Empower millennials with development programs that are suited to their strengths.
By Cheryl Allen
There is great value in using generational research to effectively inform people practices. The current workforce makeup of baby boomers, Generation X, millennials, and Generation Z is likely one of the most diversified in history. Each generation is equipped with skills and knowledge based upon the environment they grew up in, and organizations are searching for them in the current competitive business environment.
Organizations that learn to leverage the generation-driven people capabilities will have significant advantages in almost every area of their business. Just think: Millennials are the next generation of leaders and they grew up as natives in a tech world. This digital competence translates to agility, flexibility, and collaboration, producing better results. In fact, these three traits are intangible success factors that many organizations aspire to and believe are market differentiators in overall organizational performance.
Millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce. By the numbers, they are best able to influence the organization in both leadership and culture. HR can take advantage of this influence by providing learning and leadership development opportunities and aligning them to company goals. Millennials can also act as ambassadors for culture and employment branding, both internally and externally. This generation tends to seek environments that encourage agility, flexibility, collaboration, continuous learning, global citizenship, and diversity, which are all key factors for business success.
What should HR consider when empowering younger workers as managers? The following considerations will have an impact on the development of leadership skills:
- Achievement motivation is based on quick results so training will need to counterbalance the value of time to evolve concepts.
- The tendency to challenge the status quo will encourage training styles that focus on productive ways to do just that, but acknowledging when that approach may be ineffective will be essential.
- Tech savviness will influence a more knowledge-based managerial style.
- The desire to continuously add skills will drive training approaches that are nimble and can retain attention.
Management development programs designed for volume efficiency—such as classes and online programs that are heavily driven by pre-designed content, and social or group activities—will not work. Organizations need to focus on aligning learning and development with tech savviness, independence, social responsibility, and a desire for career growth and achievement orientation.
Millennials are born entrepreneurs and can produce just about anything on their own by using technology that is readily available. They seek to continuously add skills to their repertoire and have more access to data and information than any generation before. They are programmed to challenge the status quo; however, they may not have the interpersonal communication skills to consistently do so well. Development programs, career assignments, and special projects should align to these traits. For example:
- As knowledge-based learners and managers, make information readily available to millennials through subscriptions, subject-matter experts, and online resource tools.
- Help build project management and planning skills to counterbalance tendencies to focus on quick results.
- Give them complex project opportunities to build critical-thinking skills in order to challenge the status quo and leverage their social values.
- Complement skills development with real-time feedback and coaching around communication opportunities.
HR can actually simplify traditional development programs by using more agile, experiential learning. In the case of developing the tech-savvy millennials, less truly can be more, and smarter development activities are definitely better than harder.
Cheryl Allen, ACC, GPHR, SPHR is vice president of HR and talent management at Kaplan Professional.