There are 53.5 million Millennials (those people born ranging from the early 1980s to around 2000) which comprise 1/3 of the existing workforce and by the year 2025 it will be 75%. Members of this generation own their careers and realize they possess a portfolio of skills and don’t define oneself simply by a job title. The questions for organizational leaders are how best to attract, develop, and retain them in their workforce.
Much has been said, and written about how to attract millennials and optimize their distinctive capabilities. Here are some proven approaches you can implement immediately:
- Recruitment: Today’s emerging workforce is focused intently on finding meaning and experience beyond the traditional career. Even the most highly skilled employees don’t mind switching jobs, every few years, if it means they can grow personally, contribute more, gain autonomy or achieve better work-life balance. That’s why you must work diligently at fostering an employment brand that embodies these new cultural ideals (i.e. mobile apps and social medial channels to announce job openings, a user-friendly online job application process, contemporary work-life balance policies, etc.). You must communicate that you offer a place where people can be truly purposeful and you will be far more likely to gain the attention of both active and passive job seekers.
- Leadership and Management Development – Most of your new-generation leadership will begin as first-level managers and may struggle to wield authority and manager performance issues with sufficient toughness so they will require more and different developmental attention than previous generations. Because much of their development experience has honed their ability to form and maintain peer network, they could find it difficult to be a boss.The new work environment requires adaptive application: the ability and mind-set to apply one’s competencies to new, different, and unexpected work situations. To close this gap, the Learning and Management Development Program, a key component of organization-wide Succession Planning, must move beyond developing targeted application skills to developing adaptive application skills. These three significant shifts should be factored into your Leadership Development Program:
- Emphasize the fundamentals. If millennials are going to be managing others, they need to build management fundamentals such as delegation, providing timely feedback, and managing priorities.
- Foster an adaptive leader mind-set. Instead of just building leader competencies, develop the ability and mind-set to apply competencies in an environment of constant and hard-to-predict change.
- Enable leaders to practice adaptation. Instead of building for deep expertise in handling specific situations, provide opportunities for leaders to practice adapting to new and unfamiliar situations.
- Activate performance support networks. Equip leaders with an extended support system of peers and teams to replace the reliance exclusively on managers to support their leaders.
- Retention and Development – Best way to retain your high-performing Millennials (or as I refer to them, your “climbers”) is through engagement and the best way to engage your employees is to demonstrate your investment in them.
- Learning Program – First up, replace the word Training with Learning, it’s a game changer. If you want the Millennials to stay, offer learning resources. Develop a series of learning courses that equip employees with the requisite leadership, management, and supervisory skills. Incorporate traditional topics such as managing employee feedback, business writing, communication skills, and delegation, as well as emerging topics like leading change, innovation, and performance management.
- Mentoring – Young employees have grown up with a lot of guidance from their parents, teachers and society. In fact, these employees consider having a Mentor as a prerequisite of success. Establish a pool of employees who are willing to share their knowledge with others. A mentoring program is an easy and inexpensive way to effectively transfer tacit knowledge from senior to junior employees, as well as support employees who want to further their knowledge and skills for career advancement.
- Career Management – The concept of a career is transitioning from the traditional ladder of upward mobility, to more of a lattice where employees move in different directions. Today’s employees might move up, sideways, or both — gaining essential skills and experiences to keep pace in today’s quickly changing workplace. Create a culture of career development by advocating it as an imperative by equipping senior leaders with the skills they need to have career conversations with employees on an ongoing basis. That’s more than the one annual performance review discussion.
Interested in learning more about Millennials, I recommend reading reading “Next Generation of Professionals: An Inside Look at What Matters To Them” that I, along with three others, authored in 2015 for ICMA and the report by the IBM Institute for Business Value that is based on recent research of this generation.
Finally, if you’re a Millennial or manage them, please read my Career Track articles for ICMA. I author a new article each quarter with the next scheduled for publication in June.