A Secret the Smartest Companies and the Smartest Leaders Already Know

A Secret the Smartest Companies and the Smartest Leaders Already Know

Here are a few fast facts that warrant every company’s attention.


  • 38% of your workforce is made up of Millennials – born between 1980 and 1997.
  • That percentage will grow to 75% by 2025.
  • Most of them are not happy – and aren’t particularly engaged in their job or their career (around 70%.)
  • The reasons are myriad but the overwhelming factors are brutally simple:
    • Their leader
    • The training and support they receive in the role
    • The specific goals and sense of job nourishment that is offered


Now, a few additional insights that add a further clarity on the above:

  • Bersin by Deloitte suggests that talent development remains one of the top 3 challenges as regards Millennials – and is an essential for a generation that will soon represent a majority of the U.S. work force. And yet most Millennials are incredibly frustrated by their coaching and development – one of the primary reasons they’re projected to leave their place of employment in 2 years or less. Other data suggests at least 4 job changes in the first 10 years at a significant cost to employers.
  • Gallup reports that 87% of Millennials indicate professional development is important to them. Check that – critical. This is the generation less likely to accept the standard organizational patter. They want meaning, purpose, and growth opportunities that align with that vision. A full 71% say that if they know what their company actually stands for that it will make a difference in their decision to stay there.


The Insight


Millennials expect more as regards professional development – but it may not be just as simple as better leaders and more comprehensive training. Let’s take a brief moment to consider the perspective of this – the digital generation. At the risk of painting with too broad of a brush, these assumptions around common characteristics can be made:

  • They grew up in the virtual age – ¾ of Millennials not only embrace technology but consider access to it in their job as essential to making them more effective
  • Work by PWC suggests 67% of Millennials judge employers based on their technical knowledge – and a majority will select the company they work for based on the sophistication of the employer in this area
  • 71% of Millennials use the Internet as their primary source of news. Gallup asserts 91% own a smart phone – my question is where are the 9% that don’t!?!?
  • Their attention span – and a by-product of the digital world they grew to maturity in – is a lot less than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. That’s not an indictment – they process information quickly and move on. Microsoft’s suggestion of 8 seconds for all of us (and the Goldfish example) may or may not be completely accurate – but the overwhelming premise is legitimate. “Give it to me quick…and don’t bore me with too many details.”
  • They learn differently – a lot differently – than previous generations. Placing the prototypical Millennial in an 8-to-5 classroom, covering them with product manuals, and immersing them in countless meetings to hammer training messages home not only won’t work – in many cases it will damage.
  • Shift Disruptive ELearning reports Millennials are 2.5 times more likely to try new technology – and over half of them will refuse to work for companies that limit or ban social media


And now the compelling Problem Statement for every company, leader, and training department – what most are doing to develop this – the rising generation of the future – isn’t working.


More important, the reasons may speak to less the WHAT of training and coachingit may speak to the HOW of training and coaching.


The Millennials look at the world differently, they interpret information differently, and they learn differently – and yet many companies deliver coaching and training in much the same way as it’s been provided for the past 50 years. Sort of like hitching a mule to your covered wagon for a trip on the nearest interstate so you can go shopping for a new Tesla.




Some 10,000 Baby Boomers are retiring a day – the torch is passing to a new generation. And yes – it may be time to literally light the way in how we support and develop those who will carry it.


Ideally, training and coaching in the 21st century will enjoy characteristics radically different from the past. Specifically, it must be:

