I’m not old yet, but I’m not young either. As I head boldly towards my 50s, I’ve come to a realization: The workforce is getting younger.
Gone are the days where my 80s TV references and 90s business-casual attire are relevant. I’m leading a group of people who are different than I am. In fact, they are different than I was!
Yet the fact remains that the next generation of emerging leaders have arrived on my doorstep. No doubt they’ve arrived on your doorstep as well. So here’s the question I’m facing – how do we nurture and develop this new generation of future leaders? How does a middle-aged guy who once had a Myspace provide a growth culture for people who actually understand AI?
I don’t have all of the answers, but I’m working on it. Here are 6 things that I’m trying to incorporate in my efforts to nurture emerging leaders.
Create a mentoring program
This one will take a little bit of time, but the reward will be worth it. When you pair your newbie with an experienced leader, they get regular investment from someone who is a few steps ahead. The added bonus of a mentoring program is that you create a mentoring culture.
The great thing about your new mentoring program is that it takes pressure off you. Your company, not you as a singular leader, is sharing the responsibility of investing in these young leaders. I’m encouraging these mentor relationships to meet once every two weeks, but whatever rhythm you set, the benefits will be real.
Provide Learning Opportunities
You can provide a variety of continuing learning opportunities that will help your emerging leaders feel empowered and valued. These can be workshops, seminars, webinars, and online courses. The key here is to remember that this generation views themselves holistically. It’s great to offer industry-specific certifications, but it’s even better to offer a menu of training that includes soft skills, cross-training, and other areas of interest. What would it look like if you offered learning opportunities that helped them explore their passions and interests?
Give them stretch assignments
Let me drop some fancy statistics on you.
According to a Gallup, 87% of millennials identify career development as one of their top three indicators of job satisfaction. (The other two are a good culture and authentic leadership.)Gallup, What Meaningful Feedback Means to Millenials
The message here is clear. when you give them challenges while providing support, emerging leaders stay with you longer. These stretch assignments (with proper support) allow them to develop new skills, gain confidence, and prove their capabilities. Those are fancy ways of saying: stretch goals keep them engaged. When a young leader is engaged, they aren’t searching for better job opportunities elsewhere.
Recognize and Reward them
My dad was a workhorse. He got up early, packed his lunch, worked long hours, and never complained. The work was all the reward he needed. Let’s be clear – my dad is not a millennial or Gen-Z leader. This generation gains deep motivation from recognition and reward. You don’t have to go overboard with this, but it’s worth giving some intentional thought into how you will acknowledge the accomplishments and contributions of emerging leaders in a public and meaningful way. This recognition not only boosts their self-esteem but also encourages them to continue striving for excellence.
Provide the right kind of feedback
Back to Gallup –
19% of millennials strongly agree that they get routine feedback at work. The number is even lower when, “routine” is swapped out with “meaningful.” Emerging leaders who have grown up with social media are used to getting instant and constant feedback on the things they post.Gallup, What Meaningful Feedback Means to Millenials
You might now be able to put heart emojis above their door, but you can step up your feedback game. When you help young leaders understand their opportunities for growth, you create an environment where feedback is encouraged and valued. When you combine feedback with recognition and a supportive culture, you will definitely see the results.
Create a Culture of Innovation
The key action step here is two-fold. First, you need a culture of innovation. Second, you need a culture of collaboration. It’s awesome if you are experimenting with AI in your business, but if none of your emerging leaders are given a seat at the table, then they will not stick around.
On the flip side, you can collaborate all day, but if you aren’t utilizing the innovative knowledge of your young leaders, they will be bored and frustrated. Organizations that are winning with emerging leaders are encouraging fresh ideas, experimentation (and the occasional failure that comes with it), and creative thinking within a collaborative culture. When emerging leaders see that their ideas are appreciated and can lead to positive change, they will be more motivated to take on leadership roles.
The emerging leaders who have arrived in your building are more than assets, they are opportunities. You have a chance for a classic, “win-win” staring you right in the face. You get to nurture another person as they reach their goals, AND you get to invest in a sustainable future for your organization.
Here’s what I’m learning – These two things will always be linked. As your young leaders grow and thrive, your business will do the same.
To your success, Ben.
Looking for mentorship opportunities to grow your emerging leaders? Check out Next Level Leader.