December 23rd, 2021

How to Prepare Millennials for Leadership Roles

Millennials are currently the largest generation of employees with over a third making up the workforce. Some estimates say that this generation will make up 75% of the job market by 2030. That means a lot of Millennials will be growing and developing into leadership roles in the near future. 

Businesses play an important role in leadership growth—and Millennials think so too. Thirty percent of Millennials believe their employer has the greatest responsibility for preparing them for leadership positions.

Leadership is critical to an organization’s success. To prepare your organization for this shift, here is how you can provide the experiences and development necessary to teach Millennials leadership skills. But first, start by recognizing how poor leadership is born. 

Importance of Leadership

Poor leadership is one of the top reasons employees leave a job or company. According to DDI, 57% of employees quit because of their boss. 

Leadership is also critical to getting the most productivity and engagement from team members and ultimately achieving organizational goals. Aside from turnover,  ineffective leadership also results in decreased job satisfaction and negative employee attitudes which can have a lasting impact on an organization’s culture.

How does poor leadership happen? 

Often poor leadership is a result of successful contributors becoming supervisors. But not all successful employees equate to successful managers. Signs of poor leadership include:

  • Micromanaging 
  • Lack of communication
  • No employee recognition 
  • Ignoring conflict 
  • Not providing or asking for feedback and input

Transitioning into management takes time and development. As a result, it’s important to prepare Millennials for leadership roles by teaching them the skills they’ll eventually need as leaders. 

Teaching Leadership Skills Millennials Need

There are countless resources citing what skills are the most important for effective leadership. But if you think of the signs of poor leadership and what skills result in the opposite outcome, then these 4 skills are a good starting point to teach your emerging leaders: 

1. Communication

Leaders need good communication skills to manage conflict, guide discussions, and make decisions. Communication skills are relevant when talking to others one-on-one, in group settings, and over the phone, email, and chat. Though Millennials are tech-savvy communicators online—they may need some more experience with interpersonal communication. 

Effective interpersonal communication starts with active listening. Employees can learn how to actively listen through practice. Whether they’re speaking to friends, family, significant others, or coworkers, here are some techniques they can use to actively listen: 

  • Paraphrase what the other person is saying in your head, while you listen
  • Acknowledge what the person is saying by noting verbal and nonverbal cues (e.g., nodding the head or saying “uh-huh”)
  • Summarize the speaker’s words and repeat back to them before responding 

Actively listening is also a core foundation of leading with empathy. Unless leaders actively listen to their team members, it’s hard to build trust. 

Giving Millennial employees the opportunity to present or speak in meetings is the best way they can practice their communication skills beyond interpersonal communication. If you find an employee is nervous about doing this, there are plenty of online resources, courses, and in-person workshops to help them gain confidence. But in the end, practice and actually getting out there will be essential to teach Millennials communication skills. 

Organizations also must lead by example. How your existing leadership communicates sets the tone for the rest of the business. In other words, keep in mind how you behave in meetings or respond to emails—chances are these behaviors will be mimicked by future leaders. 

2. Time Management & Delegation

Though time management and delegation are two different skills, they go hand-in-hand when it comes to leadership. To manage time effectively, delegation is necessary as a leader. 

Time management skills help employees identify when they need to delegate. To help Millennials in this area, HR can provide them with the tools and resources they need to plan ahead and prioritize tasks: 

  • Something as simple as a notebook, calendar, or online platform can be used to map out meetings and tasks for the day, week, or month
  • To prioritize tasks, organizations can familiarize employees with the concept of urgent versus important work—this approach makes it easier to know when to delegate

Perhaps one of the perks of leadership is the ability to delegate work. For many new leaders, though, this can feel unnatural. Most Millennial employees are used to a tactical level job where they are executing much of the work. But leadership requires delegation to be able to focus on the bigger picture. Helping upcoming leaders understand this and how they can go about it will make them more comfortable and productive as a leader. 

3. Feedback 

For a generation known for their participation trophies, Millennials may have a bad reputation for not handling feedback well. But that doesn’t mean they can’t give it!

There are little things that employers can do to prepare their employees to provide feedback as a manager: 

  • Provide them the opportunity to give feedback to coworkers and leadership through 360 reviews—this gets employees used to providing feedback
  • Coach employees on the best way to give feedback, such as being positive, focusing on specific behaviors, and being clear on why you’re providing the feedback

Everyone should know how to give constructive feedback. Not providing any or not going about it the right way can impact employee morale and engagement. As a result, it’s an important aspect of leadership. And don’t forget those interpersonal skills and empathy will come into play when giving feedback. So make sure that the communication foundation is built first. 

4. Recognition 

Millennials love their recognition—who doesn’t? But it’s also important as a leader to know when and how to give recognition. This goes beyond providing feedback. 

Recognition isn’t something only leaders provide. Organizations can get all of their employees involved in recognizing one another—and should encourage this behavior. This is one way that emerging Millennial leaders can get in the habit of providing recognition when it’s warranted. 

How employees can provide informal recognition:  

  • Give shout outs or show appreciation in meetings
  • Send a written note or email recognizing someone for a specific contribution  
  • Tag or acknowledge others for a job well done in company chats 

How employees can provide formal recognition through a rewards program: 

  • Reviews during performance evaluations
  • An online platform or form where employees can submit recognition for other employees to be rewarded 
  • Employees can nominate their peers for a monthly recognition award given out in staff meetings

Recognition makes employees feel good—and it feels good to give it! But make sure Millennial employees are aware of how to give it. For example, rewards and recognition should be personalized, spontaneous, immediate, meaningful, and consistent. 

Other Ways Employers Can Prepare Millennials for Leadership 

Teaching Millennials the skills above is easier said than done. Creating a development plan and providing them with a mentor are two additional ways to help accomplish the task.


Millennials value networking and learning—a mentoring relationship provides both of those. Mentoring also has a significant impact on leadership potential. Young adults with a mentor are 130% more likely to hold leadership positions. 

Creating a mentorship program in your organization isn’t difficult to do. Sometimes it can be as simple as assigning a mentor when an employee first starts at your organization. Or you can buddy up more senior-level mentors with junior-level staff. But mentors should be coached on what type of support and training they are meant to provide mentees, such as: 

  • Career advice: Setting goals, building relationships, and leveraging resources
  • Emotional support: Dealing with career and life changes
  • Role modeling: How to communicate and navigate workplace culture

Employees with a mentor tend to find more growth and development opportunities—as well as better social and economic options. Not everyone is interested in a mentor, but those who are understand the value it can have on their future career. 

Career Development Plan 

According to, 72% of Millennials value opportunities for career advancement. So having a career development plan for your Millennial employees will not only prepare them for leadership roles, but also help with recruiting and retention efforts among this generation. 

Millennials are hungry for the skills described above. But without a career development plan, it’s difficult to put those learnings into practice. A career development plan can help Millennials identify where they are at in their career currently, where they want to be, and how to get there. 

Remember that many Millennials believe their employer has the greatest responsibility for preparing them for leadership positions. A career development plan is critical to showing Millennials that you take this responsibility seriously. Make sure the development plan includes relevant leadership training

  • Leadership training can be formal online or in-person, facilitator-led workshops that can take place over days or weeks. 
  • As an employer, you can try to do everything above to prepare Millennials for leadership, but sometimes letting someone else with the expertise do the heavy lifting can be an easy way to train your employees.  

Millennials are already taking over leadership roles. But before others do, consider whether your organization has properly prepared them. To learn more about the benefits of women in leadership, watch our on-demand webinar below.

View the On-Demand Webinar: Women in Leadership

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