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Grow your Millennial Leaders today!

In a global survey conducted by Deloitte on CEOs of major corporations, only

  • 7% admitted that they had a millennial leadership programme,

  • 13% said that they developed global leaders, and only

  • 14% had a leadership succession plan.

This flies in the face of changing global trends. There is higher unemployment among the older workforce, largely due to shifting manufacturing base and technical obsolescence. The result of Brexit and the US Presidential elections are partly due to these. This problem is compounded by a higher proportion of higher educated millennials, who are adept at technology and grasp the way of the new economy. Singapore is not spared these demographic shifts.

According to SingStat, the percentage of the population who have a degree was 17.5% in 2005, and that rose to 28.2% in 2015. And of those who have a degree, the proportion of those aged 25 - 40 rose from 36.1% in 2005 to 52.3% in 2015.

But more startling is that when one includes polytechnic diploma and professional certification holders, collectively termed tertiary educated, a full 76.6% are in the 25 - 40 age group!

This means that more than three quarters of tertiary educated people in Singapore are Millennials, or near-Millennials. And with higher education comeshigher expectations. More Millennials are expecting at least a supervisory position for their first job; with many expecting to make manager in three short years. Unrealistic? Yes, if you are looking at this from the old-world paradigm. But with the shifts come a need to address the situation head-on, and keep Millennial Talent from jumping ship too soon. Millennials are not afraid to throw in the towel when the job does not meet with expectations and jump to the next available opportunity. Their risk appetite is much higher than Gen Xs, and they are not afraid to simply "bum around" doing some odd job here or there to maintain living expenses, before landing the next job, preferably one which can meet their career aspirations.

But what does this do to organisations, especially when the Millennial Talent has good leadership potential, and earmarked for higher appointments over the course of the next 5 years (a timeline which is impossible for millennials to grasp)? A scramble to hire in new talent, disrupting the course of work as the replacement is selected, hired, onboarded and settled in. By the time the new normal is established, it could well be 4-6 months later, and that might start a new cycle of hiring if this new millennial is dissatisfied with latent opportunities.

There is therefore a need to start looking for, and developing, millennials for leadership position now, rather than wait another 5 to 10 years when they are in the "right position" to receive such training. By that time, it would be too late, and to the detriment of your company.

But, I suppose this begs the question:

Why the need for a specialised Millennial Leadership Programme?

After all, a leader is a leader, right? The five leadership practices which one training organisation preaches are the same for a Baby Boomer, Gen-X or Millennial Leader, correct? Shared vision is shared vision.

Or is it?

There is a growing trend for contingent work around the world. The matured displaced workers, being unable to secure a full time job, will offer their experience and knowledge on a project basis, helping startups and businesses on a needs basis. Other millennials who prefer to hone a specialised craft will offer part of his/her time to earning an income, again on a needs basis. In Singapore, with the focus on lean workforce, and the reduction in availability and dependence on foreign labour, there is big pressure on cutting headcount to maintain competitiveness, increasing worker productivity, and keeping expenses off-budget. All these fuel the rise of the contingent workforce and create a new paradigm in organisational leadership. Then more questions arise including:

  • Should we train the contingent workers?

  • How do we integrate them with the organisational culture?

  • How do we increase collaboration with other teams?

Indeed, how does one have shared values when contingent workers are not there to share those values with you over time? To them, the work is a means to an end, and your organisation's values don't mean very much to them. How do you lead such a diverse team if you are not adequately trained?

Previous leaders did not have to deal with such complex issues and no one is really looking into these matters in the organisation at this moment. When commingled with a relatively inexperienced and inadequately trained Millennial Leader, the results will be disastrous. But that is not the Leader's fault; it is the organisation's. Hence, there is now a pressing need to create a leadership programme specially designed for Millennial Leaders that take into account the following:

(1) Customer focus

With the advent of design thinking, there has been a shift away from product and process to customers and people. But millennials can be myopic in their views not because they lack intellect, but experience and repertoire. So in an organisational setting, they will only see product and process, and if are not given a customer-focus mindset from the outset, their decisions may run counter to business needs. The Millennial Leadership programme must instil the importance of always being customer focused, and appreciate what their actions bring to the customer, even if they are hidden far inside the bowels of the organisation.

(2) Diverse team collaborations