Tending The Leadership Pipeline: It’s All About Engagement

Workplace lore has it that a manager who hires a millennial is facing a number of challenges. Among them: how to engage and retain a generation marked as me-centric, fickle, not versed in social or business etiquette and prone to jumping ship six months after utilizing an expensive bout of training. Yet millennials are now the majority of the workforce — and they’re not kids anymore. And I’m growing tired of everyone placing labels on this generation vs that generation. It’s We Generation after all. They’re, we’re already rising up through the ranks to positions of leadership, in some cases they’re, we’re building credible and thriving organizations. It’s time to start tending our talent pipelines with a sense of their maturity and potential — which means deepening your commitment to employee engagement in ways that fully embrace our new skills and mindsets. Nothing could be more important right about now.

Here are four ways to push for more real employee engagement and optimize your leadership and talent pipeline:

  1. Pay attention to their ambitions.According to Deloitte’s fourth annual Millennial Survey, which includes 7,800 future leaders from 29 countries. The bottom line is that there’s a compelling skills gap: just 28 percent of Millennials feel that their current organization is making full use of their skills. But more than half (53 percent) aspire to become the leader or most senior executive within their current organization. To keep them ambitious about their current organization takes a commitment to engage them, providing them with the increasing training and challenges needed to grow.
  1. Mind the gender/confidence gap. Combine the success of women in leadership roles and the mistaken assumption that millennials are somehow immune to the gender gap, and you wind up with a potentially damaging disconnect that may cost you future leaders. As it turns out, women millennials are still lacking parity in terms of ambition with their male counterparts. The Deloitte survey found that 59 % of men aspire to the top job in their organization, versus 47% of women. Yet they’re not lacking self-awareness of their aptitudes, and in this regard, women are actually ahead: in terms of professionalism, hard work, time keeping and discipline, woman actually rated themselves higher (45%) than men (37%). Again, it’s a question of engagement.
  1. Encourage cross-mentoring. despite any sense of intergenerational attitude gaps, enabling the cross-mentoring of generations in the workplace has obvious advantages, including a broader span of knowledge and expertise, and clear exchange of social, emotional and leadership intelligence. Create opportunities where Gen-Xers and boomers can mentor millennials, and you’re creating a pipeline of future leaders that will sort itself out: those who rise to the top in many organizations are those who will be able to leverage the wisdom of experience into their own skill set, and apply it to leadership roles.
  1. Fully merge the company culture with social and mobile. We are now all digital citizens, as my friend Kevin W. Grossman noted recently, and in order to fully engage the very generations that are going to lead us (let’s not forget about Generation Z), there can’t be any gaps in a company’s social and mobile presence. That folds back, as well to that Deloitte statistic that only 28 percent of Millennials feel that their current organization is making full use of their skills. And let’s not forget who is going to make up the bulk of consumers.

The presence of this generation has already changed the workplace, but now it’s beginning to change the face of leadership as well. Ground people in the values and mission of the organization, but let them leverage their de-facto mobile and social culture as they begin to reshape the workplace as well, or you’ll hamper the growth of the business.

And each generation of leaders has had their own communication style — so here’s one thing to remember. You may not feel comfortable getting a text or tweet instead of an email, or an IM instead of a phone call. But it’s the same business, and if you’ve aligned your future leaders with the mission of the organization, there’s nothing to worry about. Trust me on this.

A version of this was first posted on Forbes.