How to Help Millennials Prepare to Be Successful Leaders

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Gen Y is currently the largest generation in the workforce, so it’s inevitable that many of your next leaders will be millennials – whether they have the experience or not. For that reason, it’s important that you know how to train and prepare this next generation of leaders.

As millennials continue to grow as the largest generation in the workforce, they will move into leadership roles in ways that are much different than generations before them – that is, without the prerequisites of certain job titles or number of years of experience.

This disruption to the traditional career track will force companies to change their approach to leadership development in order to prepare millennials for more influential positions. According to a survey of 527 millennial professionals (ages 18-35) conducted by Virtuali, a leadership training company, 71 percent of millennials already consider themselves to be leaders, even though less than half hold formal leadership positions. This is happening because millennials are stepping up into “situational leadership roles,” says Sean Graber, CEO of Virtuali. In other words, they are taking the lead on project teams, volunteer their expertise and influence people.

[ Related: Millennials Dispel 5 Myths About Their Generation ]

Interestingly, 64 percent of respondents say they do not feel prepared for leadership, mostly because they lack the ability to manage and develop other employees. So how can companies instill confidence in the normally overconfident millennial generation? “Millennials view their careers as a group of experiences,” says Graber. “What companies need to do is provide experiences where millennials can get the learning they need.”

Millennials Weigh In

Millennials have a strong opinion about how they will learn and develop leadership skills. Career coaching, mentorship and rotational assignments were the most desired types of leadership training, according to the survey. Lower on the list were e-learning, university courses and instructor-led classes, again supporting the idea that millennials want to learn through experiences, rather than traditional training.

[Related: What Kind of CIOs Will Millennials Make? ]

However strong an opinion they have on their preferred training methods, millennials still aren’t getting enough overall leadership training to make a noticeable impact on their careers. Only 38 percent of respondents received between one and 10 hours of training in the last year. For those who completed training, less than half cited it as excellent quality.

Mix It Up With Millennials

Graber says companies should first send out leadership and personality assessments to better understand millennials’ traits and then offer up external coaches and internal mentors to advise them, along with offering a variety of classes and training. “They best way to reach them is through a blended approach -- with on-demand content, traditional content, team building -- so they can have experience-based learning and apply concepts with simulation to their day jobs,” he says.

However, one of the most common perceptions around millennials, job hopping, may come true if they don’t receive training and support that aligns with a clear career path and leadership track. “When they don’t understand what the advancement path looks like, they will leave,” Graber says. “Setting those expectations is another way companies can potentially try to solve the problem.”

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