Successful Women Leaders Attract and Retain Millennials in Leadership Positions

  1. Attracting and Retaining Millennials in Leadership Positions
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A previous article in this Women’s Leadership Success Strategies series discussed problems attracting and retaining Millennials in leadership roles. I explained why the resulting personnel shortage is creating additional challenges for women leaders. We explored common Millennial management mistakes and remedies so you can avoid losing your best Gen Y employees, including those who excellent prospects for leadership positions. Women’s Leadership Coaching clients often ask me for validated success strategies, so I’m sharing them with you in this article.

Proven Solutions to The Serious Challenge of Attracting and Retaining Millennials in Leadership Positions

Be Proactive Regarding Millennial Recruitment

Instead of waiting to train Millennials to lead until after they’ve been promoted to a management position, introduce Gen Ys to leadership possibilities early. Offer a variety of leadership development resources designed to stimulate both interest and confidence. Make sure management training is based on a collaboratively planned agenda tailored to the specific needs and goals of each Millennial you want to attract and retain in a leadership role.

Since many Baby Boomers and Gen X leaders often say they don’t want to mentor Gen Ys, you’ll probably have to take extra steps to connect Millennials with an appropriate mentor. Please seriously consider making this effort. The positive results of discovering a sincerely interested mentor whom you personally select can serve you and your organization for many years. Mentoring Millennials for management roles is a proven way to close the serious leadership gap described in this article.

Directly Address the Greatest Concern of Most Millennials

Most Gen Ys doubt their management abilities when they consider leading employees old enough to be their parents or grandparents. There is usually considerable fear that an older person will doubt the Millennial’s qualifications, won’t accept their ideas and won’t trust their judgment when challenges arise.

Senior employees often do resent being accountable to a younger person. Many Baby Boomers and Gen Xs worry about ageism in today’s lean and mean business environment. Some feel humiliated or worry about their longevity at the company, especially if the company has previously downsized older, more highly-paid workers and then hired younger workers at a lower salary level.

Women leaders are hardwired to help Millennials overcome these challenges. Because Millennial’s dislike traditional management styles and many Gen Ys tend to avoid conflict resolution, coaching can be an ideal tool. Coach Gen Ys to build the confidence required to coach a worker older than they are, especially employees with seniority and excellent performance records. Begin with proven leadership coaching self-awareness tools that illuminate the Millennial’s innate and most effective leadership style.

Other articles in this series explore how to coach Gen Ys to present themselves as new leaders, manage expectations, relate effectively to older workers and create a successful work culture.

Understand the Millennial Mindset

Stop thinking like a Baby Boomer or Gen X leader when you try to attract or lead Millennials. It’s generally useless to dangle old-style motivators (external motivators) such as perks, promotions and pay increases unless you focus on the Millennial’s core internal motivators, like having a positive impact on the world. The article referenced above includes many proven strategies that will save your precious and limited leadership time and energy.

When we step into another generation’s world for even a brief time, we spontaneously substitute understanding and respect for our initial confusion or negative judgments about why other people act in certain ways. Discovering the Millennial point of view is essential to building effective partnerships that will escalate your leadership success.

Appeal to Millennial Core Career Requirements

These requirements are discussed in this article. I cannot over-emphasize that the majority of Gen Ys whom you would value in management positions will not sign up for a leadership position and responsibilities unless they become convinced they can make a positive difference. To be specific, Millennials have no intention to follow in the footsteps of Baby Boomers who were willing to be fiercely loyal, work longer hours and take on steeper workloads so they could potentially climb a corporate ladder and claim a bigger salary. Gen Y also rejects Gen X’s goal to gain work-life balance. Since tech-savvy Gen Ys know that most jobs can be done any time and from anywhere, one of their mottos is “Claim your time and your life all day, every day”.

Please remember that part of your leadership recruitment battle is based on Millennial observations of their Baby Boomer or Gen X parents’ rise to leadership. Since our brains view the world based on our past experiences, all of us go through each day wearing inaccurate, filtered lenses. In this case, Gen Ys assume managing other people requires giving up significant degrees of freedom and choice. Needless to say, most Gen Ys are not interested.

Loosen Up Instead of Losing Millennials

Since Millennials are “choice-driven” and tech savvy, whenever possible, allow them to structure how they accomplish their work. You’ll discover that they are creative, as well as exceptionally knowledgeable about helpful technologies they easily adopt and adapt. Most Gen Ys won’t stand for old-school processes like frequent highly structured meetings with tight agendas. Since Millennials grew up doing their homework while networking across many platforms, such as social media, email, online chat and software that schedules and facilitates meetings, you may be surprised how much can actually be accomplished when a rigid timeline or structure is set aside and everyone substitutes curiosity and collaboration for a pre-determined protocol.  Those of you who are wincing as you read this, please allow me to remind you that you can still set goals, clarify targets with clear timelines and otherwise ensure standards for accountability.

Even though you’ll still be the primary leader, what I’m sharing with you can significantly improve your ability to engage, attract and recruit Millennials to the leadership positions you need to fill. Team productivity and morale often improve when you combine leadership support, greater choice and personal freedom with self-responsibility.

