Are You Afraid of Millennials in Leadership Roles?

Kelly Morello

2.9.2017

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to hear Josh Bersin share his Predictions for 2017 at the Philadelphia Society of People and Strategy quarterly program.  He shared a number of forces that are disrupting change, including digital technology, the need to increase speed and the employee experience as well as how careers and social contracts are changing (think “gig” economy).  His presentation was full of great data that really grabbed my attention.  But one thing really stuck with me.  It was the topic of Prediction 8: The Leadership Market Will Start a Steady Process of Reinvention.  As he was talking about the need to promote younger leaders earlier, he referenced Mark Zuckerberg.

Mark Zuckerberg is 32 years old and running a $344 billion company.  Would he be in a leadership role in your company?

Wow.  That got my attention.  I’ve used Mark Zuckerberg as an example plenty of times…but in the opposite way.  Not everyone is going to be a Mark Zuckerberg and become CEO.  But Millennials aren’t all saying they want to be CEO.  They want to grow and learn.  And they want a coach to help them develop.  Forbes wrote a good article that highlights a few key desires of Millennials.  We criticize Millennials because they are the generation where everyone received a trophy.  But who gave them those trophies?  We did!  We created this expectation and now we are holding it against them.  They’re not asking for a trophy.  They are asking for feedback.  They are asking for development.  They are asking to be recognized when they contribute in a meaningful way.

Many of us know we are not developing leaders early enough.  But we’re stuck in the past, in the traditional way of developing leaders.  How many times have you said to that young worker that you need to “put in your time” and that promotion will come?  I know I was guilty of just that mentality when I was in my corporate HR role.  Yes, the younger generation needs to spend time in the workplace understanding the business and their role, but we shouldn’t relegate the challenging work, projects, etc. to those who have been around the block a time or two.  It’s those exact opportunities that develop leadership skills.  Millennials want to do new and interesting work.  They don’t want to be forced into working on just mundane tasks.  They are collaborative, innovative and inclusive.  They are more interested in the “gig” economy because it provides them the opportunities to grow and learn that they may not be getting at your company.  In an article that was published in Fortune a while ago:

This generation of young workers may have grown up in a digital world amid uncertainty and a shower of parental attention. But ultimately, they want the same thing that every employee wants: schedule control, meaningful work relationships, and choice of projects and learning opportunities.   

The world of work is changing.  Our companies need to be nimble and change with it.  We shouldn’t be afraid to promote younger workers.  We need to make sure they have the support and coaching needed to be successful.

As Josh Bersin reminded us, “leadership is learning by doing”. 

Dec. 11

Events From 2017 That Will Make a Lasting Impact in the Workplace >

I love reading trend predictions, but also enjoy the thoughtful look-back.  Makes me wish I’d saved some of those workforce articles from the 9o’s.  Lotus Notes.  Personal Digital Assistants.  Beavis and Butthead.  Casual Fridays. While I don’t miss the drama over what “casual” Fridays vs. jeans Fridays meant, there is a nostalgia that gets me this time of year.  Perhaps it’s remembering when holiday parties didn’t require a legal statement or drug test the next day. …

read more >

Dec. 4

Salary History Inquiries Are on the Way Out. What’s Your Game Plan? >

The hiring process is a complex and critical business issue for most organizations. The stakes are high, particularly in our current low-unemployment climate where the challenge of finding the right talent has increased exponentially. Every organization has a pressing need to fill key positions with new team members who have the right skills and abilities to do the job and align with the company culture. Amid this pressure to get…

read more >

Nov. 8

Through Hell and High Water: Your People Strategy >

After the Houston Astros knocked off three historic teams—The Red Sox, Yankees and Dodgers—the city of Houston celebrated its first-ever World Series Championship.  “Houston Strong“, coined post-Hurricane Harvey, became the mantra and the common thread that bound players, fans and observers together. Beer was certainly part of that celebration, and Budweiser produced another tear-inducing spot that gave props to a city and team that went through “hell and high water”. Going through…

read more >

Oct. 3

How Do You Want To Go Out? >

I read an article recently called, “What your burial outfit says about you“.  Evidentially the phrase “bury me in this” on Twitter is a thing. Most of the tweets are selfies taken by 20-somethings nowhere near death, and feature slinky outfits you see at gyms or clubs (or so I’m told…). The article goes on to describe the shift in death-wear from formal, Sunday-best attire to more casual and statement…

read more >