Future leaders: Who has the right stuff?

by Iain Hopkins16 Jun 2015

Leadership development for Millennials
By 2025, Millennials (those born 1981-1997) will represent 75% of the workforce. DDI’s Global Leadership Forecast research found the engagement level of this group can be raised by providing them with a greater understanding of their career path as a leader. The challenge is how you do this in a business context that is frequently changing.
“Providing Millennials an awareness of a range of possible paths that may be ahead of them – not a single route from point A to point B as on a map – is the key, and managers need to know-how to tap into these motivators and opportunities,” suggests Busine. He adds that this can be achieved by having career conversations: what do Millennials want and what do they expect?
Importantly, Millennials want leadership modeling right now.
“They want to have leadership that they can see and use as a model for the future,” says Lear. “They’re asking for leadership.” The most successful organisations, he adds, already have managers who model leadership for their Millennials. These managers are also clear on the purpose of an organisation (‘why are we doing this?’), which is a critical element for Millennial engagement.

“We’re working closely with the managers of Millennials, to engage them in developing their teams,” says Lear, who adds that ‘engagement dynamics’ is one way to build this bond. Engagement dynamics brings together both parties in scenario-based learning to develop both the manager and the young professional.

DBL also offers ‘action learning periods’. “Our programs are not just two days face-to-face and then out of the room. We carry that through a period of six months, which brings about a change in behaviour. You learn a behavior over a long period of time; you won’t bring about change in that behavior in a period of two days,” Lear says.

And of course, for this always-connected generation, access to learning 24-7 is critical. Gamified apps and integrating social learning into development programs – via virtual learning platforms – are also important.

Musson suggests that not only have Millennials been exposed to learning and generally want more of it, but there has been growth in what he calls just-in-time learning. Facilitated by technology, just-in-time learning will occur when an individual wants to undertake just a small chunk of learning, just-in-time for a new career step – whether that’s from manager to leader – of just-in-time for a change of industry or job. “We’re no longer seeing education and learning as something where you tick off three courses and as soon as that’s done you’ve got the foundation and you can move on. Today it’s more fluid. It’s up to us as a supplier to say, ‘ok, which short courses are people going to want? How will they get it delivered?’
For example, AIM has just rolled out its MBA program in an online format because Musson says even with formal education people are looking for the flexibility that technology provides.

“The challenge for us is not just how we take a face-to-face environment and put it online, but it’s about how do we compete with the latest movie or latest game,” Musson says. “This generation is referred to as the digital natives for a reason. It’s how they communicate with each other, how they seek and gather information.”

One thing is clear: leadership development is not solved by a single solution or one-size-fits all approach. The concept of the 70:20:10 development model suggests that a good development experience will involve a variety of different learning and development methods and approaches – yet Busine suggests that too much emphasis has been placed on the ratio, and this was never the intention of the original developers of the concept. 

“Most people can readily identify people who have been great coaches or mentors throughout their careers. Unfortunately they can’t always identify multiple people and more often than not their examples don’t include their own managers from across their career,” he says. 
Musson agrees, and says that it’s only through the application of theory that the student and the company will get a return on the investment of training. “I’m also a fan of the coaching component that sits in and around that model,” he says. “It embeds the learning. It’s not now HR’s job or it’s not AIM’s job to deliver it. It’s embedded in the company.”
A first step is to turn leaders and managers in to better coaches and ensuring they have the skills to effectively coach their team members (formally and informally). Secondly (and driven by a particular need and/or development goal) provide individuals with access to other coaches and mentors both inside and outside the organisation.
Echoing Lear’s view that Millennials want to learn from their own managers, DDI’s Global Leadership Forecast indicates that 71% of leaders surveyed would like to spend more time learning from others. This compares with just 26% who indicated they would like to spend more time learning on the job. Interestingly, 76% indicated they would like to spend more time in formal learning.
“It’s amazing to watch how people develop using their own learning style, their own processes, but doing it themselves with the support of some good books, some online assessments, some videos and audios. They can choose which way they want to learn. Some people learn through watching; others learn through doing,” says Lear.

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