Chances are, you don’t need another article to tell you more about millennials.
They love open work spaces, new technology, not having to work too hard, and expect to make plenty of money while also getting plenty of time off. They’re all swiping left and right, looking for their next job (or next date) when they’re not even a year in at their current one.
Thanks to pieces like “Millennials: The Greatest Generation or the Most Narcissistic?” and “Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation,” many managers are left scrambling for creative recruiting tactics and extra room in the budget for ping pong tables.
Yes, millennials may be looking for better office lighting and job hopping more often from role to role. But what even more of them are looking for? A reason to stay.
With workplace leadership expected to be two-thirds millennial by 2024 and 28 percent of millennials already in managerial roles, millennials are on track to take more responsibility, not avoid it.
Despite popular stereotypes, millennials value “opportunity for progression” beyond anything else in a job offer. Over half report career trajectory as the main attraction in an employer, with salary coming in second.
Millennials want to make a difference, not just earn a paycheck, and believe that their workplace is the best opportunity to influence positive change on a larger scale.
So how do you begin preparing millennial workers for leadership roles? Well, don’t hunt down the ping pong table receipts just yet. We’ve put together some of our favorite strategies for getting millennial employees ready to step into bigger shoes long before 2024.
Researchers expect the next 10 to 15 years to mark “the greatest transfer of knowledge that’s ever taken place” in the U.S. workplace. It’s an exciting chance to groom your millennial workers for increased responsibility as older employees transition out of leadership roles and into retirement.
We already know millennials are eager to make a difference. Now harness that drive by pairing them with seasoned employees who can teach them to channel their motivation into actual growth. This can happen two different ways: formally and informally.
Depending on your workplace and employees, it may be easy enough to encourage your current leaders to invite younger employees out for coffee and let mentorships form organically.
However, a formal program allows you to ensure mentorship is an ongoing and a productive process for everyone involved. Guidelines can help track how often mentors and mentees meet, discussion points, and whether they’re achieving set mentorship goals.
Plus, an incentive for participation never hurts. If a mentor regularly meets with their mentee throughout the quarter or vice versa, consider giving them additional PTO or adding in a mentorship bonus at the end of the year.
Offer flexibility, not just pay incentives
Millennials may prioritize growth potential above all else, but they also prioritize balanced work and home lives. After surveying millennials, employment firm Ernst & Young found “being able to work flexibly and still be on track for promotion” was tied with “working with colleagues, including my boss, who support my efforts to work flexibly” as top must-haves for millennial job seekers.
With today’s technology, the office isn’t the only environment where work happens. Employees of other generations may believe that filled cubicles are an obvious sign of productivity while in reality, the lines between “work” and “home” are blurred more than ever.
Millennial employees aren’t as concerned with where the work happens, but overall output: quality over quantity.
You may not be ready for a fully remote workplace, but flexibility doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach. Try it as an experiment and run a pilot program with a few of your best employees. Offer work-from-home Fridays or set “flex schedules.”
Employees can get to work and leave at varying times, but must be available for core office hours and either fulfill weekly goals or hit 40 hours for the week. Treat flexibility as a privilege, not an obligation, and allow employees to prove they’re capable of working unsupervised and outside of the office.
The worst that can happen? Your millennial employees aren’t ready for the responsibility and you reconsider before putting workplace flexibility back into your business strategy. But the best that can happen? Increased happiness at work, less sick days, higher output, and more overall work hours–a perfect recipe for long-term millennial growth.
Give regular, productive feedback
One thing millennials seem to want more than other employees? Feedback, and a lot of it. Only 1 percent of millennials interviewed said that feedback wasn’t important to them. But while the clear majority of millennials want feedback, few actually get it, and annual employee reviews aren’t getting the job done.
Employee feedback doesn’t have to happen just once or twice a year. Millennials thrive when they have regular, consistent conversations about their performance. That’s right: their performance reviews don’t have to be rigid, check-the-box affairs.
Millennial job engagement soared when they met with their manager at least once a week, even for just a 15-minute check in. Your current managers may not have time to schedule 30-minute meetings with every employee every week, but they likely have time to stop by for a few seconds to get a status update.
Providing feedback is just the first step. Once you create a rapport and touch base regularly, teach millennials how to give their own feedback in return. Like I said earlier, feedback doesn’t have to be based on a formal review process with scripted HR questions and answers.
Anyone can provide feedback, but the quality of the feedback is what makes the difference. For feedback to cause a noticeable change in performance, experts say it should be:
In short: good feedback happens as soon as possible, errs on the positive side, speaks to certain actions or events, and doesn’t wobble. Get your future leaders comfortable incorporating these traits into their feedback and encourage them to practice, from commenting in a meeting to sharing their thoughts with their peers. By the time they step into a management role, they’ll expect to set up regular check-ins of their own and know how to give employees feedback that gets results.
Personalize their professional development
Many companies include a certain number of professional development hours as part of their benefits package. But if the words “professional development” trigger flashbacks to a sterile white room with a few PowerPoint slides or endless videos on a too-small TV, pause right there.
Just like you may reevaluate your workspace to make it more millennial-friendly, check out your professional development options to see if it’s time for a refresh. The same training or courses that worked five years ago may not be effective or even relevant today.
Thanks to new technology, professional development can be more than just PowerPoints or videos. Even better, it doesn’t have to be a responsibility you take on internally.
If you don’t have the resources to overhaul your materials or launch a new program, offer to reimburse your millennial employees for outside training.
Let them find the right format that works best for them, whether it’s an online course, an in-person certification program at a local college that meets a few nights a week, a weekend workshop, or an e-learning app. Be sure to talk through how it relates to their skillset and how their personalized professional development option supports their career goals.
Professional development can help you attract and retain millennial talent and boost innovation–no ping pong table required. But just like a mentorship program, employees can need a little motivation to participate. Encourage more enrollment by offering a professional development bonus based on hours completed.
Introduce it as a formal step or an accelerated option to a promotion/raise. You’ll have millennial employees interested and ready to learn in no time.
Contrary to what you may have heard about millennials, the fastest growing workplace generation is looking for more than cool office perks or a pat on the back. Instead, they’re excited to take on responsibility and be a major force for change. All they need are the right tools and guidance to make it happen.
Show you’re willing to invest in them through mentoring, flexible work opportunities, regular feedback, and personalized professional development options, and you’ll find out just how much future millennial managers are capable of.
Discovered your own awesome strategy for prepping millennials for leadership roles? Tell us what’s worked for you in the comments below.