The WFC Group Blog

Can Leaders Adapt to a Millennial Workforce?

Posted by Neil Shah on Oct 13, 2014 1:06:43 PM

Millennial WorkforceLast week’s look into the rise of remote workers provided a glimpse into the greater movement towards globalization in the workforce. I mentioned that the Millennial generation has been one of the driving forces towards a remote workforce, but this cohort is bringing about an evolution far beyond remote working, and it’s questionable whether current leaders are ready for it. Millennials currently make up 34% of the global workforce and will reach an estimated 50% by 2020 according to a study by PwC. Objectively, it’s important for today’s leaders to know the changes that Millennials are bringing to the workplace and to understand what we must do to prepare them for leadership roles.

“Work-life balance” has evolved beyond a buzzword.

On the one hand, Millennials are ambitious, hungry and ready to reach the top, but on the other hand, they want to be home for dinner. But it’s not just about getting off work at a decent hour and having enough vacation days. This cohort has confounded executives with the nebulous demand for purpose and meaning. Don’t mistake this for a disinterest in money; Millennials want to get paid just as much as their predecessors, it’s just not all that’s important to them.

What’s coming?

Long gone are the days of the 70-hour work week in return for a vague promise of job security. New batches of college grads aren’t afraid of a little job-hopping if you don’t have what they’re looking for. Employers need to be able to create a work environment that promotes creativity and flexibility. A Millennial employee wants to see that his or her job allows for personal and professional growth. These factors are much more important than having a ping pong table in the break room.

This forces executives and HR departments to develop a clear growth plan for the company and its employees. If leaders can’t plainly and confidently communicate the vision of the organization, then there’s no hope retaining Millennial hires for more than a few years. If Millennials feel they’ve gone as far as they can in a company, you can expect a drop in engagement and motivation, followed by a quick departure.

Leadership Worries

The big question is, are today’s leaders prepared to train tomorrow’s leaders? More than ever before, managers can expect employees to come from a broad range of cultures and backgrounds. A mere 34% of executives believe that company leadership is prepared to lead such a diverse workforce, according to a 2014 study by Deloitte Development. Leaders that aren’t ready to lead in the modern age will be eaten alive by the generation that grew up in it. Diversity is something that Millennials take for granted.

Executives need to build on the strengths and develop the weaknesses of the Millennial workforce if they want the next generation of leaders to be effective. 66% of HR officials interviewed described their organization’s Millennial training programs as “weak.” 28% said their programs were “adequate.” Only 6% felt they were “excellent.” But before Millennials can be properly trained and nurtured, executives themselves need some schooling. The Deloitte study sites a lack of leadership development programs, and a slow adoption of new education tools worldwide.

It’s important to keep in mind that this isn’t the first time a younger generation has caused confusion and frustration. The keys to future success include executive training programs, new employee onboarding, vertical mobility, and clear communication of the company vision. None of these are new. Organizational leadership worldwide needs to evolve and learn to lead and work with Millennials. After all, there’s another generation to rock the boat right behind them.

Topics: Workforce Trends