At some point in the last few years, Millennials started to take over the workforce. Recent data from the Pew Research Center indicates that “More than one-in-three American labor force participants (35%) are Millennials, making them the largest generation in the U.S. labor force.” With 56 million Millennials either working or looking for work, they have edged out the next most populous generation, Gen X, which had 53 million members working or looking for work.
The percentage of Millennials in the work force—and, consequently, leadership positions in the workforce—is expected to continue to grow over the next few years. Some projections state that Millennials will make up about 50 percent of all leadership positions in less than half a decade. So, investing in Millennial leaders is critical for securing the future of your company.
However, Millennials, especially younger members, are more likely to change jobs to pursue new opportunities than previous generations. According to data from Gallup, “six in 10 millennials are open to new job opportunities” and “21% of millennials say they’ve changed jobs within the past year.”
How, then, can you attract and retain Millennial leaders for your organization?
One strategy is to find out what appeals most to Millennials with leadership potential and make what they want a core part of your company. With this in mind, here are a few of the most important things that Millennials want from their workplaces:
1: Opportunities to Learn and Grow
In another Gallup survey, Millennials were asked to rank a series of attributes they found attractive in a new job. One of the top factors identified was “opportunities to learn and grow.” Millennials value self-improvement and will actively pursue job opportunities that allow them to learn new things.
What kind of opportunities to learn and grow can you provide Millennials?
One key topic to focus on might be soft skills—such as communication, active listening, trust building, and influencing. Millennials, because of their relative youth and limited managerial experience, frequently lack these soft skills.
As an added benefit, by improving a Millennial’s soft skills, you can also help prepare them for future leadership roles.
2: Feedback About Their Performance
A recent study cited by CNN noted that “Transparency is the Millennial standard operating procedure in the workplace.” Millennials actively seek frequent feedback about their performance on the job—a desire that can be closely linked to their desire to learn and grow.
Feedback is a critical part of the learning process. With frequent feedback, Millennials can learn what they’re doing right and how they can improve—which helps to fuel their personal and professional growth.
Implementing systems for assessing employees and providing fair, open feedback they can benefit from is enormously important for attracting, engaging and retaining Millennial leaders. It can also be helpful for preparing Millennial employees for eventual leadership roles.
3: Opportunities for Advancement
Aside from personal development of their skills and abilities, Millennials are often concerned with their future prospects with a company—their opportunities for advancement. In fact, one study cited by Forbes states that “91% of millennials aspire to reach leadership positions, and 42% are currently motivated to take the helm and empower others as leaders…” The study also found that 55% of millennials wish their employer offered better opportunities for leadership development.
So, creating ways for employees to advance within your organization and communicating these opportunities to your Millennial employees can be an effective means of retaining high-potential Millennials and gaining their commitment to the organization. When promoting these opportunities to Millennial employees, the top benefit to promote may not be the pay or power the position offers, but rather the opportunity to make a difference. As noted in the Forbes article, for Millennials, “Their eagerness to lead is also backed by selflessness, contrary to what other generations think. Only 5% crave money and 1% power.”
4: Learning Experiences That Resonate with Millennials’ Expectations
The Millennial generation grew up with technologies securely in the realm of science fiction to older generations at the same age. This is the first generation to grow up with the internet and social media networks—technologies that have helped to shape their skills and worldview.
However, this can, as noted by Forbes, “create a communication barrier with older generations at work.” The mere fact that Millennials (and the Post-Millennials who are just now reaching working age) are digital natives means that they have a different way of interacting with others and learning things—and your business’ strategies for communicating with and developing these employees needs to change accordingly.
Adopting online learning and communication tools can be immensely useful for engaging Millennial-generation employees within your company. Online learning tools also have another benefit in that they make leadership development highly scalable across your entire organization.
Helping Millennials Grow with Your Organization
You may have noticed a common theme in most of the things listed about what Millennials want at work: everything relates to their personal or professional growth. They want to master new skills, polish the ones they have, and advance within their organizations—and they want training formatted to match their preferences and life experiences.
So, how can you provide personal and professional development opportunities for Millennials? A few tips include:
- Creating a Formal Process for Identifying Top Talent. The first step in helping Millennials grow is identifying high-potential employees with the most promise as future leaders. Assessments may include:
- A thorough examination of the employee’s past experience and behaviors;
- Information about how the employee behaves on the job (including observations from peers, direct reports, and bosses);
- An examination of why the employee exhibits certain behaviors (based on past experiences or other environmental factors); and
- When and where the employee is most likely to behave in a similar fashion.
- Using Third-Party Services to Collect Data. Using a consulting firm to collect data about your employees can help you gather robust, objective information. Some tools third-party organizations (such as OnPoint) may use include:
- Behavioral interviews;
- 360 feedback surveys encompassing direct reports, peers, and managers;
- Personality tests; and
- Simulations to assess performance.
- Making Learning Stimulating. Because Millennials are so accustomed to interactive technologies , they often respond well to stimulating visual exercises. Online self-directed learning resources that mimic games or have audiovisual elements can help engage Millennials with learning content and make it fun.
- Use a Variety of Learning Content Formats. Although Millennials often respond well to game-like audiovisual learning content, it’s important to have a variety of learning formats to mix things up and help maintain engagement with the learning content. Some formats to consider include:
- Virtual Instructor-led training programs (these work well for employees who are primarily auditory learners);
- Face-to-face simulations (great for co-located team members and those who need to learn soft skills);
- E-learning programs (useful for when significant interaction isn’t required among participants or when training has to occur across different time zones); and
- Massive Open Online Courses (a.k.a. MOOCs, which can be useful for providing flexible, on-demand knowledge acquisition and training).
- Make Training Short, But Frequent. Thanks to growing up with the ocean of information made available for immediate consumption on the internet, Millennials are used to a faster pace of information absorption than their Gen X and Baby Boomer peers. To capture a Millennial’s attention, training sessions need to be short and to the point. Rather than scheduling day-long seminars, consider using multiple shorter webinars where each 15 to 30-minute video covers just one topic.
As Millennials continue to overtake their predecessors as the majority leaders of the modern workforce, businesses must prepare to vie for top-tier talents among this generation to maintain their succession pipelines and future viability.
Providing Millennials at your organization with the appropriate training and learning opportunities in the formats they are most comfortable with as well as having a formal process to identify your top performers can help your company make the most out of this promising generation.
Get more tips on how you can mold this promising generation into your organization’s future leadership in our free eBook, Developing Future Leaders: Preparing Millennials for 21st Century Challenges.