10 Tips for Training Future Millennial Leaders

Debbie Wooldridge
Posted: March 29, 2017

There is an international phenomenon taking place. It’s called global aging, and the impact will be evident in the next few years. By 2030, 20% of the U.S. population will be age 65 or older, resulting in a dramatic decline in the supply of labor. Large numbers of the most experienced workers will exit the labor force due to retirement and mortality. The battle for talent will intensify.

For many years, Baby Boomers were in high-level roles and staying there. As a result, the leadership pipeline stagnated, and many Gen Xers and Millennials weren’t moving into leadership roles.

Did you know that 91% of Millennials currently in the workforce aspire to be in a leadership position? Learn how to best train and engage the Millennial generation and help your organization reach their success.

Now, we’re starting to see Baby Boomers leave organizations very quickly. There are currently about 76 million Baby Boomers in the United States, more than 40 million of whom are already age 65 or older. According to the Insured Retirement Institute’s Sixth Annual Update on the Retirement Preparedness of the Boomer Generation, Baby Boomers will retire at a rate of 10,000 per day through at least 2030.

While these numbers seem to paint a very gloomy outlook for the future of U.S. companies, the reality is that there are 75.4 million Millennials between the ages of 18 and 34 who are ready to step in and become the next generation of leaders. According to The Millennial Leadership Study, 91% of Millennials currently in the workforce aspire to be in a leadership position.

So, what can we do to help prepare this newest generation? The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2016 points out that 63% of Millennials believe they are not currently receiving proper training to take on a leadership role in their organization.

Here are 10 crucial steps to implement into your company’s development strategy to ensure that your Millennial employees are ready to become your new leaders:

  1. Provide business social skills training — The training should include a focus on basic business etiquette for your industry and appropriate behaviors such as silencing cell phones at meetings, wearing appropriate attire for professional events, and avoiding multi-tasking during meetings or business events. Be sure that your company has set rules and your current leadership models appropriate business social skills.
  2. Articulate your company culture — Most companies do a quick onboarding of new hires that includes a review of your company values, mission, and purpose. But for Millennials to become leaders in your organization, you will need to dive much deeper. Leaders must be able to articulate and train others in your company culture, so be sure to include opportunities for your future leaders to experience your company culture in real and meaningful ways outside of the training room. Consider allowing future leaders to sit in on company board meetings or perhaps meet with customer focus groups. Give future leaders true exposure to your company culture in practice — not just on paper.
  3. Build a mentor network — Millennials crave mentors. In fact, 53% of Millennials responding to The Millennial Leadership Study stated that mentoring is the most effective way for them to develop their leadership skills. Keep in mind, though, that it is important to find the right mentor. Set up a network of mentors and have your Millennials meet them before officially matching them.
  4. Provide coaches — Keep in mind that not all managers or existing company leaders are great coaches. Take the time to identify a handful of coaches who can train emerging leaders. The coaches’ focus should be on tasks and performance, so it is essential that your selected coaches are proficient at providing feedback based on observed performance as the emerging leaders are developing their new skills.
  5. Encourage them to become coaches or mentors — Coaching and mentoring are key skills of leaders. Provide opportunities for Millennials to practice these skills with others by identifying coaching opportunities or peer mentoring opportunities.
  6. Promote self-awareness — Self-awareness is the foundation of personal and professional growth and success. Encourage your future leaders to develop self-awareness. Having the ability to identify their own strengths and weaknesses enables leaders to be more confident about what they can and cannot do.
  7. Teach feedback skills — The ability to both give and receive feedback is a vital skill of a strong leader. Millennials thrive on feedback and are generally great at asking for and processing feedback from others. Providing effective feedback is a difficult skill, however, and should be taught as a part of leadership training. Establish that feedback should focus on the behavior, not the person, and it needs to be specific and actionable.
  8. Utilize creative thinking skills — Give emerging leaders the opportunity to come up with creative solutions for a team or department problem. Developing solutions to a team or department challenge is a reality of management and an important skill to practice.
  9. Practice leading a project — Assign Millennials projects where they can take a leadership role and delegate tasks to a team. Skills such as leading a meeting, holding others accountable, and identifying and leveraging team member strengths are vital for leadership. Taking on a project team provides them with opportunities for real-world management training with little risk.
  10. Build trust — Emerging leaders make mistakes — lots of them. That’s normal. Create an environment where they can bring problems forward early on rather than hide them. Ensure their mentors or coaches help them clean up the mess if they make one, but don’t clean it up for them. Absolutely hold them accountable, but don’t cut their legs out from under them when they make mistakes.

Keep in mind that leadership doesn’t come from a job title — it comes from training and development. Your company’s future vitality will be solely dependent on its ability to attract, retain, motivate, and develop Millennial leaders.

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