Originally published on the Vistage Research Center
Today’s supervisors are increasingly facing the question of how to best develop savvy millennials who believe they’re prepared for leadership roles.
It can be risky to throw talented but inexperienced employees into management too soon. Studies have shown half of first-time managers fail in their first year. But now with baby boomers retiring more rapidly by the year, we need to prepare their young heirs for the big stage of leadership.
Create an environment for success for these up-and-coming star employees
Here’s a four-step process to help channel the raw talent and energy of your young workforce to transform them into the leaders of tomorrow.
- Identify your organizational needs, pair those to the person’s strengths and interests and formulate a plan
Millennials, like any young generation before them, tend to rush into management and learn by trial and error. It’s your job as their leader to explain that, while this may work well on their own, it can be problematic in a team setting or leadership role. The millennial future leader may not understand that trial-and-error management frustrates employees, undermines their confidence in the business and their manager, and can cost the company money.
Potential supervisors are likely to need training and time to develop judgement and business acumen. They also may not be used to thinking of how to match their needs with those of the organization.
For example, Jessica is more than eager to head up the marketing department. While she’s talented with the company’s social media platforms, she has never worked with vendors. It may be a smart call to tell her that managing external partners and the budget associated with those vendors will prepare her to manage another section of marketing, and then possibly the department as a whole.
- Explain why out-of-comfort zone assignments are necessary and how new tasks are built to address skill gaps
Don’t assume that inexperienced employees will understand the rationale behind assignments that stretch them to learn something unfamiliar or how a strong showing at this step may lead to more responsibilities. Explain why Kaitlyn has been asked to lead a new team project, or why Ryan has been asked to develop a new report. Say why rotating through a number of jobs will expose Jason to new departments and grow his ability to understand more areas of the organization.
- Get regular feedback using a new system
Annual reviews alone without feedback do not work for millennials. This means, in addition to regularly scheduled annual reviews, you should schedule periodic times for feedback. Depending on the age of the project, you may want to set up a brief daily status update or a weekly one-hour sit down. Your goal during these sessions is to help your employees find potential roadblocks as well as paths forward.
Remember, it’s not only millennials that perform better with regular feedback, all adult learners do. But for young employees who don’t know what they don’t know, coaching can help avoid any frustration at not being promoted quickly enough.
- Highlight collaboration as much as possible
It’s critical you emphasize collaboration with your eager young employees by extending help when it’s needed. You can’t expect them to succeed on their own and handle everything without some support. Make sure they know that you want regular check-ins to keep them on track, remove roadblocks and offer a sounding board. You’re not there to do the work for them, just offer advice and examples of what would be a good next move.
Instruct them through decisions and ask open-ended questions like, “What was your logic behind that decision? Do you think that it worked? Why or why not?” The great news is that the millennial generation generally like collaboration and find it a very natural way to work and get things done. Workplace demographics are changing and a new generation in the workforce means new rules, new interpretations, fresh perspectives and new challenges.