From Managing Millennials to Millennials as Managers

The workplace shift that Baby Boomers and Gen Xers have heard about for years has finally arrived. According to a recent report from EY (a global firm that includes Ernst & Young, LLP), 87% of Millennial managers took on new management roles between 2008 and 2013. Considering that Millennials (those born between 1981 and 2000) now comprise about one third of the U.S. workforce, it’s essential for leaders to not only take note of their increasing influence but also their need for intentional leadership development.

If you’ve worked with Millennials, no doubt you’ve noticed some of their outstanding attributes. As we point out in our book The Leading Edge (see Chapter 8, Leading the Generations), Millennials are sometimes labeled the “Net” generation because of their comfort level with technology. They not only use current technological skills well, they also readily embrace new ones. In addition, they are often amazing multi-taskers, well-educated, and independent. As a group, heir acceptance of diversity and compassion are additional admirable traits.

Unfortunately, much of the experiences that have led to these great characteristics have left many of those in the Millennial generation feeling entitled. They tend to believe they are “owed” perks and promotions, even with little or no effort, simply “because.” The research done by EY also noted that people in their sphere of influence at work find them much more interested in individual advancement. For Millennial managers, this means that subordinates feel they aren’t leading their teams effectively nor advocating for them.

So, how can you go from having to manage the Millennials in your organization to making them exceptional managers and leaders? Here are a few strategies to implement:

  1. Form a “Next Level Leadership” group comprised of up-and-coming Millennials in your company. Have them study and process essential leadership skill sets like those found in The Leading Edge.
  2. Find a leadership coach to work with these Millennials, individually and/or as a group. Someone from the Baby Boom or Gen X generations can assist you in mentoring these fledging leaders to the next level.
  3. Since Millennials are quite ambitious, be specific about your expectations for promotions. Make it clear that nothing is a given; instead, employees can strive for advancement by meeting set criteria.

Remember, each generation in your organization has different strengths and weaknesses, so strive to become a generational expert. Your investment of time, energy and resources in moving Millennials to the next level will be well worth the effort.