The fastest-growing generation in the U.S. workforce, millennials surpassed Generation X as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force just two years ago. These workers are being promoted into leadership roles daily, often without being fully ready or being adequately prepared to transition from star individual contributor to equally successful manager.
To prep millennials for leadership roles, it’s important to focus on what your organization believes makes a great leader. To ensure your high-potential millennials are set up for success before and after managerial transitions, consider the following actionable tips for your organization.
Clarify successful management. While what makes a great manager varies from company to company, there are standard skills and traits which are often standard in successful management. Documenting the attributes of top managers in your organization is important to clarify how expectations and definitions of success shift from individual contributor to manager.
While Gen X and older generations understand that success in management largely depends on cross-departmental communication skills, millennials may see management as an extension of their work as an individual contributor without fully understanding the importance of communication skills and project management as the most vital skills for success. By defining and being clear about what success means in a management role, there will be no surprises for employees who fail to receive a promotion or who are removed from management roles for failing to meet unspoken expectations.
Provide an actionable plan and regular feedback. The task of developing and training new managers often falls in the hands of existing managers. Once the definition of a successful manager is clear across the organization, managers must coach their employees on how to improve in these key areas. According to a June 2016 article from Gallup, millennials are hungry for feedback at work, but rarely ask for it. Only 19 percent of millennials say they receive routine feedback, with just 17 percent saying they receive routine feedback that is meaningful.
By creating clear developmental goals tied to gaps in skills and traits that define the best managers in your organization, current managers can focus on building a plan that helps build the right manager for your company and surface not just high-potential employees who are talented individual contributors but those who have potential for management.
With high-potential employees, instead of discussing how to become a manager, focus on what specific hard and soft skills define the best leaders in your organization, and then create a structured plan to obtain any skills or attributes the employee lacks today. For example, if an employee needs to work on more charismatic public speaking, create a set of goals around public speaking opportunities and completing relevant training programs and other educational materials to build these skills. Quarterly check-ins on these goals help connect formally on progress toward becoming a successful manager.
Create two paths to leadership, manager and specialist. Not everyone is cut out to be a manager, and that’s okay. By forcing the idea that management is the only way to promotions, greater salary and more opportunities within an organization, you unnecessarily force your most talented individual contributors to make a choice between stifling their career growth or moving into a management role that may not be right for their personality.
While anyone who wants to become a manager should be provided the opportunity to move into this style of leadership role, opening up clear specialist tracks that have senior-level positions in your company helps to identify the right individuals for management tracks. It also ensures your best individual contributors don’t get lost in traditional senior roles. By offering these two paths for high-potential employees, you end up with better managers in your organization, and retain the value of incredibly talented individual contributors who may be highly creative or technically brilliant, but not the right fit for management.
With some 75 million baby boomers retiring in the next few years, employers need to invest in training millennials to fill management roles. By providing a clear definition of success for managers, ensuring your existing managers are coaching millennials on how to become better at skills and attributes which fit this definition, and providing a secondary path to leadership for specialists, you will be on the right path to fill the workforce gap in management with the right talent.
Rajeev Behera is CEO of modern performance management startup Reflektive. Comment below or email editor@CLOmedia.com.