6 Ways to Prepare Millennials for Leadership Roles

According to the Pew Research Center, the first millennials were born in 1981, which means the older members of this peer group have already turned 40. The rest are at ages where leadership roles are the next step in the progression of their professional lives. This demographic is characterized by having a shared willingness to lead, and a desire to lead in their own unique ways. 

New ideas are welcomed in most companies, but the “don’t fix what isn’t broken” mindset also exists. Finding a way to marry innovation with tried-and-true methods is becoming a focal point for companies as millennials move into their upcoming roles. Looking at this from a HR perspective, this means a combination of listening and directing is needed in order to get the most out of your team’s new and upcoming leaders. 

Part of the reason millennials believe their ideas are overdue in leadership is because they are currently the most educated generation, and the first who learned about technology and data usage during their studies. Knowing an idea will work and not being able to implement it is a difficult position to be in, but one of the reasons that 91% of millennials say they want to lead is to bring new ideas to the workplace. 

Combining the passion, drive, and knowledge that millennials have, along with the following six areas of focus, your team can prepare this generation for leadership roles that are being vacated, due in part to baby boomers retiring.  

Focused man presenting creative ideas on a whiteboard to colleagues in a meeting.

1. Give Feedback (Both Ways)

Bearing in mind that millennials have been raised in the social media age, they have been able to share their opinions more openly than previous generations, and also able to hear immediate feedback on those opinions. Using this information on millennial culture will help with training them for their future leadership roles.  

Developing a way for your new leaders to openly and confidently share their ideas with stakeholders makes them feel self-assured and allows their ideas to grow even more. They should also feel safe and confident in sharing their opinions among their colleagues.  

Encouraging these leaders to receive feedback as openly as they give it should be an easy task, as most millennials prefer to lead a team of individuals who share ideas and show that they have a will to better the company. 

Additionally, this demographic likes to be told when they are doing a good job; whether the praise is coming from subordinates, or members of the c-suite, encouraging this culture of praise seems to serve millennials of all roles the best. 

2. Challenge Them

Millennials are up for a challenge, even before they’re leading. Many prefer project-based work, and this style of assignment allows them to take on a leadership role on a given project, even if their title isn’t changing. This is a generation driven by pride in their work, and by challenging them frequently, they tend to maintain that drive more easily. 

When they do wind up in bigger roles as titled leaders, this mindset of challenging (and rewarding, of course) colleagues means more innovation and a greater sense of pride for the company. There is, of course, a caveat, and as much as millennials like a challenge, they also need to be given the resources to complete a task.

3. Provide Training

Given the fact that millennials are a very well-educated demographic, they tend to get a lot of confidence from knowledge. Plenty of knowledge can be learned by doing one’s job, and sending these burgeoning leaders to places where they can learn modern tactics in how to lead serves a twofold purpose. 

First, training does make people better at their jobs. If a new leader learns at least one thing from a training module, that person is a better leader. From the millennial standpoint, the confidence gained in both themselves and the company by being well trained will carry over into their abilities to lead with that confidence. 

Second, having a culture that promotes training to leaders will almost certainly trickle down and cause other employees to take their training courses seriously and implement the materials they have learned. 

4. Offer Mentorship

No matter the demographic, mentorship is highly recommended when preparing new individuals for leadership roles. Coupling millennials with someone who can help build confidence in some more traditional leadership tactics is a great way to ensure they’ll have a nice mix of the old and new when taking on their new role. 

Some issues can arise with millennials and mentors, however, because millennials tend to think the best way to get information is from the internet, which they’ve had available in their pockets for the majority of their lives. Those future leaders, who you may fear might be stubborn with mentorship, would do well to be matched with a stern and respected leader.

These mentors do not have to be within your organization, and some individuals may actually be more receptive to outside mentorship, as they may have neutral or differing views of the way the company’s current leadership functions. Organizing ways for your future leaders to interact with these outside mentors shows confidence in your future leader’s ability to learn on their own and lets them know that your company is receptive to thinking outside of the box.

5. Be Transparent

Millennials like to know exactly what is expected of them, and exactly what they did wrong if they did not meet those expectations. The way millennials spend their money may be the most telling regarding their desires for transparency. Millennials spent an estimated $600 billion on consumer goods and pointed to brand transparency as one of their major drivers for where they were spending.

When it comes to making their money, this same transparency is a driver and something they aim to exhibit as leaders. Creating a culture that holds each other accountable and is upfront and honest will make for a greater willingness to lead from millennials currently within your organization. When this generation does take over the majority of leadership roles, it’s likely this transparency will continue to grow. 

6. Make It Mean Something

Getting a promotion in the early 2000s and before was enough for the vast majority of employees looking to move up in a company. However, with the millennial mindset of making more than money out of their work, it’s important to let them know the type of difference they can make within the company as a leader. 

Value is an important word in business, and making a millennial’s leadership role sound valuable to the company will motivate this generation more than a nicer office will. The generation also has a greater interest in corporate social responsibility; adding this facet to their leadership roles can help millennials take more pride in their new position. 

Ask your millennial leaders if they agree with company standards and the culture. If they don’t, empower them to be part of the changes they wish to see. If you can provide a promotion package that involves more than just money, members of this generation will almost certainly take it more seriously. 

Ready to Train Your Millennial Leaders?

Understanding what millennials want out of their jobs is the most important part of training them for leadership roles because it motivates them to perform. As is the same with every generation, there are pros and cons to how millennials conduct their business; by smoothing out the cons and allowing the pros to shine, this group may prove to be the best leaders the business world has seen.

KnowledgeCity provides training guidance on all aspects of leadership, including those most important to millennials, such as positive mentorship tactics, diversity and inclusion, decision making, and more. 

You can also download our free white paper on harnessing the power of millennial employees here, to get some more ideas on how to utilize this demographic that is expected to make up almost 75% of the workforce in 2025.

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