Training Tomorrow’s Leaders: How to Engage Millennials and Generation Yers

Excerpt from “Millennial Marketing: Bridging the Generation Gap” by Scott Steinberg (2016).

Shh, don’t tell business leaders: Millennials—individuals who are roughly 19 to 35 years old, and a generation of young professionals raised on a steady diet of high-tech gadgets, online Websites, and 24/7 wireless and social media communications—are quickly taking over today’s workforce. But the way in which these highly enterprising and engaging individuals will look to communicate, interact, and engage with tomorrow’s businesses is very different than the ways in which other generations have chosen to do so in the past. So how can organizations hoping to connect with and inspire these growing legions of young professionals hope to best engage them, and equip them with the skills they need to succeed in tomorrow’s business world? Easy—just keep in mind the following hints, tips, and insights, all of which can help you give future generations the tools they need to gain a competitive edge.

STEP 1: Keep in mind that tomorrow’s leaders will:

  • Want clear goals, an engaging variety of assignments to tackle, and to work for organizations with a go-getting attitude that encourages people to collaborate, share their ideas, and be more innovative.
  • Need to be trained in soft skills such as the ability to effectively communicate, and learn and practice improvisational thinking. They’ll find these skills equally important as technical knowledge, which is increasingly easy to come by.
  • Demand a wider range of professional growth, training, and development programs, as well as hands-on opportunities to expand their experience and skill sets.
  • Discover that a flair for teamwork and a winning attitude will be a must as projects become more complex, and a growing number of people of more generations and backgrounds collide in the workplace.
  • Need to master multitasking and time management skills, as professionals are forced to make faster than ever more decisions that impact a greater range of individuals and organizations.
  • Want more mentorship and ongoing feedback as they progress in their career, as the skills in demand tomorrow will look far different than the ones in demand today.
  • Look to leadership to provide guidance and ongoing input about what’s going on in the organization, as well as ways they can personally contribute to the cause and make a difference.

Hoping to better connect with these generations going forward? It helps to understand a few points. Looking ahead, future leaders will:

  1. Want to work for innovative organizations.
  2. Expect you to more dutifully teach entrepreneurial, critical thinking, leadership, and dynamic decision-making skills.
  3. Demand that you provide avenues that give them the opportunity to create positive, lasting change. (Not to mention quickly see how their contributions can bring it about.) A few hints and tips for those hoping to work with these younger generations more effectively going forward are as follows:
  • Remember that Millennials will hail from a wide range of age groups. A Generation Yer could just as easily be a college student as a young parent. When crafting communications and outreach efforts, take care to leverage common themes or points of reference that all can recognize—and don’t assume a one-size-fits-all approach will always be most effective.
  • Don’t market or promote. Tell stories others can empathize with. As researchers increasingly are demonstrating, Millennials aren’t responding to routine advertisements or generic messages any more. Instead, they’re looking for causes and efforts that resonate with their values, and that they feel they can connect with and support on a personal level.
  • Keep messaging short and to the point, and grab others’ attention right from the get-go. To hold Gen Yers’s interest, it’s best to lead with a strong, one-of-a-kind message and, where appropriate, use vehicles such as humor or heartwarming tales to quickly differentiate. Highly visual, these generations also respond far better to short animations, videos, infographics, charts, and other graphical points of reference than textual elements.
  • Make a point to stand out at a glance. Gen Yers are used to quickly dismissing the many messages with which they’re bombarded. To avoid falling into this trap, help them quickly connect the dots, and explain what makes you and your organization unique, what pain points or problems you can help them solve, and how they can quickly and simply interact with you to create positive outcomes. Give them points of shared interest and incentive to rally behind.

Clearly, Millennials and members of Generation Y look at and interact with the world in far different ways than generations that have come before. But with a few simple shifts in perspective and positioning, it becomes far easier to connect and communicate with them on a meaningful level. Employ the strategies above as you go about crafting your training and development efforts, and empowering tomorrow’s leaders to succeed, and you’ll find it far simpler and more cost-effective to drive interest, fuel ongoing engagement, and get your message heard.

Building Future Leaders

The secret to successfully managing and retaining Gen Y workers is simple: Start thinking positive. According to recent research by Deloitte, Millennial workers are determined to make their mark on the world, and organizations, by creating positive, lasting change. Here’s what you should know about them, based on its surveys:

  • 78%—Want to work for companies that are innovative
  • 75%—Say organizations could do more to nurture tomorrow’s leaders
  • 70%—Believe they’ll work for themselves at some point in life
  • 60%—Say leadership and entrepreneurialism can be taught
  • 59%—Think managers have helpful experience to share
  • 25%—Are actively asking for ways to demonstrate leadership skills

Excerpt fromMillennial Marketing: Bridging the Generation Gap by Scott Steinberg (2016).

Professional speaker Scott Steinberg is a bestselling expert on leadership and innovation, and the author of “Millennial Marketing: Bridging the Generation Gap and “Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty.” He is the founder of SELECT nightlife and entertainment magazine, and among today’s leading providers of keynote speeches, workshops, and seminars for Fortune 500 firms, For more information, visit: