Their supporters describe Millennials as free-spirited, self-aware youngsters who know what they want and what they are worth and feel very strongly about their autonomy. Their detractors, on the other hand, claim they have no regard for authority, place no value on loyalty and are overall a risky investment. Regardless of what angle we are to look at them from, the reality shows that they are pretty present in the workforce today, actually making up the great majority of employees.

The paradox in the way HR usually approaches Millennials is that even though they are known to be overly eager to grow in their careers, very little effort is put into their development. These were the findings of Brandon Hall Group’s 2015 State of Leadership Development Study.

Millenials – the leaders of tomorrow

Although organizations are aware about the importance of growing internal talent to meet business needs, and make leadership development a priority, 36% of them say their leadership development practices are still below average or poor. The above-mentioned study found that just 20% of organizations identified the Millennial leader segment as critical for development over the next 24 months.

Neither are organizations invested in coaching and mentoring of Millennial leaders. Millennial leaders crave advice particularly from senior leadership, yet on average, just 7% of organizations invested in offering Millennial coaching, mentoring and dedicated time with their chief executive and other senior leaders. This is probably due to the fact that this particular generation tends to constantly challenge the status quo.

Not enough attention is given to the Millennial segment

Back in 2015, 84% of organizations were anticipating a shortfall in the minimum number of qualified leaders over the following five years. One-quarter of organizations said less than 10% of all critical leader positions have one ready and willing successor. If you think about it, that is very small percentage.

Millennials occupy roughly 15% of management positions. That number is expected to more than double in less than 10 years. Combined with the impending retirement of Baby Boomers, employers will continue to face big leadership gaps if immediate action is not taken.

The reality of the day is that leaders are either becoming digitally savvy or are already digital natives. They want to be virtually connected all the time, and prefer learning experiences that allow knowledge to flow everywhere, anywhere, all the time, just when needed, in a personalized, continuous and immersive fashion.

A new approach to leadership development is needed

It sounds like a lot of work since it means completely transforming the way leadership development used to be done, but if you think about it, Millennials are actually the best-placed generation to develop as leaders because they truly get the reality of today’s business world and are incredibly adaptable.

The fact that they do not require a lot of study time or long classroom-based leadership trainings also proves to be a plus. With time being more and more of the essence, their ability to think on their feet and practice leadership in real-life situations is just what businesses need. And as a Deloitte study from 2016 points out:

Millennials are no longer leaders of tomorrow, but increasingly, leaders of today — as such, their views on how business does and should conduct itself are of more than academic interest. We see that Millennials are taking their values with them into the boardroom.

Millennial leaders – all about numbers and people

Although leadership development for Millennials is not a sure way to achieve retention, it is the only logical step towards that.

The aforementioned Deloitte survey found that two in three Millennials expected to leave their current employer by 2020. The numbers are not very promising but as with this new generation, it all depends on the angle you look from. Those few who will choose to stay will do so because they believe in the organization’s objectives and not because they need a job and are already used to the one they have.

They are very collaborative and do their best when they get to work together for a common goal. Purpose is of the utmost importance for them, they will be mindful of the financial success but are likely to also look closer into employee-related metrics such as wellbeing statistics, corporate social responsibility and brand reputation measures.

Isn’t that the kind of leader any business should aim for?

Author: Raluca C

Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.