6 Ways to Prepare Millennials for Leadership
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6 Ways to Prepare Millennials for Leadership

Future of Work

6 Ways to Prepare Millennials for Leadership

December 01, 2015 Johnna Ehmke

As the organisational leaders (read: Baby Boomers) leave the world of work behind, a critical issue is arising. How will you fill their leadership boots? The logical choice would be your Generation X-ers, but the biggest problem with that tactic is that there will be more roles to fill than people. It's clear that Millennials will inevitably need to take up leadership roles and now is the time to start preparing them for this move. Here are our 6 Ways to Prepare Millennials for Leadership.

1. Provide real mentorship

Leadership is no longer purely based on how much you know but how much experience you have. Millennials naturally are lacking in the experience department but fast tracking this process can be done through mentoring. By developing a working relationship with someone at the executive level, Millennials can get hands-on experience of the ins and outs of company leadership and develop the skills needed to be an effective leader.

A report by the Harvard Business Review outlined an innovative take on mentorship called reverse mentoring. This is here a Millennial is matched to an executive and assigned to teach them certain skills, like using social media.

This initiative can help younger employees gain an understanding of how an organisation operates at the senior level and there's almost always a reciprocation of knowledge from an executive to the Millennial.

2. Think laterally, not vertically

Some might call it a low attention span while others might deem it more a want to learn, but Millennials have a strong desire for taking on new challenges and experiences. Companies might often connect this desire with a want to quickly scale the rungs of the corporate ladder and there can be plenty of apprehension around promoting workers too quickly. The way to address this issue while keeping high-performing Millennials in your company is to think about moving workers laterally to a new role in a new department. Doing this gives them the opportunity to join a new team and work on new projects, while developing new skills.

As Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, points out, enabling lateral movement not only increases the value of an employee but better prepares them for upward movement.

"People who learn to perform multiple roles within a company - and do them well - quickly become invaluable. They amass a skillset that a) practically no one else possesses and b) has real value in the business. and that's where promotions and fast-track advancement often come into the picture."

3. Make leadership meaningful

Much has been said about how today's working Millennials differ from past generations by placing meaning in their work above the paycheck. A survey by the Boston College Center for Work & Family found that for 30% of Millennials, finding meaning on the job was the most important factor to success in their work1. Helping prepare this generation for leadership means helping them realise their worth, something which isn’t happening across many organisations at the moment. In Deloitte’s 2015 Millennial Survey, only 28% of respondents felt their current organisation was making full use of their skills . Aligning a Millennials goals with the company mission will help demonstrate their importance to larger corporate goals. Adam Smiley Poswolsky, author of The Quarter-Life Breakthrough: A Guide For Millennials To Find Meaningful Work, recommends empowering Millennials with co-leadership opportunities to help them showcase their worth and leadership potential.

"Give young talent a chance to manage and develop a new project that excites them, and is of strategic importance. Pair the Millennial project-lead with a senior executive, or someone with 15-plus years of experience. This not only makes a young staff member feel valued by their company, it gives them the opportunity to learn directly from a mentor."

4. Ensure feedback is on-demand and frequent

The annual performance review is now a thing of the past. As younger workers enter the corporate world they are bringing with them a want for frequent feedback. According to Jeff Lawson, CEO of cloud communications company Twilio, this want isn’t based on receiving constant praise but rather, a desire to “keep score” on how they’re doing in all aspects of their career.

Many companies refuse to invest their time into the reviews process and this lack of action only serves to hurt the company going forward. A study by the Harvard Business Review found that 20% of managers don’t give annual performance reviews and only 12% give quarterly reviews3.

It’s easy to see why this happens when the matter of carrying out a review can sometimes be a lengthy paper-based process. Now though, this process has been automated, digitised and primed for mobile devices with apps and software designed to make getting the best out of your employees, whenever and wherever you might be, a strength rather than a burden.

Cornerstone OnDemand is a global talent management software provider that is pioneering solutions to help organisations realise the potential of a modern workforce. To find out more about preparing Millennials for leadership roles, have a look at our infographic.





Creating Tomorrow's Leaders: The Expanding Roles of Millennials in the workplace, Boston College Center for Work & Family, 2011.



Mind the Gaps: The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2015, Deloitte



You're Probably Wrong About Millennials, Harvard Business Review, 2013

About Johnna Ehmke


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