Preparing millennials to be leaders

It may not be a calamitous situation yet, says Andy Masters, but if it is not addressed it could turn into a full-fledged human resources crisis. The keynote speaker at the Cayman Islands Society of Human Resources Professionals’ Conference in May was not talking about stress, burnout, low morale or healthcare costs.

Instead he was pointing out that today’s 19- to 34-year-old employees will be leaders of every single organization in the future.

It is known that millennials are tech savvy, bright and highly educated, but in terms of human resources there is something even more important. “Millennials, statistically, are very antsy,” he said.

That means that when companies hire them, they must cultivate and empower them, and provide a direct career path and structured mentoring programs, Masters said. “And if we don’t show them that right away, they’ll get very antsy and leave.”

To illustrate his points, Masters showed clips from Hollywood movies, like Anne Hathaway in “The Devil wears Prada,” who plays a millennial who is hired straight out of college for her potential but leaves the job shortly after.

According to a Glassdoor survey, 46 percent of millennials left their last job due to lack of career growth, and 57 percent of millennials would leave a job that does not provide the work life balance that they want.

Providing career growth, development path and work environment to staff is crucial, Masters said, and involves managers communicating in the right way.

For instance, Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, says, “For me, my role is about unleashing what people already have inside them that is maybe suppressed in most environments.”

But many executives have problems finding both the right words and actions, Masters noted.

Rather than saying, “Trust me, there will be plenty of opportunities out there for you someday,” managers should say, “To develop you from where you are right now, to where you want to be, this is the plan.”

An important and often overlooked part in this process is delegation. From “I don’t have anyone to delegate to” and “It takes longer to explain it to someone than to do it myself” to “Last time I delegated, it did not work,” there are plenty of excuses for managers who do not delegate.

But the bottom line, Masters said, is that this type of manager is not only prone to burnout, they are also costing their businesses money. By taking on tasks that junior staff could carry out with some support, managers are doing a disservice to their staff’s development and they cause a negative return on investment.

Most importantly, these tasks take valuable time and focus away from each manager and their ability to accomplish more important objectives.

Managers often see the negative in people, Masters said, whereas mentors see the potential. It is the job of human resources professionals to convince senior managers that taking on a mentoring role is needed or succession planning will become even more difficult than it already is.

Ultimately, he noted, research shows that what millennials want from their boss is help in navigating their career path, straight feedback, mentoring and coaching, formal development programs and flexibility.

From their company, they want help in developing their skills for the future, strong values, customizable benefits and rewards packages, a healthy work-life balance and a clear career path.