Millennials, who make up the largest population in the workforce, are moving into management roles around the globe, but many of them feel they lack innovation, impact and expertise due to today’s L&D programs.
Harvard Business Publishing recently released its 2018 State of Leadership Development research report, which found that only 40 percent of leaders 36 and younger described their company’s L&D programs as “excellent.”
According to the report, which is based on the results of a global online survey of 734 L&D and line of business practitioners, L&D programs need to be reinvented to adapt to transformational business needs. Companies must become transformation leaders and excel on three fronts: building organizational agility, delivering programs that put learners at the center and partnering in new ways with stakeholders across the business. So, where do millennials fit in?
Diane Belcher, senior director of product management at HBP, said millennials can play a huge role in the organizational transformation taking place in the workplace. “L&D needs to start to think about programs that are innovative, leverage technology, focus on relevancy and harness that aspect of the millennial experience,” she said.
According to Belcher, millennials were not the largest group from the online survey. “L&D millennials represented about 10 percent of the group. For line of business, they represented 21 percent. The largest group was evenly split between Gen Xers, 36 to 45, and young baby boomers, 46 to 55.”
For the research, HBP focused on the topic of leadership development through the lens of transformation. “We found organizations that are heavily using L&D in their transformation programs are having more successful transformation overall,” Belcher said. “Millennials are going to help L&D teams tie development programs to those changed programs by opting for more cross-functional peer learning experiences like gamification, simulation and social platforms.”
Harvard Business Publishing says there are four ways L&D leaders can help millennials change the face of the workplace: by helping them finding their purpose, devising innovative learning programs, supporting tendencies to collaborate and helping millennials connect with other millennials on their own terms.
According to the report, “Millennials expect choice and more autonomy than prior generations did, and they are more comfortable offering their opinion freely — even to executives. Younger generations see a greater role than their older peers do for technology in leadership development and view technology as a natural extension of development programs.”
Belcher said technology should be readily incorporated in L&D programs, but there should be more ways to help millennials change the face of the workplace. “It’s about that sense of purpose, the alignment, making it easy to collaborate [with a team],” she said.
What Can Organizations Do?
Adrian Ridner, CEO and co-founder of Study.com, said corporate trainings have not been designed with millennials in mind. “Most companies have adopted the model of instructor-led sessions … millennials are accustomed to instant access to information, so companies should consider on-demand digital microlearning that’s available via desktop and mobile to better engage their employees.”
Ridner said there are three key ways employers can develop millennials to take on managerial roles; however, he said, “Depending on the state of your workforce, one of the ideas might be more impactful than the others.”
The first is to rethink learning styles through online learning, mobile solutions and adaptive learning.
The second is to empower millennials to try and fail through embracing the mantra of trial and error. “It’s important for companies to allow their employees to test new ideas and iterate quickly in a safe environment,” He said. “Employees not only feel empowered, but it creates a culture of learning and can often lead to new and exciting ideas and results. Of course, you’ll want to encourage experimentation to a certain extent. If an employee has a radical idea that’s a bit too risky, consider coming to a middle ground and breaking that idea into small testable steps.”
Last, Ridner says to tug at the heart strings. Study.com employs a large number of millennials, many in leadership positions. Ridner said that the company has a Working Scholars program that “offers residents of select Bay Area cities the opportunity to earn a free bachelor’s degree. It’s really motivating for our employees to see how their work is directly impacting the lives of real people.”
Alan Cabelly, executive director at Portland Leadership Institute and professor emeritus at Portland State University, said “Millennials need strong opportunity to lead small groups that they’ve never been asked to lead before. [It gives them a chance] to do some leading without holding their hands.”
Cabelly added that millennials also need immediate feedback to provide strong critiques of what they have done, which he refers to as a micro-feedback process. “Every individual, when finished [with] a task, needs immediate feedback from the manager. … Today’s micro-feedback is training managers to give it — spending 10 minutes to let the worker know if he or she has done a good job and what he or she needs to improve.”
Another process Cabelly referenced was micro-reflections. An example of a micro-reflection, he said, is when an employee and a manager have a conversation, and the following day, they discuss that conversation. Cabelly said it promotes self-reflection on the micro-level and focuses on learning and self-awareness.
Belcher said HBP will continue to conduct a survey every two years and use it as a platform for conversations. “We really need to listen to the end-users of these experiences, whether they are millennials or otherwise, to [know what] drives them and motivates them.”
Rocio Villaseñor is a Chief Learning Officer editorial associate. She can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.