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It’s Your Turn: Developing Tomorrow’s Millennial Leaders
HR Guest Contributor
March 29, 2016

The news is out: Millennials have now eclipsed Baby Boomers and Generation Xers to be the largest generation represented in the U.S. workforce today. According to the Pew Research Center, Millennials, 54 million and counting, continue to rapidly expand throughout the nation. At the same time, many Baby Boomers have opted to postpone retirement and work beyond the traditional 65-year age mark. In situations where retirement is deferred, the mid-level and senior-level leadership positions occupied by the aging generation leave a stark gap of experience for Millennial employees. 

What does this mean for the not-so-distant future? When the day comes where organizations seek to replace decades of established experience, organizations could be vigorously vying for the skill sets and loyalty of next generation talent. The question today is: armed with this talent succession foresight, how can organizations create, develop, and retain their Millennial leaders, starting today?


A known trend of Millennials is “job-hopping 86% of Millennials would consider leaving their jobs to pursue other personal or professional interests. This can create challenges for organizations that want to invest in top talent with the intention that they stay on to carry Challenge, Communication, and Culture.

86% of Millennials would consider leaving their jobs to pursue other personal or professional endeavors


First, is your organization laying the foundation and providing opportunities for Millennials to effectively discover and hone their skills? Companies need to establish a clear succession plan for their employees to learn the technical AND the people/management skills necessary to succeed as a leader. A consistent and appropriate level of challenge in organizational tasks and projects can entice high potential Millennials to put in the effort and tenacity required for long-term skill and experience development rather than bow out for short-term goals and payouts. 

*Homework:  Think about your top 5 direct reports, and brainstorm 1 new project requiring ~10% more of their time that would peak their individual interest and prep them for a skill set required


Next, an organization’s leaders must establish lucid, real-time communication with their Millennials. Communication with employees, notably Millennials, can spell the world of a difference for the longevity of a working relationship. Effective communication is so critical that both peer and managerial relationships are susceptible to its spoken and unspoken nuances. What exactly does this mean? Well, in a world where instant gratification has, in some respects, become the new norm, employers must provide both positive and constructive feedback early, frequently, and consistently. We have even begun to see the usage of annual reviews decline in favor of more focused and intermittent feedback sessions. For leaders, individually recognizing and rewarding achievements is a fantastic way to acknowledge the effort and success of those who meet and exceed the challenges that you set!

Real-time feedback is the new annual review – are you communicating effectively?

Begin putting real-time feedback into practice if you haven’t already done so. When celebrating a teammate or direct report publicly, focus your appreciation on the behavior that you want others to emulate! Be clear on expectations of Millennial employees on advancement towards their next position.


Third, an organization’s team and culture play a critical role in the development of Millennial leaders. How exactly is culture defined and, more importantly, how does one affect it? In its simplest form, culture can be encompassed as the basic framework where an employee operates, engages with others, and how he sees himself (or herself) in relation to the greater hierarchy of the organization. It’s also where norms and expectations are set. A few culture questions to ponder: does your culture permit Millennial leaders the opportunity to navigate and explore their professional interests? Can Millennial leaders instigate challenging dialogue about new and innovative ideas that could potentially involve systematic change to an organization? Does the culture promote an environment where employee when recognition is not an afterthought but a valued cornerstone? Essentially, do Millennials feel that they matter to the organization?

 Invite top performers to strategic meetings where senior leaders demonstrate the next level of role responsibility. Encourage these top performers to observe and note 3 key takeaways from the experience. In your post-meeting debrief, discuss the takeaways and any lessons learned. Help champion great ideas that come from these observers so that they know their valuable suggestions can make a difference.

It’s inevitable that as veteran talent leaves the workforce, established leadership roles will need to be filled by qualified next generation leaders. The remaining question is what the veteran talent is doing now to prepare for this transitional succession plan. Are the future reins of their organizations resting in confident and capable hands, or will they be placed in inexperienced and uncertain ones? The success and failures of the future are crafted by the choices made today. How will you play a part?


Looking for opportunities to reward and recognize Millennial employees in a meaningful way?  Visit us at to learn more.

This article was written by friend of Blueboard Dr. Ren Hong. Ren is an independent leadership coach and engagement consultant who works with business leaders to drive their HR strategy and maximize their teams’ performance. He is available for consultation and speaking engagements. Reach him at

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