02 Oct 2015 14:55 IST

Jockeying Gen Y through the corporate race course

A guide on grooming millennials into future leaders

Millennials are here to stay and the mantle of leadership will pass on to them in the near future. This thought crossed my mind during a recent interaction with new graduates, who were getting inducted into the organisation.

What struck me was their confidence, their intellectual curiosity, and their ability to quickly come together as a team to work on an assignment, which was part of their induction. I was wowed by the output. It set me thinking on the benefits organisations can derive if they were to unleash the full potential of this group at the workplace.

What are today’s millennials like?

Millennial motivation stems from a sense of shared purpose, ability to work with a role model and exposure to challenging assignments. They ooze confidence and are able to quickly upgrade their knowledge using technology.

However, they lack practical wisdom and the ability to deal with real-world issues at the ground level. They need guidance and support to ‘settle’ in. If these issues are ignored, it could result in organisations losing out on potential talent required for growth, to improve low productivity, inability to handle transitions and poor response to change.

The solution to tap millennials’ potential

So the million dollar question is: who’s accountable for accommodating and assimilating the millennials: HR, leadership or managers?

As an HR leader, I believe it is a shared ownership. We need to do three things in order to get this right:

1) HR has to design relevant programmes to manage the trends of transition.

2) Leadership has to rewire itself. They must be clear about the purpose and existence of their organisation and their roles in the larger context of driving societal change. In addition to this, they have to set in motion a series of changes that will drive more autonomy and create a sense of shared responsibility to achieve organisational objectives.

3) Managerial work styles and interactions have to adapt to manage millennials better.

Of the above factors, managers are in the most influential position to tap the potential of millennials. They are the face of the organisation and the linking layer translating strategy and vision into delivering excellence. A programme has to be put in place that specifically helps managers develop critical skills and behaviour, such as agility, adaptability, transparency, active listening and passion.

Transforming millennials into leaders

Leading organisations such as IBM, Deloitte and Marriott have already taken the first step towards crafting initiatives to acclimatise millennials to the work culture. But there’s a lot more that can be done.

We must embrace the new generation and learn to see, think and feel like them. We have to create a stimulating professional environment to develop, sustain their interests, and also prepare a succession plan to eventually hand over the baton.

I recommend a three-pronged strategy, which includes designing robust induction programmes, deploying effective talent grooming systems and developing mid-level leaders, to help organisations formulate a systematic approach to address their future manpower requirements.

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