Thursday, February 16, 2017

Leadership Development and the Role of Millennials

Guest post from Philipe Bruce:

More than 50% of businesses claim that they do not have the resources or time to train their employees to be leaders. As such none of those business owners and leaders have the resources they need to sustain their enterprises. How serious is this? According to the same study, expenditures on leadership development programs have decreased by about 10%.

What is horrifying to note is that organizations that fail to develop employee skills are setting themselves up for disaster. Rather than utilizing their talent to the best of their abilities and facilitating growth, most organizations prefer to use employees as cogs, oiling them as needed in order to remain functional. Entrepreneurs willingly turn a blind eye to this for the sake of immediate gain and in turn, sets the entire machine up for failure. Sacrificing long term growth for immediate gain only serves to benefit those higher-up in an organization’s hierarchy rather than those who really need it.

Leadership development is the most ignored aspect for several reasons. It is either used to push forth bureaucratic agendas or not given the attention it deserves. Unfortunately, in the bid to save funds, many companies end up paying a higher price for this neglect in the long run, losing top young talent with the potential to steer organizations towards a better and brighter future.

Organizations in the United States spend over $170 billion on leadership based-training programs, but those funds are not utilized to their full potential. The reason is simple: leaders cannot be trained. They have to be developed. This means focusing on individual rather than mass talents. Rather than trying to mold new employees into cookie-cutter ones that can fit in established machineries, employers need to create leadership development programs that can be tailored to individual needs and existing talents.

This is easier said than done. In order to encourage managers to put in the time necessary to do this process justice, old leadership training methods have to be expunged. Now more than ever, failure to do so may result in a massive loss of top talent to competing organizations that recognize their potential and are flexible enough to devote resources to them.

There are a couple of reasons why the old model has lost its effectiveness. Two of the common ones include:

Business owners have become near-sighted – As mentioned before, most organizations sacrifice potential gain in favor of aimless productivity that can bring immediate gains. We are not talking about top management here – more often than not line managers for instance are given set instructions that they cannot deviate from. This leaves little to no room for employee development since most managers believe they do not have the resources or the ability to nurture future leaders.

Talent-choking red tape – Organizations that focus on developing existing managerial talent rather than future ones, lead to a tangle of bureaucratic red tape that chokes off creativity. This leads to development exercises that have little to no value for new employees, which takes up a lot more time than they are worth. Simply put, some of today’s development practices are perceived as just something that needs to be completed rather than important exercises that can generate value in existing talent.

Millennials are getting the short end of the stick…
These two reasons are part of the reason why organizations are failing to retain top talent and resources that can give them the flexibility they need to survive in a new business era. We are of course, referring to Millennials here. This generation is often described as the antithesis of the ideal candidate. They can be stubborn, opinionated, are loyal to themselves first, and have high expectations when it comes to career advancement.

However, that is also an immense potential. Millennials can be stubborn yes, but this trait points to a strong and assertive personality that is the hallmark of strong leaders. They have strong opinions, but that does not mean they cannot listen to reason. Millennials thrive on feedback, crave for it actually, and prefer to have their opinions challenged rather than shot down. This is a trait that is tantamount for visionaries and leaders who have the potential of influencing others to greatness. Since this generation craves feedback and especially from senior management, a lack of it demotivates them, leading to disillusionment and ultimately, resignations.

Harnessing that potential will be critical in the next decade or so since this generation has all of the qualities that future leaders need to remain relevant in today’s business environment. In fact, this generation will make up more than 70% of the global workforce at that time but this does not mean they do not need leadership development at all. Unfortunately, with their hesitance to tackle existing politics, most employers prefer to have a laid-back attitude regarding the Millennials need of leadership development.

This is dangerous for organizations that have plans to expand and which will only have baby boomers and retirees to rely on during that time. Many of them will be experienced but will not have the strength, vitality, resourcefulness and most importantly, practical knowledge of current business trends to create sustainable production models.
The key is to pinpoint talent, in this case Millennials, that have all of the mentioned traits above and those who can be encouraged rather than forced to realize their full potential. 

The first approach can persuade them to use their talents to uncover opportunities that should not be hidden from them in the first place. The second approach will make it difficult owing to this generation’s stubborn nature. Therefore, future leadership development programs should be designed to nurture existing talents in order to prevent a significant skills gap down the line.

Philipe Bruce is the Founder of P.O.D.S Professional & Organizational Development Solutions, a business coaching consultancy based in Omaha, Nebraska. Born in The Republic of Togo of West Africa, Bruce ​is a business development coach with degrees from University of Nebraska, Bellevue University, and Peru State College. Fluent in English and French and a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post, Bruce brings a diverse, global perspective to the challenges facing the American workforce. His new book Not Just Talent: TheMillennials Redefining Talent & Human Capital Management
 is available now on Amazon

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