Developing Gen Y Leaders
How important are excellent leaders to organizations? Well, the answer, in theory of course, would be very important. However, the answer as practiced by countless organizations might indicate otherwise. Only 38 percent of organizations have a formal frontline leadership development program in place. It’s important for organizations to commit to strong leadership development, and it’s particularly important for organizations to begin grooming their Gen Y employees to move into critical leadership positions. Why? Within 10 years (by 2025), these Millennials are set to comprise 75 percent of the global workforce. That’s why organizational leadership development programs are absolutely essential. Let’s look at what some companies are doing to prepare the next generation for leadership.
Excellent leaders have to be developed and cultivated.
3M’s leadership development program is so effective that it has been one of the “Top 20 Companies for Leadership” in six of the last seven years and ranks as one of the top 25 companies for grooming leadership talent according to consultant Hay Group. What is 3M’s leadership program all about? A few years ago, the company’s former CEO and his top team spent 18 months developing a leadership model for the company. After numerous brainstorming sessions and much heated debate, the group finally agreed on six “leadership attributes” that they believed were essential for managers to have in order for the company to become skilled at executing strategy and being accountable. Those six attributes included the ability to: develop a plan and implement that plan; motivate and rouse others; be ethical and trustworthy and abide by the rules; achieve outcomes; strive for excellence; and be a capable and creative innovator. The company has continued to reinforce its pursuit of leadership excellence with these six attributes.
Other companies, such as Ernst & Young, start early in recruiting and investing in future leaders, often going after talented college freshmen who have leadership potential. They take the best talent and involve them in various leadership development programs both while in school and after graduation. Deloitte, another company rated high for its leadership development programs, is deeply committed to helping its Millennial employees learn and absorb the leadership skills they will need to lead the company in the future. It starts with a very specific recruiting strategy for hiring Millennials and continues with a yearlong “Welcome to Deloitte” program. This program is all about teaching this age group client-management skills and team-building skills, and offering professional development opportunities. And, not surprisingly, it’s done largely through social media using interactive experiences such as role-plays, simulations, games, and a tool to help these employees track their first-year tasks.
At Facebook, the first Millennial-run organization to become a Fortune 500 company, leadership development is designed around the needs of a fast-moving, fast-growing company. The head of leadership development at Facebook says that the only way leadership development works there is by making it consistent with the types of engineering tech types that comprise the company. Engineers are concerned only with “what works.” And it’s the same for any type of leadership development to be successful here; the focus has to be on what works. Also, since Facebook is an extremely flat organization with few levels of management, employees find out early on that in order to get anything done, they’re going to have to be able to influence and inspire people. That’s why leaders at Facebook don’t have to be convinced of the need for people skills. They won’t survive long without them.
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