Create Authentic Connections

Sincerely connect with Gen Ys so you can fulfill their need for frequent contact in person or via technology. Many of my clients use a simple system such as a daily check-in email. I have other leadership clients who have open office hours. Some managers substitute Skype, FaceTime or Zoom as a way to ensure Gen Ys they are important, by answering questions in a timely manner.

Authentic relationships are essential. Instead of deciding a Millennial is “uncoachable,” get to know them as a person with interests and goals. Once you understand their needs, fears and long-term goals, you’ll be able to sincerely connect with them. Only then can you attract them to a leadership position and retain their talents.

Most of my successful Women’s Leadership Coaching clients consistently say they save time when they work with Millennials by maintaining an open-door policy during certain hours, encouraging regular face-to-face meetings and, whenever possible, responding to the need for spur-of-the-moment feedback.

Creatively and Collaboratively Design Employee Wellness Programs

As described in my other articles about Millennial Core Career Requirements, members of Gen Y consistently say, “We don’t want jobs. We want lives!” Savvy women leaders know how to engage, attract and recruit Millennials to leadership positions in ways that acknowledge that the boundaries between Gen Y’s personal and work lives overlap. This strategy can also create loyalty, especially when management makes it clear that program design is based on Gen Y’s preferences.

One proven strategy is to expand traditional workplace benefits. Example: Organize employee well-being programs that focus on more than physical wellness. Some companies have gained significant Gen Y engagement and loyalty by offering in-house gyms and yoga classes. In fact, a Gallup 2016 report, “How Millennials Want to Work and Live,” reached this conclusion: Gen Ys who were thriving in all five elements of well-being were 85% less likely than Millennials who were thriving in only the physical element of well-being to say they were planning to leave their current employer. That’s powerful data you can use.

Embrace Constant Change

Millennials grew up with constant change in all aspects of their lives, from versions of software to social norms. Gen Ys are aware that very few of today’s companies invest in workers for the long-term. Organizations often restructure, downsize and lay off employees with little notice. Most of my Millennial clients expect to work in a given job for only 2-3 years before moving on. Many have told me they won’t be surprised if they have 20 or more careers during their lives. No wonder it’s tough for Gen Ys to develop loyalty to any organization. In spite of this, there are proven ways you can nurture loyalty from your Millennial leaders and potential leaders, including the following.

  • Develop authentic relationships by being open and transparent and demonstrating excellent listening skills. Gen Ys sense when a leader is not genuine. Trust, the essence of leadership credibility, is then lost. Once destroyed, trust is usually quite difficult to regain.
  • Invest in Millennials both as employees and as potential leaders. Focus on both training and personal development in ways consistent with the Millennial Core Career Requirements outlined in the previous article referenced above.
  • Emphasize how the position you want to recruit the Millennial to will develop skills they truly want to gain. Outline how these skills can lead to other career options. Even though it may seem counter-intuitive, this will elevate loyalty to your leadership and help you retain Gen Ys.
  • Honestly explore flexible leadership roles consistent with each potential Gen Y leader’s desire for diverse experiences. Ensure Millennials the freedom to gain transferable experiences via innovative organizational structures. Brainstorm options like lateral moves consistent with fluid organizations and jobs that change over time, always based on a good fit between organizational needs and employee / leader goals. Millennials tend to be attracted to cross-functional roles.

Focus on How We’re All Alike

Rather than worrying how to work with Gen Ys when they think or act differently than you do, discover the advantages of a generation that is innately tech-savvy, questions what doesn’t make sense to them and is passionate about living a purposeful life.

During Women’s Leadership Coaching, I sometimes remind my Baby Boomer and Gen X leaders that Gen Xers were labeled “slackers” and Baby Boomers were sometimes called “do-nothing hippies.” My point is that every generation has struggled under the weight of misconceptions and stereotypes. especially as they searched for their unique way forward during young adulthood within a critical society. Even though most of us try to achieve our goals in ways that are characteristic of our specific generation, all of us generally want the same things, including a purposeful life and career, good relationships at work, a career we’re passionate about, supportive leadership, personal and professional learning and growth, fun and life balance.

Take Advantage of Women’s Leadership Coaching

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the proven solutions in this article. I’ll continue to support you by writing additional “Women’s Leadership Success Strategy” articles. Leadership Coaching is also a proven way to help you build a successful team, which we all know is essential to your success. The vast majority of successful woman leaders advise other female leaders and emerging leaders to “hire a coach.”

The average ROI (return on investment) of leadership coaching is over 500%. Click here to complete a short application so I can contact you for a complimentary, no obligation, 20-minute consultation. If we decide we’re a good fit as client and coach, we’ll discuss a coaching agreement. I’m looking forward to getting to know you and being of assistance.

© 2019 Doris Helge, Ph.D. as interviewed on “The Today Show,” CNN and NPR. Certified Master Leadership and Executive Coach Doris Helge is author of bestselling books, including “Joy on the Job,” Doris has helped hundreds of leaders like you meet every challenge you’re facing.

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About the Author

Doris Helge

© 2019 Doris Helge, Ph.D. at www.WomensLeadershipTips.com Doris Helge, Ph.D., MCC is a Certified Master Executive Leadership Coach and author of bestselling books, including “Joy on the Job.” Click here now to sign up for your complimentary Leadership Coaching Consultation.

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