How to make leaders out of your millennial staff

One successful leader shares his thoughts on how HR can get more out of their young workers

How to make leaders out of your millennial staff

Millennials are now the largest cohort in the workplace and employers who fail to leverage their talent will undoubtedly fail – here, one successful leader offers his advice on getting it right.

Stu Cooper is the general manager of Certus Insurance and keeps young staff engaged in an industry which isn’t renowned for its youth appeal – he says professional development is one of the most valuable tools for doing so.

Despite its importance, Cooper says many organisations are making mistakes when it comes to operating successful leadership development programs for their millennial staff.

“Clear and realistic expectations aren’t put out there in the beginning of any leadership development process,” he tells HRD. “Leadership can be innate or a learned skill and clearly defining what a realistic stretch expectation seems to be a lost art.”

If employers are able to identify current shortcoming and define expectations, they’re likely to reap the rewards.

“I think if we can clearly articulate the gaps in someone’s abilities, have an open discussion about why they are seen this way, and then work with tangible ideas to create a solution that they have input into developing, we can bridge these gaps,” he says.

“At this stage I don’t think the picture of the goal, or destination is clear enough from both parties at the beginning, while doing this with everyone would be ideal, this is extremely important for millennials.”

Tapping into the emotional side of what millennials want to achieve could also result in huge pay-offs for employers.

“When you tap into this you begin to move the needle of someone feeling like your business is an uncaring corporate entity,” says Cooper. However, identifying those emotional drivers may take some hard work.

“Be prepared to ask tough questions, listen and act upon those feelings that are expressed in a truly authentic way,” he says. “Get used to having a real conversation with no preconceived ideas or outcomes. Get back to actually communicating and discussing with nuance, thought, and feeling about what your millennial workforce wants to do when thinking about leadership.”

Once there’s been an open and honest conversation, it’s fairly easy to take action as long as both parties can agree on a path forward, says Cooper.

Finally, Cooper also says employers should strive to offer opportunities that younger employees are accustomed to.

“Particularly in NZ their entire education has been largely centred on co-constructivist ideals, and working in an environment with a mentor like person on tasks within the zone of proximal development to help grow their comfort zone,” he says.

“Business seems to forget to provide these opportunities for millennials which they are so used to,” he continues. “Bring your millennial workers in on key important decisions about their future, and developing leadership skills allow them to see possible milestones on the way to the goal and they will invariably buy in more, and work harder on it.”

Stu Cooper will be joined by a bevy of other industry leaders at the upcoming Millennial Workforce Summit in Auckland. More information about the event – which features engaging panel discussions about how HR can fully leverage the millennial generation – can be found online.

Registrations are now open and HRD readers are encouraged to book in early and save with the Super Saver offer.

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