Millennials Aren’t Aimless Kids Anymore

Alexandra Levit, Managing Partner, PeopleResults
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Picturing millennials, we may think of late bloomers carrying huge debt and living in their parents’ basements.  For many millennials, however, those days are far in the past.  According to the results from a survey I conducted last year with Deloitte, 50 percent of currently employed millennials already meet our definition of a leader.  Forty-four percent of them have only three to five years of experience, yet 41 percent have four or more direct reports.  By contrast, at the same age, most baby boomers (born 1945-63) and Gen X-ers (born 1964-79) were still in junior-level positions.

New Leaders Sink or Swim

Organizations haven’t adequately prepared these young professionals to be managers, and it shows.  Of current millennials who are leaders, only 36 percent said they felt ready when entering the role, and 30 percent still do not feel ready today – citing managing difficult people or situations, lack of experience, and dealing with conflicts as their top concerns upon entering a leadership role.  Informed leaders agreed that millennials lack self-awareness and the ability to effectively manage others.

Development Focus is Critical

This lack of preparedness echoes what has been reported in prior research.  A recent survey by the American Society for Training and Development reported that two-fifths of millennials don’t think their cohort is entering the workforce with sufficient skills to become future leaders, and Harvard Business Review claimed that the average age to receive leadership training is 42, or a decade away for the average millennial leader.  Over half of ASTD’s respondents felt that millennials require specialized leadership development programs, but only 15 percent said their organizations offer such programs – though the business case for them is clear.  For instance, higher-performing organizations are 57 percent more likely than those from low-performing organizations to have a millennial leadership development program in place.

Meanwhile, Young Professionals Exit in Droves

While organizations struggle with how to develop their young professionals, millennials are looking elsewhere.  Our survey showed that 70 percent want to launch their own companies, with the greatest number of budding entrepreneurs in Brazil, China, India and Mexico.  More alarming, less than 20 percent of global millennials aspire to senior leadership in a large organization with 10,000 or more employees, and presently no one in these companies is convincing them that it’s in their best interest to come aboard and stay aboard.

Time for a Pivotal Change in Direction

So what’s the solution?  Both our Millennial and informed leader respondents indicated that the development model must evolve to focus on real-time, experiential learning as well as increased exposure to a variety of senior-level mentors.   Every development plan should be customized to the individual, their strengths, their skill acquisition needs, and their desired career path.

What is your organization doing to prepare the next generation of leaders?  Is it working?

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