As I stepped up to the podium to give my Keynote at a recent leadership conference, I begin to second guess my whole topic of conversation. My topic, How Millennials may be the Catalyst for Change, was a very provocative approach to letting the majority of the audience know that Sam Cooke said it best when he said “Change is gonna come”. Millennials have a different take on work and truthfully, they have a big crush on work life balance. They talk about it, they breathe it, they live it, and they just want it really bad. Truthfully, they are just too big to ignore anymore. By 2025, Millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce and as of first quarter this year, make up the largest segment of general workers.
Newly minted Millennials leaders are also in a really precarious situation — they have to be more flexible, agile, and willing to adjust to change than ever before. They have to lead their peers, lead older generations and even deal with this current climate of pushing for more work life balance. Currently, there is a dichotomy in researching human interactions: the research on the workplace is studied separately from an individual’s personal life or home life. As a result, research has yet to focus on the individual as a whole but often view him/her separately as if he/she is somehow neatly segmented into two different worlds. What Millennials are calling for is a fusion of the two. Life isn’t arbitrarily and artificially segmented, so they believe their work life and personal life shouldn’t be either. When asked in a recent focus group, 90% of Ken Blanchard Millennial employees desired a working life that was more in tune with the realities of life. Recently, General Electric (GE) announced it will forego PTO and vacation hours and make the vacations unlimited to the majority of its employees. Roughly, 2% of all employers have this option but GE is the largest. This number will continue to grow exponentially in the coming years, as the shift is currently being made to a flexible workplace.
And that’s not even the scary part. The scary part is that, currently, 51% of Millennials are in formal leadership positions and the majority hasn’t received the proper training to become a leader. Organizations are setting up their new up-and-coming millennial leaders for failure! I spoke with a friend of mine in San Diego who mentioned that her VP of Sales left the company and they were replacing him with the top sales rep in the company. When the change was announced, they threw a huge party on Friday and everyone congratulated him for the promotion. On Monday, he submitted his resignation. He realized over the weekend that he didn’t want to do it. In fact, he said he couldn’t do it. He wasn’t trained to become a leader, didn’t know the skill set needed to transition from a high performing individual contributor to now a leader of his peers, and frankly had no desire to do it. He said, “I’m good at selling, that’s what I do; that’s my strength. Why would you think just because I’m good at selling I can become a high performing leader?” It makes no sense, and employers do it all the time. If you want to keep your young, millennial talent you need to set them up for success by equipping and training them for their next role.
So, I’ve begun to really analyze this question around aspiring leaders to determine the best way to capture how Millennials are transitioning into become leaders in their organization. How do they feel? Do they feel equipped? Are they excited or nervous? If you’d like to contribute to this area of research, you may take this short survey linked here. I will share my findings in a follow up post after the data is analyzed.