The traditional ways of developing employees and helping them to acquire critical skills don’t work anymore. According to the Deloitte 2014 Millennial Leadership study, most young professionals prefer to learn by doing rather than sitting in a classroom. However, few organizations offer any specialized training for millennials, and if they do, it’s very old school.
As a result, Deloitte’s results show that 36 percent of young managers did not feel ready when they first took on supervisory relationships, and 30 percent still don’t feel ready today. Given that millennials are a confident bunch, this is not a good sign. They are flying by the seat of their pants, and it’s only a matter of time before big mistakes are made.
If you are relying on sending your employees to isolated training seminars once or twice a year, you’re holding them back now and possibly contributing to their setbacks later. Millennial professionals will make up the majority of the workforce in the next 20 years, so how can we make sure they are well prepared to lead our organizations? Fortunately, there are a few things you can do as an individual manager that don’t require a complete overhaul of your company’s operations.
Emphasize experiential learning
Today’s employees value the apprenticeship model, in which they are allowed to work alongside senior leaders during a typical project or atypical crisis situation. Apprenticeship is beneficial in anchoring new and soon-to-be leaders in tangible responsibilities and scenarios with reduced risk. To this end, many forward-thinking organizations have adopted project-based mentorship. At its core, project-based mentorship puts employee development into the hands of many instead of being centered on a very busy primary supervisor. Each employee has the opportunity to work on assignments with a diverse group of team members, all of whom are aware of that person’s strengths and career goals. In the context of the individual project, employees may be placed in situations that are out of their comfort zones (for example, a board meeting) and mentored actively on appropriate preparation, actions, and behaviors.
Expand their horizons
The Deloitte respondents indicated that they wanted to accelerate their development through cross-functional and cross-industry projects. Many organizations shy away from rotational programs – in which employees spend two or three months working in different areas of a company – and expatriate assignments – in which employees live and work in another country – because such programs can be expensive and difficult to get off the ground. If this is the case at your organization, drive modest experiments with your own team first. For example, have an employee travel to a foreign office and oversee a month-long project, or delegate an initiative that requires the employee to work intensively with several departments.
Gamification is about taking the essence of games – fun, play, transparency, design and challenge – and applying it to business objectives rather than pure entertainment. These objectives might involve skill acquisition in the areas of project management, conflict resolution, and risk taking. The common denominators of successful games are the use of challenges and evolving narratives to increase task completion, a system of feedback and rewards, social connections that provide support, and a sophisticated graphical interface and user experience.