Developing Millennials into leaders

| July 9, 2013

Generation Y, also called the millennial generation, is perceived as being creative and technically savvy. Les Pickett shares the results from a survey into the challenges and opportunities for companies managing younger employees.

The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) in partnership with the Institute for Corporate Productivity conducted a survey to find out how organisations are preparing the millennial generation to manage and lead effectively now and in the future with 592 business and learning professionals participating.

In this study millennials are defined as those born between 1977 and 1997.

Millennials are highly qualified in technical skills. They socially networked, but not necessarily socially savvy. They are entering the workforce lacking the skills and competencies they need and are moving into management roles without adequate preparation.

According to the survey, Millennials need to work on their communication, listening, patience, relationship building and diplomacy capabilities.

As a group their diversity, creativity, technological skills and know-how is unprecedented, but they are perceived by other generations in the workforce as lacking in soft skills

Millennials want more from their work than to simply make a living – they want to make an impact. But the generation that is beginning to lead businesses now and will increasingly do so into the coming decade needs support in developing leadership competencies.

They want to work for those organisations that will invest in them as they shape their careers and their lives at work.

Many survey respondents reported that they believe programmes designed to meet the needs of Millennials are of critical importance in the current landscape in which linear career paths are a relic of the past.

Like many others, Millennials want a clearly defined path for advancement with frequent and clear performance appraisals, clear and specific expectations, mentoring programmes, coaching and training and opportunities to learn more.

These expectations are sometimes interpreted by members of other generation groups who see Millennials as wanting a fast track to the executive suite, constant recognition and validation and rewards whether they had earned them or not.

Millennials have grown up in a period of breakneck technological advancement, global terrorism and prolonged economic uncertainty. They are coming out of universities with unprecedented debt burden and trying to enter a tighter job market than any generation in recent history has encountered.

They live digital lives, are hyper connected, are open to change and are accepting of diversity. They want to make an impact by doing meaningful and valuable work.

Well over half of the respondents to the ASTD survey said that Millennials require specialised leadership development while around thirty percent said that they do not need specially designed leadership development programme to succeed.

This is another people challenge and opportunity for the corporate leadership team!


Les Pickett is an adjunct of Victoria University, member of the Australian Government Consultative Committee on Knowledge Capital, member of the International Board of Advisors International Public Management Association for Human Resources, former Deputy Director United Nations System Staff College, Past National President Australian Institute of Training and Development, Past Chairman Executive Board International Federation of Training and Development Organisations and International President Institute of Business Administration.