Millennials, also called Generation Y, are those people born between the 1980s and 2000.
They are an interesting bunch of people – especially for someone like me who belongs to the Baby Boomers generation:
They are redefining everything we know, and on which our societies were built upon since the end of World War II.
They have new expectations and – more importantly – new life and work concepts that are already redefining our social environment and organization.
We are not anymore in the generation gap that defined previous generation – generation X – in fact, the gap is even bigger between Baby Boomers and Millennials.
At least, there was some common ground between the Baby Boomers and X generations!
With the Millennials, we are almost getting to uncharted territory...
This is the reason why in the last few years there have been a lot of researches on Millennials and how they're different.
One new topic highly interests business executives and researchers:
What is their leadership style and how will they lead?
The answer to this question is important.
Firms’ ability to attract, develop, and retain young leaders will make or break companies in the coming years.
A 2013 research by Deloitte and a similar study in India uncovered some very interesting findings:
Nearly half of the millennials in this research are already in leadership positions... and as most companies are discovering, supporting and retaining these talents requires a new way of doing business.
Deloitte ran in parallel a series of global studies to understand the role of millennials in business.
In the first study, Deloitte India, in partnership with the Confederation of India Industry, looked at working and leading styles of millennials in India.
A larger global study looks at millennials around the world.
More than 2,400 people responded to the global survey – findings were comparable in all researches.
These findings are very important to understand what to expect, how to adapt and if it is not already too late for some.
1. Millennials want leadership their own way
The first, and most striking finding, is that millennials want leadership, and they want it their way.
In fact, they are less interested in running the company they’re employed in than running their own.
It's clear why this has happened.
These young people grew up in an economy where their parents and older peers went through a series of massive recessions and may have been laid off.
They've seen rapid growth in new Internet companies and the struggles larger organizations have faced.
If we want to motivate young leaders, we must give them opportunities to build, innovate, and create.
2. Millennials know they are not ready for leadership
While these younger professionals have many opportunities in front of them, they don't feel fully ready.
Millennials are very aware that they need leadership skills that they are not yet mastering.
What this means is that organizations must give young people new, exciting leadership assignments as well as the training and coaching they need.
In the 1970s and 1980s, young people understood the need to patiently move up the corporate pyramid.
Today the working world is different: companies like GE which used to have 16 layers of management now have only 7.
The flattening of organizations mean that moving "up" is not always as possible - so leadership opportunities must open at all levels.
As Deloitte describes it, we must build a corporate lattice, not a corporate ladder.
People in their 20s and early 30s would like new jobs and new assignments every 12-24 months.
The research shows they won't necessarily wait three to five years for a promotion - so companies have to create more talent mobility, special assignments, and job rotation programs.
3. Millennials value an open, transparent, inclusive leadership style
Millennials grew up in glass houses.
They are comfortable with transparency.
They believe leadership should be the same.
When asked what they look for in their leaders, they look for openness, inclusion, and diversity.
One of the ways to do this, of course, is through social media.
It explains why internal blogs and wikis and various corporate social networks are so widely used by younger people, and often not by Boomers.
If you want to attract and retain young people, firms’ executives and managers at all levels must be more open and transparent.
The word "inclusion" is vitally important.
In 2012, Deloitte Australia published a report entitled "Waiter, Is That Inclusion In My Soup?" which showed that work teams that feel highly included deliver 80% higher performance than those in which employees do not feel "included."
Millennials grew up in a world where gender, race, sexual orientation, and age were widely diverse.
They expect and will lead in an inclusive way.
4. Millennials demand career growth
Millennials don't only want to lead, they expect to grow rapidly in their career.
The groups surveyed showed a particular difference in preferences over their older cohorts:
They want to move rapidly, they want global assignments, they are willing to embark on short term assignments, and they want development.
Older employees want many of the same things, but they are willing to focus on longer term growth and are willing to take growth at a slightly slower pace.
Of course, much of this is the "impatience of youth," but the findings are more profound.
The millennials interviewed said that they don't expect to work for a single employer for decades so they will go wherever they can find the growth they need.
What this means is that larger, older organizations must propose a more dynamic, "assignment-based" career model to develop young high-potentials.
In many ways, this contradicts much of the believes that says that "time in job" is one of the best predictors of high-performance.
What should be done now is create a series of assignments, each of which help a young leader improve their skills in their chosen career.
Why don't executives run their companies more like consulting firms, where they let high potentials take 3-6 month assignments in the company as part of their career?
This type of change will alter their talent management process, but it creates the dynamic type of organization needed today.
5. Millennials thrive on fairness and performance-based appraisal
There is a massive conversation going-on in business about changing the process for performance appraisals.
Without discussing the whole debate here, it is clear that much of this pressure is coming from millennials' desire to be treated fairly.
Of course, we all want fair appraisal - but millennials more than ever believe in evaluating people based on performance, not tenure.
Companies that still reward people for "time in role" must acknowledge that it’s time for that to change.
Millennials care very little about "defined succession and career plans."
This further reinforces the point above:
Young people today want to "work the lattice" and move around - they don't want a five-year development plan to become a first line leader.
Finally, "role clarity" is less important for young people than it may be for us, the Baby Boomers generation.
We boomers grew up in hierarchies where role and structure defined who we are.
Millennials grew up in the world of social networking, where everyone is unique and special.
We need a little less "role boundaries" and a lot more "project based roles" to help millennials grow.
In consulting firms such as 58seventyeight, people change roles and take on management responsibilities in a highly dynamic way (every year or two).
This type of dynamic, "project-based succession" is what organizations need to embrace.
6. Millennials are OK with less role clarity
This data takes the career progression topic even further.
It shows that millennials don't only want less structured jobs, they also feel less committed to a strong relationship with one manager.
Again, think about how millennials were raised:
They had access to their peers and friends online all the time.
Rather than have to go to one manager for help, they want to build a whole network of peers and compatriots to work with.
This is not to say that leadership and management is not important:
Young people want open, honest managers more than ever.
They are happy to operate in a culture where they get support from many mentors, not just "the exec’ in the corner office."
7. Millennials thrive on innovation and change
Finally, millennials enjoy working in organizations that are innovative, changing, and dynamic.
I distinctly remember that my goals early in my career were to work for a company I could grow with - so I worked for some pretty well established employers to gain access to training and experience.
Today, these powerful, large organizations have become highly dynamic, and they must continue to be that way to compete for talent.
Millennials strongly undervalue "stability and job security."
Today's young people grew up in a world where companies had layoffs - so they know better than to always expect a lifelong career.
This is not to say career employment is not of value, but organizations should position themselves as a great place to learn every day, experience new things, and see opportunities to work on lots of exciting projects during a career.
Tomorrow's leaders are already changing our organizations
It's clear that things need to change.
The way we move people around, the way we appraise people, the types of rewards we provide (millennials thrive on recognition, not just pay), and how we think about careers,... all need to change.
Many of these changes throw sand in the gears of Human Resources.
Many HR organizations have built linear models for progression, career ladders, articulated job descriptions with competency models, and lots of practices for succession management.
While all this work is valuable, we need to make it all more dynamic today.
Today’s organizations must provide continuous feedback, continuous recognition, continuous opportunity to new assignments, and continuous focus on customer needs.
If companies rethink their organization along the lines of transparency, the lattice, and continuous career development, they'll be heading in the right direction.
Today's millennials will rule the world even before tomorrow.
Our job now is to make our organizations ready, so they can slip right into place and help us lead businesses in their own special way.