A number of key differences distinguish the millennial generation – those born between 1980 and 2000 – from ones that came before it. For one, they seek meaning and purpose in their work and are more likely to job hop than stick to one with which they're unsatisfied.
This demographic now makes up the largest share of the U.S. workforce, assuming leadership roles at a rapid pace. Just as HR and business leaders have learned they need to tailor their recruitment and hiring strategies to align with the values of this generation, they also need to rethink how their efforts to develop and train employees in a way that will make them fit for leadership positions.
The type of people you have managing and leading an organization can make or break its success. They need to be in sync with the individual workers, communicative and accessible. Companies need to appoint the right people, but they also need to make sure they are continually investing in and developing the right ones. By gaining a clear understanding of how millennials view leadership, businesses can significantly enhance their ability to attract, develop and retain top performers and, in turn, improve their bottom line.
What leadership means to millennials
According to a WorkplaceTrends.com study, almost all – 91 percent – millennials agreed that they want to be leaders and would rather work for a business that doesn't have many tiers of overhead management. Nearly half said the motivating force driving them to lead is because they want to inspire and empower other people; a mere 5 percent said they would take a leadership for compensation purposes.
But are they good at leading and, perhaps more importantly, what does an effective leader look like to them? More than half of millennials surveyed said that the two most important skills for effective leadership are communication and being able to build relationships, qualities for which the majority feel they already possess..
"Most millennials feel they possess the most important qualities needed for effective leadership."
However, millennials seem to lack confidence when it comes to areas like industry expertise and technical knowledge. In addition to these concerns, they also have other reservations about leadership. For example, some (nearly 30 percent) fear it would hurt their ability to maintain a healthy work-life balance, where as others (19 percent) are scared they won't be successful at it.
It is important to remember that this generation grew up in the age of the internet and social media. They are used to constantly connecting and communicating with their peers, so it makes sense that they would expect the same kind of transparency in the workplace. Research has also suggested that Generation Y seems less focused on using leadership roles for ego and power than they are for facilitating innovation and change.
Leadership styles to expect from millennials
When it comes to the millennial generation, certain leadership styles seem to be more popular than others. For example, in the WorkplaceTrends.com survey, 63 percent of respondents revealed that they want their leadership style to be transformational and inspirational; they want to excite other people and make them feel like they have a purpose. Democratic was another highly sought after leadership style, meaning they want employees to contribute in making important decisions. Just 1 percent of the the study participants wanted to enforce strict rules and policies throughout the organization – a type of leadership that was much more common among baby boomers.
"Boomers have been autocratic leaders that are all about command, control and policies, such as working nine-to-five," WorkplaceTrends.com Founder Dan Schawbel told CIO. "Millennials want to create a more collaborative environment where they exchange ideas with peers and accomplish a mission instead of a corporate culture that's rigid with policies and procedures."
Understanding what this age group constitutes success as can also gain some insight on how their approach to leadership may be a turn away from other, traditional techniques. For example, A Deloitte 2016 Millennial Survey revealed that nearly 90 percent of those belonging to Generation Y believe a company's success and performance is, or should be, determined based on more than just their financial metrics.
Developing better leaders
To appeal to millennials, it is important for existing managers and HR professionals to ensure the organization has practices in place that prioritizes training and development. In their recruitment strategies, it is crucial that businesses demonstrate potential hires will have room to grow, learn and advance – especially because this is something that many firms are failing at today. More than half of workers belonging to Generation Y said that they feel their company is not doing an adequate job at leadership development.
In the Deloitte Survey, it was found that 63 percent of millennials do not feel like their leadership skills are being fully developed – compared to only three years ago when nearly half of respondents said they believed management was doing all they could to help them become better leaders.
Businesses that do not make leadership development a priority are at a competitive disadvantage and may be severely harming their retention rates. The majority, or 71 percent, of those surveyed who are expected to leave their organization within the next couple years reported dissatisfaction with how their leadership skill development was being handled. On the other hand, workers who have been given a lot of training and support for taking on a leadership position are more likely to remain loyal to a company.
Making sure the management model of a company allows millennials to lead in the way most effective for them will help businesses attract and retain top performers.