In a time of unprecedented disruption and uncertainty, an understanding of good leadership is more important than ever. Studies show that employees who feel supported by their manager are 70% less likely to experience burnout, and great leadership in business can make the difference between continued productivity and complete disarray.
Looking beyond the COVID-19 crisis, it’s clear that we must develop the next generation of leaders to understand how to lead in uncertain times, as their normal is likely to be something akin to our chaos.
However, it seems that HR leaders are not doing enough to meet the demands of the next generation of leaders. A recent Deloitte study revealed that 63% of US millennials feel their leadership development skills are being underdeveloped – a worrying statistic, given the magnitude of problems poor leadership creates.
Within the next two years, 50% of the U.S. workforce is expected to be made up of millennials – a demographic that typically possesses a greater hunger for learning, growth and opportunity. So, the burning question is, how can HR adapt in to meet these new requirements?
Mamta Gera, CEO, The New Leadership UK, explained her stance on this, first outlining the nature of millennial leadership demands.
“Millennials expect training!” she said. “They want to have a coach or mentor to provide them with the best opportunity to succeed in their role.”
This is arguably the most important distinction, and the one cited most often. A common viewpoint is that previous generations entered the workplace with the mentality of earning a living and supporting their families. Now, passion and career progression are central motives for most.
“They value transparency and expect to be able to communicate and collaborate with everyone, including senior management,” said Gera.
Gera also goes on to cite “a flatter structure” as a crucial millennial demand, going on to outline how this plays a part in their development as leaders.
“Often, the most senior positions in organizations are held by Generation X, and this generation of leaders has a more traditional management approach,” she said.
“This means that the style is more hierarchical and authoritative rather than collaborative. Therefore, there is often a lack of awareness of the training required.”
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From the perspective of many millennials, this can feel negative and regressive. It is thought that younger professionals tend to be more invested in ‘soft skills’ such as emotional intelligence, rather than more technical or functional capabilities.
However, the reality is that high-performing millennials are often funnelled into leadership roles regardless, despite a lack of training or a lack of training that suits their own needs and personalities.
“If they have not trained to be a leader, they may mimic the behaviour of other senior leaders, which may not be right for their own team,” said Gera. “This will lead to stress, conflict and dissatisfaction.”
Needless to say, this is something that current leaders must act on. According to the Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2019, 30% of millennials believe that their employer has the greatest responsibility for preparing them for leadership roles. But how can this be achieved?
“Traditional management training will not work”, said Gera.
“Not all managers are good coaches or mentors so it’s important to understand their needs and match them with the right person.”
Instead, it must be understood that emotional intelligence is a crucial baseline for millennial leadership.
“Aspects such as self-awareness, regulation, adaptation and resilience should be implemented,” she said.
Gera also identified company values and culture as essential to millennial leadership, explaining that, “it’s important for millennials to feel connected to the company they are working in”.
“Companies must provide a flexible work environment where work life balance is encouraged and they are able to be truly collaborative,” she said.
With up to five generations now in the workplace and the number of millennial workers increasing rapidly, this is undoubtedly a crucial and topical issue for employers.
However, with the spread of COVID-19, this issue has never been more topical. Engagement and employee retention are significantly at risk and therefore effective leadership is needed more than ever.
What’s more, for this particular demographic, engagement is a major challenge under normal circumstances.
Research shows that millennials are the least engaged generation in the workforce. Just 29% are engaged, whilst 16% are actively disengaged.
The same study shows that millennials change jobs more often than any other generation, with 21% switching jobs within the last year alone and 60% being open to a new opportunity.
Finally, and perhaps most alarming of all, millennial turnover reportedly costs the U.S economy an estimated $30.5 billion annually.
So, not only could improper training and attention cause a retention issue for employers, but this could also be a significant financial mishap.
Concluding, Gera said: “It is imperative that suitable training is put in place so that talent isn’t lost.
“Quite simply, organizations will not be able to retain millennial staff if they do not adapt. They won’t have a problem moving on and finding new opportunities which suit their needs.”
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