In recent years, I increasingly hear from employers in all industries and of all sizes, the challenges associated with retaining and inspiring employees from Generation Y, the Millennials. (Millennials, aka Gen Next, were born between 1980 and 1994). Stories relayed to me have been backed by research. This is the next generation of leadership, but it will be a very different kind of leadership.
Keep in mind that labels are just that. The traits described in this article certainly do not apply to all who fall into the Millennial generation.
This generation values work-life balance and flexibility. They often demand the ability to work from home. They typically do not want to travel for business. Overtime is okay but not as a routine event. They will turn down jobs not meeting these needs, despite a high salary.
Millennials are very willing to change jobs if they do not agree with leadership. They may not want a decision-making role, but they insist management hears them. They will deliberately flout policies they do not respect or see as a policy that exists merely for the sake of having a policy.
The older members of this generation are reaching 38, a career stage where upper management considers whether an employee can be an essential member of the future management team. If companies wish to retain these key employees, they will have to adjust strategies based on generational expectations.
The often-quoted “The Millennial Leadership Survey” conducted by WorkplaceTrends.com and Virtuali, a leadership training consultancy, found Millennials will lead in a very different way. Over 90% see themselves becoming leaders, a trait shared equally by men and women. They value empowering employees over money and power. They picture themselves as transformational leaders, looking to challenge and excite employees.
They are great self-evaluators. They often see themselves as strong communicators and excellent at building relationships. They believe these are by far the most important skills for a leader. They see current management as lacking in those areas.
They know their industry and technical weaknesses and want their employer to provide training. But don’t send them to a classroom. They much prefer mentoring and self-study on-line classes.
Millennials are expected to lead companies that will develop and empower employees. They will provide employees the work-life balance and flexibility they seek. Interestingly, the drawback most cited by Millennials about becoming leaders is the disruption of this balance. The Millennial-led company will have flatter management allowing easier communication both up and down.
Though many of our readers lead smaller companies, where many of these company characteristics exist by default, today’s leaders should rethink their strategies for the future. Creating a company that will grow beyond current leadership is a goal that must be addressed regularly.