The times they are a’changin’ as millennials and younger employees look ahead to taking charge at their organizations. New research from Harvard Business Publishing reveals that only 40 percent described their organization’s learning and development (L&D) programs as “excellent,” compared to 67 percent of baby boomers.
This disparity between age cohorts is troubling for L&D managers, as millennials comprise a growing and increasingly influential portion of the workforce. However, this finding should also serve as a rallying cry to L&D managers around the globe that the time has arrived to reinvent leadership programs to more effectively engage millennials while meeting organizational needs.
Millennials and younger leaders have different expectations of leadership development when it comes to technology, relevance and choice
For example, while time constraints were cited as the biggest challenge for all respondents, the 36-and-under set was much more likely than older leaders to identify poor content, insufficient thinking and expertise from outside sources, and a failure to prove return on investment as the biggest barriers to leadership program effectiveness.
Additional insights from millennials and younger leaders:
- Leadership development programs lack relevance: Only about 50 percent of millennials surveyed said there was strong alignment between program content and the business issues they face within their organizations—including transformation efforts in progress. In contrast, 75 percent of baby boomers recognized strong alignment.
- Improvements are critical and should start with innovation: Millennials want to see significant improvements to L&D programs and expressed the strongest agreement around a need for technology innovation. Introducing new content and delivery tactics, such as gamification, simulation, social platforms, mobile and video are examples of new learning technologies L&D teams can deploy.
“Millennials represent the largest share of today’s workforce, and with Generation Z just arriving, it is critical that L&D teams understand the perceptions of leadership development from younger leaders,” said Ian Fanton, senior vice president and head of Corporate Learning at Harvard Business Publishing, in a news release.
“As learning increasingly becomes a significant source of competitive advantage in today’s complex business world, organizations need to think about their leadership development less like programs and more like continuous experiences. In order to engage younger leaders, these experiences need to emphasize why the learning is relevant to both the business and the learner, be easily accessible, be built on a foundation of trusted content, and include capabilities to effectively drive organizational transformation,” Fanton added.
As today’s current and future leaders, millennials will be in a prime position to drive large-scale organizational transformation and new approaches to the design and delivery of leadership development programs. L&D teams will need to tap into these leaders’ energy and creativity to build innovative programs that drive change throughout their organizations.