3 Tips for Training Millennials for Leadership or Management Positions

Big Think Edge | August 22, 2017

Millennials. There are countless articles out there claiming how Millennials are killing specific industries, disrupting the workforce, or paving the way for the future of technological advancement with their almost native understanding of recent technologies.

Whether you feel that Millennials are a boon or a bane, it’s an inescapable truth that they’ll be the ones in charge someday as they deal with the generations that follow after them. It’s a good idea to make sure they’re ready for the role of business leader.

The question is, how can businesses prepare Millennials for leadership or management positions? Some tips for training Millennials include:

1) Focus On Providing Trainees the “Skills of Power”

In a video interview with Big Think, Jeffrey Pfeffer, the Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, notes that “Millennials are actually amazingly unprepared for today’s world of power” and that they need training in a “set of skills and a sort of, if you will, conceptual understanding of what power is so they’re better able and more comfortable with it.”

Without a foundation in these power skills, and with the pressures that come with holding a position of power and authority, anyone’s performance as a leader will suffer. As Pfeffer states:

“When you make a mistake people aren’t going to cut you any slack when you’re in that position, so you have to be, I think, much more attentive and much more on guard… the other thing that happens, people get into great positions and positions of huge power and they say ‘Wow, the rules don’t apply to me anymore.’ And they become insensitive to the feelings and needs of those around them. They come to believe that the rules don’t apply to them. They become grossly overconfident. They become consumed with their own ego and therefore they get sloppy and they make mistakes and they therefore lose power.”

Putting aside time in the training program to prepare trainees for the burdens and responsibilities of having a leadership or management role is crucial. You may want to see how Millennials respond to intense scrutiny or increased authority in small doses during training—such as by putting potential management candidates in charge of a minor project where their success or failure will determine if they and the employees they work with get some kind of bonus.

This includes honing the so-called “soft skills” that leaders need for interpersonal interactions with employees. Working on soft skills can help new leaders more effectively motivate others and avoid the perception that they’re unrestrained with their power.

2) Make Training Meaningful by Answering “Why?”

There’s an old comedy bit where a child asks an adult one question: “Why?” The adult would say, “Because…” and the child would ask why again, repeating the cycle until the adult loses their temper. It’s amazing how often this scenario, which was played up for laughs to audiences for decades in different TV shows, gets repeated in the professional world with Millennial workers.

Roger Martin, the Dean of the Rotman School of Management, notes the importance of providing Millennial workers with an explanation of “Why?” that Millennials will find engaging. In his interview with Big Think, Martin notes that: “It simply is not inspiring to tell a Millennial, ‘You’re coming to our company, and you know what our company’s goal is? To maximize shareholder value.”

Martin follows this hypothetical conversation down the same path as the aforementioned comedy skit with the adult and the small child would, noting how it results in Millennials coming to the conclusion: “let me get this straight. I’m supposed to come to work for you and work every day with the singular goal of maximizing the value of faceless, nameless people who can blow us off in a nanosecond if they had a bad hair day?”

Many (but not all) Millennial workers will find “profit for profit’s sake” underwhelming as a motivation for training. In fact, one study featured on Talent Management and HR found that “Twenty-somethings desire their work to be transformational, not merely transactional… Sixty-one percent of ‘Generation iY’ say they feel personally responsible for making a difference in the world, so they want a cause in which they can participate.”

Long story short, if you want to get Millennials excited to take over as leaders and managers, your training needs to show them how that position of authority will help them make a bigger impact on the world around them—not just on their pocketbooks.

3) Take Advantage of Their Familiarity with Technology

Millennials are, on average, far more comfortable with new technology than the generations that preceded them. This is the generation of the Internet, smartphone, and social media. The new technologies that disrupted older generations were formative experiences for the Millennial generation.

This immersion in the conveniences of modern technology has impacted the expectations of Millennials. One article featured on Inc.com highlights how Millennials “approach problems fundamentally differently” than previous generations. In the article, one solution for training that meets the Millennial way of doing things is introduced: microlearning.

As the article states, “Microlearning can satisfy the learning expectations and preferences of Millennials. Microlearning provides training in small learning units and short-term learning activities delivered in a convenient and accessible manner. Content is distributed in ‘microscopic’ learning bursts that are typically 2-15 minutes in length.”

Training in the form of short online videos can be especially effective in meeting the needs of up-and-coming Millennial leaders, as they’re short and accessible via smartphone at any time and place that Millennials have Internet access. This makes the training less disruptive to personal schedules and easy to access, while it’s also presented in a format that’s familiar to the target audience.

Long story short, if companies want to train Millennials to be effective leaders and managers, then they need to make sure that training:

  1. Prepares Millennials for the shift in their responsibilities and work dynamics
  2. Enhances the trainee’s soft skills
  3. Shows Millennials how their new role helps them make their mark on the business or community
  4. Is in a format that is familiar to Millennials by leveraging short lessons accessible through smart devices

Get access to the training tools you need to turn your Millennial workers into the future leaders of your industry today!

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