Preparing millenials for leadership roles


Millennials are changing the world socially, politically and everything in-between. By 2025 they will make up 75% of the total global workforce and already account for nearly 50% of working aged Australians.

Millennials are tech-savvy, highly educated and eager to take on management positions, with 91% of millennials aspiring to be in leadership roles. They also have very strong opinions on what current leaders should be doing (Forbes).

With the workforce progressing and moving towards a major demographic shift, getting the millennials in your organisation ready for leadership is critical to establishing a future foundation for the next generation.

If you don’t already have a millennial leader, you could be getting one soon. Learning how to prepare them for it seems inevitable.

Issues that millennials have faced getting into leadership roles previously:

Nearly half of older generations believed millennials to be ill-equipped to manage a team and feared that they might have a negative impact on the company (Inc).

This is due to a few biases:

  • Perceived lack of real-world experience – Managing people older than oneself can be difficult. This can often accompany a lack of comfortability with the ideas presented from the younger millennial due to notion that they lack worldly experience.
  • Lack of technical knowledge – Perceived purely due to a lack of overall working experience, millennials are often alleged to have lower technical knowledge than senior employees (Forbes). When compared to number of years worked, this may be true, but as technology changes so has people’s technical requirements.When it comes to managing social media for example, a marketer with 30 years of experience may have the same amount of knowledge as a marketer with eight, as the technology has only been around for the same number of years. When faced with the above issues, millennials are less likely to be perceived as role models. When you are unlikely to be perceived as a role model you are often unable to lead by example.

Why organisations would benefit from getting millennials into leadership roles:

Innovation – Millennials offer a new way of looking at things. They have come from a different era, with a different mindset as to how issues can be solved. With a diversified workplace comes an expanded outlook on the world and the products/services required to solve the needs of a wider community. Those of different backgrounds can bounce ideas from one another based on their individual life experiences – allowing for increased innovation. Tech-Savvy – Millennials were raised with a phone clutched to their hand. They view problems and think of solutions that can be fixed using technology. Most products and services are becoming more technically inclined and rarely does a business not operate in the digital sphere nowadays. Knowing the best way to approach a technical solution may come through a millennial manager. Increased flexibility for workers – Millennials aren’t as concerned with the amount of hours worked as much as they are with the result from the output (Monster). This may offer flexibility to workers underneath the millennial manager, through potential remote work options and flexible hours – providing an increase to employee satisfaction and loyalty.

Here is a look at how you can get millennials ready for leadership:

Improve their technical skill.

Developing the correct technical skillset is the foundation to establishing millennials as leaders within the organisation. Provide self-improvement courses and incentivise them to stay in-tune with industry updates.

Place them in positions of leadership for smaller projects. This allows the worker to attend events geared at upper management and empower them to make decisions without seeking constant approval.

Link them to a mentor.

Mentorship is fundamental to learning to be a leader. You can read all the books you like on leadership, but reading is far different than doing. Being a mentee allows millenials to see first-hand different leadership styles. This lets the worker observe the positives of management and learn from their mentor’s mistakes.

Teach communication skills.

Upbringing, gender, age, and culture all influence the way we view the world and the way we like to be spoken to. Learning various styles of communication is necessary to effectively motivate employees and receive respect. For example, you wouldn’t speak to a 60-year-old in accounting the same way you would to a 19-year-old who develops software. Teach the finer details of individual communication styles to maximise the effectiveness of the millennial manager.

Build relationships in person.

Texting, emails and any form of non-personal communication, millennials probably excel at. Where improvement can be made is soft skills. Encourage them to learn appropriate body language, develop interdepartmental relationships and require them to attend team meetings.

Continuous feedback and improvement.

Just as data analytics fuels business decisions, feedback provides the fuel for individual growth. Create a system of continuous feedback and open communication to create a guideline for improvement. This can be done through encouraging social interactions and providing a judgement free review process.

As the baby boomers move out towards retirement, millennials are moving in and taking more leadership roles from them. Which comes as no surprise considering they already account for majority of the workforce. However, this comes with issues as managing older generations can be difficult and not everyone may be happy with the change.

Whether your company is ready or not, and whether it occurs now or in 10 years, chances are that a millennial may very well be sitting in a management position one day in your organisation. Getting them ready for that will be instrumental to leadership success.