How to develop leadership development initiatives that meet the needs of the Millennial workforce

Leadership development for the Millennial workforce

How to develop leadership development initiatives that meet the needs of the Millennial workforce

Brenda van Camp Brenda van Camp,
Founder & CEO, Upwardley

With baby boomers retiring at a rate of 10,000 per year and a lack of Gen Xers to take their place (as there aren’t enough of them), the oldest Millennials (aka. Gen Y), who now range in age from 30 to 42, are now increasingly called upon to take on leadership roles. As a result, L&D practitioners at organizations everywhere are clamoring to provide training to help prepare these Millennials as leaders. However, according to a 2018 study by Harvard Business Publishing into the state of leadership development, 60% of millennials question the effectiveness of their organization’s leadership development programs. In view of this, we explore in this 2-part series several key issues L&D practitioners should consider when rethinking how to develop leadership development for the Millennial workforce. This week we will focus specifically on how to tailor leadership development to the specific learning preferences of the Millennial workforce. Next week we will then follow up with a post which focuses on how to address some of the specific leadership development needs of Millennial employees.

Three considerations to tailor leadership development to the specific learning preferences of the Millennial workforce.

1) Make it customized & flexible

Millennials have grown up in a world where personalization is the norm, and they expect the same thing from their leadership development. They are allergic to a one-size-fits-all approach, such as a traditional classroom-based program for a group of employees. Instead, they want learning tools that allow them to focus their limited time on just their individual development needs.

Millennials have grown up in a world where personalization is the norm, and they expect the same thing from their leadership development. Click To Tweet

At Upwardley, we, for example, cater to that by enabling each employee to establish their personal leadership development needs by taking the Upwardley Leadership Capabilities Assessment. The assessment evaluates their current skills & behaviors against the predefined capabilities that are required to be an effective leader at their level. Based on the results of their evaluation, our platform than automagically generates a recommended individual leadership development path for them.

Moreover, Millennial employees do not want leadership training to disrupt their carefully honed and fiercely guarded work-life balance. They are willing to put in the effort; however, they want to be able to fit their learning into their lives as they see fit – on-demand, anywhere, any time.

2) Let them take charge of their leadership development

Ever tried telling a Millennial employee that they, like everyone else before them, have to bide their time to get leadership training as and when they achieve a certain level in the organization? If you have, it probably wasn’t received very well. Unlike prior generations, Millennial employees do not tend to trust an organization to take care of their development needs. Instead, they believe organizations will always prioritize their self-interest over the needs of their employees. Hence, millennials prefer to take a more do-it-yourself approach to their career development. And they take this very seriously because they are keenly aware that they need to stay relevant amidst the constant change driven by technology and globalization.

Unlike prior generations, Millennial employees do not tend to trust an organization to take care of their development needs. Hence, millennials prefer to take a more do-it-yourself approach to their career development. Click To Tweet

So, don’t tell your Millennial employees to wait until a particular time when you deem them ready to qualify for leadership training. Instead, let them take charge of their leadership development. For example, Adobe provides every employee with a generous learning budget that they can spend, as they see fit, on their development. This approach enables employees to seek out development resources that are suitable for their individual development needs and learning preferences. At the same time, whether or not they make use of it and how they spend it provides some good data about the career ambitions of each individual for Adobe’s talent management plans. 

3) Show them how they’re doing

Millennial employees have grown up in a world of instant feedback and keeping score: Through their posts on social media such as Instagram and Facebook, they have become accustomed to receiving immediate feedback in the form of likes and comments. Also, they are the first generation to grow up with widespread access to video games, through which they have become used to measuring their performance and progress through earning points and badges and moving from level to level. 

Millennial employees want the same thing all along their leadership development journey. They want to know how they are doing. They want to know it’s worth all the effort. They want to measure their performance and track their progress. Being able to do so provides them with an immediate sense of achievement. It keeps them motivated to compete against themselves and to continue to put in the effort to level up their leadership skills. 

Through gaming, Millenials have become used to measuring their performance and progress by earning points and badges and moving from level to level. Millennial employees want the same thing all along their leadership development journey. Click To Tweet

Traditional leadership development programs are notoriously light on such measurement. At Upwardley, we addressed this by providing users of our platform with the ability to track their leadership development efforts as well as to measure their performance improvement at an individual capability level. Tracking their effort gives them an immediate sense of achievement while also sending a signal to their manager about their willingness to put in the hard work of becoming a leader. On the other hand, measuring their performance improvement at an individual capability level provides real evidence of their progress and proof of their improved readiness to take on additional responsibility.

Note: This is part 1 of our series on Millennials & Leadership Development. Next week we will focus on some of the specific challenges that many millennial employees face regarding some key leadership capabilities.

About the author

Brenda van Camp Brenda van Camp
Founder & CEO, Upwardley

Brenda is the Founder and CEO of Upwardley, the new San Francisco based start-up that harnesses the latest people science & technology to re-imagine leadership development for the modern enterprise by making it more affordable, personalized, on-demand and habit-building.

Brenda is also the author of the book “The Leadership Workout”, which provides you with a 31-day framework to purposefully direct and regularly review your leadership through daily reflection and practice, to help you refine and further develop your leadership. One facet at a time, one day at a time

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