soft skills crucial for leadership that they might not have had the chance to hone yet. In fact, research in 2016 showed that employees planning to stay with the same company for more than five years were twice as likely to have a mentor (68%) than not (32%).
As many millennials are acknowledged to be far more tech savvy and have more digital skills than older colleagues, smart businesses are pairing the two generations together for what’s known as ‘reverse mentoring’.
It’s a win-win situation. The more experienced colleague learns the inside track on the very latest tech skills and gets a younger perspective on work and life, and the millennial gets a chance to develop training skills and gain influential contacts.
It breaks down generational stereotypes and biases and gives everyone fresh ideas.
As an employer, it’s hardly headline news that your long-term future relies on developing millennial leaders - the top talent from the generation who’ll be able to grow your business, launch new products and services and explore new markets.
But creating a new generation of business leaders means recognising that this cohort has changing needs. And failing to keep potential leaders engaged risks losing them to employers who do give them what they want.