  • Quick. Think microbursts of learning with specific objectives that are simple to understand/execute against – not laborious learning modules that take days to read and interpret.
  • Accessible. Millennials learn on the devices that are a part of their life – and if you can’t find it in your pocket or pocket book then you are potentially compromising the learning experience.
  • Succinct. This is the generation that grew up in the “140 character world.” “Tell me what I need to know – not what you want to tell me. Get to the point.”
  • Mobile. Millennials are on the move – and inundated with information as they travel. “If I can’t see it on my I-Phone or Android then you are already compromising my life. Don’t kill another tree to build me a manual.”
  • Communal. There is a reason for the success of social networks – the constant inflow and outflow of information that offers a sense of collaboration and belonging can be powerful for the Millennials. It takes more than a village to build powerful employee support. Give this age group training that aligns with larger purpose and we begin to shift the axis dramatically.
  • Customized. The Baby Boomers’ tolerance for bureaucracy – and the sometimes arcane nature of training programs designed by internal experts who don’t do the day-to- day work – has been replaced with the growing impatience of a generation used to quick answers to simple problems. (If you want to test that supposition, take a look at YouTube “fixes” that have replaced direction/installation manuals for almost any product on earth. The average 30 year old goes to the Internet for answers – not to the written directions at the bottom of the box.)
  • Flexible. One size does not fit all – to include “when I choose to learn what you want to teach me. I have a life … don’t try and fit me into the box of a 60 year old.”
  • Innovative. The tech savvy generation has little tolerance for companies mired in 1984 – or leaders who can’t bridge the gap quickly. “I live in a world that changes by the moment… do you really believe that I don’t need support that mirrors that reality?”
  • Immediate. Give me information that I need right now in my life… for the sales call I am about to make; the client follow up discussion I am starting; or the financial report that’s due tomorrow morning. “Don’t make me search a thousand files or a dozen manuals to get the solution for a problem that’s in front of me this very moment.”
  • Vivid. “I learn by watching – show me what you want me to know, and align it with how I conduct my life.” (See the YouTube example above.)
  • Fun. “I grew up in front of video games … I love to compete… this doesn’t have to be as boring as what and how you’re training me now … does it?” Translation – progressive companies who understand the pedigree of today’s Millennials are much better able to connect with them – and deliver a superior learning experience.
  • Collaborative. Today, in every company, scores of workers will do their jobs – effectively building a data bank of potential learning that can shape the future of that firm. But only for those organizations who embrace technology to leverage the insights – and find innovative ways to introduce it to everyone in the company. “Let me give you ideas and inputs to make what we do better … just give me a chance to help make us successful.” Translation – “Give me legitimate purpose that helps me know what I do makes a difference!”


The 12 characteristics offered above are a starting point – one destined to be a part of every company’s training and development approach as demographics shift – and Millennials assume the senior leadership roles of the future. Yes, there will be a day when reference to the above will seem as common sense (or perhaps as dated) as proclaiming someone is “telephone literate.”


The future has already arrived – yesterday.


A final factor – but a compelling one – change often only comes when it is accompanied by crisis – especially when it involves established institutions like coaching, training, and development. Consider:


  • Up to $450 billion is lost because of employee disengagement in the U.S. alone each year. A very conservative estimate would place that figure at somewhere between $150 and $200 billion with Millennials alone. That is a sliding scale and that scale is tipping each day.
  • The value of connectivity in terms of company and brand strategy, for most companies, is essential. Advanced technology offers a channel for the continuous inflow of information that will allow progressive firms to assess success (or failure) instantaneously – not to wait for the next marketing cycle – or worse yet, the next sales report. Translation – “1984 thinking” is no longer relevant.
  • Just in time training adjustments allow a company to proactively address issues – and based on quantifiable analysis input by the community responsible for that work. For every company that literally invests millions in market research – a rich avenue for the future.
  • Predictable analysis tools – that allow organizations to identify areas of the company where there is legitimate lift – and then quickly share vital information that otherwise might be isolated, delayed, and/or ignored – is mission critical in the Information Age. A rewrite on the old aphorism is needed – It’s not knowledge that’s power, it’s systemic knowledge that’s power.


Which carries us to the final point. The single greatest determinant of Millennial engagement remains clear – the quality of the boss they report to. That individual either makes or breaks jobs – and careers. The coaching and leadership follow up that advanced technology potentially offers is staggering – especially when placed in the larger context of Millennial motivators. Does this suddenly fix the larger issue of ineffective managers? Not by a long shot – but it does provide solutions that can empower a generation hungering for autonomy and purpose.


A new era dawns – a few enlightened companies will lead the way.



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