How Can We Help Millennial Leaders?

by Adam McCampbell

The transfer of power has always been a challenge for business leaders. One generation retires and another one begins to assume leadership responsibility. The older generation is skeptical of the younger and many in the older generation hesitant to leave.

Many of my clients are facing this issue today. Their industries are changing so fast they cannot keep up. They know they need to change the way they do business but many in leadership roles are not in a place in their careers to take risks or do things differently. So when someone retires or leaves they want to bring on someone with a fresh perspective and new ideas. The one unique wrinkle facing leaders now has to do with simple demographics.

The Baby Boomer generation is 80 million strong, with Millennials coming in at nearly 84 million people. Generation X, those in between, are only 40-45 million. They are the ones who are in positions to take over for the Boomers, but as the numbers reveal, there aren’t enough of X-ers to fill the openings.

The most coveted job candidate right now is 35-45 years of age, but you can’t find them. They are not looking for work, do not want to move and are swamped with family pressure. A transition is perceived as a difficult move so they tend to stay put.

So then, how are boomers to succession plan (yes-boomers you will at some point need to retire)? Today’s leaders are going to have to trust Millennials (20-34 years of age) in positions they may not seem quite ready to take on.

There is a need for hiring managers to dial back dependence on “related work experience” and instead hire (or promote) for character or what we call “Who”. Business leaders need to build out success traits they want to see in Millennials and hire for attitude and behavior. Once hired, leaders need to come along side Millennials and let them fail, be there to pick them up and let them take more risks.

Three actions leaders can take to help Millennial leaders thrive:

1. Trust them to make big decisions

2. Be a resource; keep an open door

3. Don’t shy away from desired outcomes and deadlines, but resist the urge to dictate the process.

It’s time to stop complaining about this new generation in the work force and time to start helping them succeed. They are smart, collaborative, adaptable and hungry. Let’s see what they can do. I believe it will be worth the investment.

Adam McCampbell is a Managing Partner at VisionSpark, where they are dedicated to “Talent Forensics”. Adam serves on the board of Thirst Relief International, a clean water non-profit, and serves as an adviser to Relā. Adam lives in Dublin, OH with his wife Chanell, and their two sons, Hudson and Harrison.

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