Millennial Managers: Here’s What You Need to Know
If you’ve been hearing a lot about millennials in the workforce lately, there’s a good reason: Millennials have been the largest percentage of the workforce in the US since 2015, and in a few years they’ll be the overwhelming majority. As millennials advance and become established in their careers, many employers are asking themselves how they can best support this demographic.
I recently spoke on a Millennial Manager Webinar: Developing the Next Generation of Leaders with Udemy for Business instructor Davis Jones. We had so many interesting questions from the audience, I decided to answer them here for all to read.
Q: How can you invest in L&D if you don’t have a large budget?
If you’re working with a limited L&D budget, it can be difficult to prioritize who should receive training and what it should focus on. My advice is to invest in the people who are going to have the biggest impact—and that’s your people managers. Even if you have a small company of 100 or even 30, you’re going to get the most value when the people who manage other employees are better at leading. Their training is going to have a profound impact on everyone they touch.
If you want to have training for everybody, an online learning platform like Udemy for Business is a great resource. Online learning offers an affordable way to deliver learning to all your employees and help them brush up on technical skills like artificial intelligence programming.
Q: Do millennials actively seek out training, or do they need to be “sold” on the idea of professional development?
The answer is yes, to both. Millennials want to grow and develop, so if there’s something that’s going to help them develop their skills and progress in their career, they’re going to actively seek it out. They consider it a privilege to be a part of training. Professional development opportunities have been shown to be an effective way to retain ambitious millennials. See Why Your Employees Are Leaving—And 5 Ways to Help Them Stay.
At the same time, millennials—like any other employee—want to know why they are engaging in a training, why they are giving up their time, and what value it provides to them. L&D professionals will need to communicate the benefit of any training. This is something we often forget. We can’t just assume that people know why something is important and why it will matter to our audience. We need to highlight the reason why millennials should care about a particular topic and address it in the training so they can buy into it.
When I asked one client why they decided to invest the time and energy in our Habits of a Leader training program, the CEO told me, “We are doing this because we care about our leaders and it’s time to make an investment in their development as leaders. We believe in continuous improvement, in getting better, and this is how we are planning to improve our team and our company.”
This is a powerful why. After he shared this with his team, they showed up ready, excited, and engaged to be a part of the program. Getting clear on the participants’ value proposition is a vital step to take before starting any training program.
Q: Do millennials have shorter attention spans than other generations? If so, do we need to tailor training to accommodate this?
We live and work in an ‘on-demand’ culture where our need for instant gratification is at an all-time high. Everyone’s attention span has shortened because there’s so much else going on—our cell phones, our computers, our screens. This is not a millennial specific problem. It affects everyone.
Most training programs try to deliver too much breadth without significant depth. We often want people to take away 5–10 things from a presentation that lasts an hour or two. Unfortunately, that’s not how our brains work. Adult learners only retain about 10% of what they learn in a presentation. It’s crucial to get really focused on the one concept we want people to leave the session with. As an L&D designer, developer, or trainer, it’s imperative to think about and focus on delivering only ONE main takeaway.
We think if we say something once, people will hear it and know what to do with it. But that’s simply not the case. We need to repeat ourselves, present the same things in different ways, and tell them through stories to increase retention.
Q: How do the characteristics of millennials differ from those of Gen Z?
It’s worth noting that Gen Z is currently only beginning to enter the workforce. However, I feel ironically that Gen Z will be a generation that calls for more face-to-face time. They’ve grown up with parents on their phones all the time and they’re going to rebel against that and pull for more face-to-face time in the workplace. See Why Career Pathing Can Backfire with Millennials and Generation Z for some of the other differences between the two generations.
Q: How can millennial managers establish credibility with older and more experienced direct reports?
Start by focusing on developing soft skills like listening and asking powerful questions. By practicing the skill of listening, millennial managers can gain knowledge and make older employees feel heard. By asking powerful questions, they can soak up more knowledge and show that they’re strategic thinkers, which will help them gain credibility with their team.
Q: How can managers help millennials align with the company’s mission and vision? Does this need to happen before or after they’re hired?
Alignment with mission, vision, and values is something that has to happen before hiring. It should be clearly seen by anyone, on your website, and your hiring documents. For example, one of my clients makes it so transparent, they shared it with their employees and clients in their latest newsletter (see here).
Preparing millennial managers for the next step of their careers
We’ve seen that millennials are driving companies to change the status quo on how the workplace currently operates. They’re eager to learn and take on new challenges, they’re excited about leading, but they also need training and support to really excel as managers. I’ve provided a few suggestions here, but I encourage you to continue to learn about the unique needs of this significant portion of the workforce.
You can learn more by watching our webinar on-demand: Millennial Managers: How to Develop the Next Generation of Leaders.
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