There are now more Millennials than Baby Boomers in the workforce. Further, 50 percent of those Millennials are already in leadership positions. Unfortunately they're not ready. They have not received the training and development they need; and especially have not received the experience-based learning they need to develop the leadership skills that are most important in the world they are creating. It's time for the Baby Boomers to stop fretting about managing Millennials and to focus on developing those Millennials' leadership skills.
More Millennials in the workforce
In 2014, Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) became the largest generation in the U.S. labor force. Over the next 5 years, they will grow by 30 percent to 72 million, while Baby Boomers decline by 28 percent to 30 million.
Virtuali CEO Sean Graber explained this to me as he took me through their analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and their own survey of 574 Millennials. The complete report is findable at DevelopTheNextGen.com.
But that's just the starting point.
It's not just about managing Millennials any more. They're growing up fast. According to Deloitte's Millennial Survey, 50 percent of Millennials are already in leadership positions and 41 percent of them have four or more direct reports.
It gets worse.
Different perspective on leadership
They don't view leadership the way Baby Boomers do. As Graber explained,
They have a changing concept of leadership. They are much less interested in hierarchical leadership than to something that is much more collaborative and cross-functional.
Graber suggests that might be a result of the changing economy. Maybe. But a big part of what's different comes back to the context of their leadership given a previously unimaginable access to data and information, connecting them with each other and the world per my earlier article on leading millennials.
We have not prepared them.
Poor training and development
Baby Boomers have failed to get Millennials ready to lead. We Baby Boomers need to help Millennials develop the leadership skills they will need for their world, not ours. According to Deloitte, 64% of current Millennial leaders surveyed "felt unprepared when entering their leadership role."
Vituali's own research corroborates this point. Over 60% of respondents said they received 10 hours or less of leadership development in the past year, and a majority of those that did receive training indicated that it was not the right type.
The key is experiential learning.
The right training and development
Graber's learning is that Millennials are hungering for skills in 1) Communication, 2) the ability to build relationships, and 3) the ability to develop others. As Graber puts it, it's all about "communication, collaboration and relationship building...It boils down to coaching and experience." And the difference between doing, managing and leading as first time leaders. (Request an executive summary of First-Time Leader for more on this.)
Graber explained that
Millennials are a tough audience. They are accustomed to curating their own content and having access to on-demand resources. Information must be relevant to them - right now.
Virtuali is convinced that Millennials "see their careers as a series of experiences. Those companies that are able to provide them will recruit and retain top talent." One of Virtuali's programs is a good model, combining traditional classes and experiences. Their "Go!" program is designed to function like a part-time MBA so people don't need to miss work. In this two-month program participants go through individual assessments and coaching, classes, virtual project collaborations and a two-week out of country live experience.
Implications for you
This is not an optional exercise. You can't fight death, taxes, tides or demographic waves. Stop treating Millennials like pups wet behind the ears or straight out of school. They are now the majority. It's no longer about managing or leading them. It's about enabling them to lead each other. Specifically:
- Hire Millennials with the right talents for your organization.
- Give them appropriate classes, courses, reading, etc. to develop the knowledge they will need - about your business, customers, collaborators, capabilities, conditions and competitors.
- Put them into situations where they can get a set of experiences that allow them to build the skills they need to lead others in the new world.
The way Millennials lead and are going to lead is different than the way Baby Boomers lead. The point is not how this works for Baby Boomers. The point is how this works for leading Millenials, now the largest cohort in the workforce.