Millennials: Ready to Lead Your Company?

DDI Millennials Graphic

A new survey suggests that Millennials are on track to become tomorrow’s leaders, provided organizations can retain them long enough.

The survey (PDF) is a joint production of HR consulting firm DDI and The Conference Board, the latter a business-research association, and incorporates responses from 13,124 “leaders” and 1,528 “global human resource executives” at 2,031 organizations. Many of those surveyed felt that their organizations needed to retain and develop effective leaders, and only a minority—40 percent—rated the overall quality of leadership at their respective companies as high.

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“Leadership development efforts have stalled, despite that fact that it is estimated that some $50 billion a year is being spent on developing leaders worldwide,” notes the report. “If organizations aren’t doing enough to push the needle, then the outlook for the future is even gloomier.” Of those organizations surveyed, a mere 15 percent rated their future leadership bench as “strong,” a notable decrease from DDI’s last survey.

But millions of potential saviors may await on the horizon: Millennials, which the study defines as anyone born between 1982 and 2000. These vigorous young folks hold around 30 percent of the leadership positions in “aggressive-growth organizations.” Even in organizations defined as either “no to low growth” or “cautious growth,” they occupy 21 percent or 25 percent of leadership positions, respectively.

The report levels many of the usual, well-worn criticisms against Millennials: they’re prone to jumping jobs with minimal notice, disinclined to communicate with senior leadership, and tend to be less engaged with the organization than older workers. That being said, the report notes that Millennials also earn promotions at a rapid rate, either because they start out in low-level positions that offer multiple opportunities for advancement, or because organizations want to keep them onboard by advancing them up the career ladder at a steady clip.

For any organization that employs a lot of Millennials, then, a question arises: Once you have them working for you, how do you keep them? According to DDI, the answers are pretty straightforward:

  • Show the Millennial that there’s a clear career path to becoming a leader.
  • Millennials apparently learn best through things like blogs and social networks, especially if delivered through newfangled hardware such as tablets; DDI recommends that HR and management integrate these things into development programs.
  • Offering more opportunities for professional development—perhaps in conjunction with the right perks—can also persuade the Millennial in your office to stick around for longer than a couple of months.

Not all Millennials—or even a sizable percentage—fulfill the smartphone-addicted, job-hopping, self-obsessed stereotype that’s endured in popular culture. Nonetheless, DDI’s advice could prove useful to organizations looking to keep not only Millennials, but also anyone else who wants to climb the leadership ranks. Who doesn’t want a clear career path traced out for them?

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Image: DDI/The Conference Board

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2 Responses to “Millennials: Ready to Lead Your Company?”

  1. An interesting article, but I have a problem with the assumption in the study about the age range of Millennials.
    Millennials, by definition, are those growing up around the turn of the millennium. It’s commonly known that this is around 1995 onwards (up to now). Those born before this year are Gen Y (including myself).
    Therefore, millennials are only about 19-20 years old in the year 2014, and I don’t know how they have enough experience to lead a company.