Do Millenials need specialized leadership development and is it happening?

One million Millennials enter the workforce each year. Nearly 40 percent of the U.S. workforce will be comprised of Millennials by 2020, according to U.S. Census data. Increasingly, members of this generation are moving into leadership roles. But are Millennials truly ready to lead? And if they aren’t, what are organizations doing to prepare them?

ASTD has just published Leadership Development for Millennials: Why It Matters, reporting on research done in partnership with the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp). The study sought to examine how organizations are preparing the Millennial generation, people born between 1977 and 1997, to manage and lead effectively now and into the future.

These are some of the questions the study explored:

  • Are Millennials entering the workforce with sufficient skills?
  • Is development of Millennials a priority of most organizations?
  • Have organizations made adjustments to training and development specifically for this generation (or do they plan to)?
  • Do organizations have specific developmental competencies for Millennials that address hard and soft skills?

And here are some of the findings of the study:

Millennials are technologically adept and socially networked but not necessarily socially savvy. They are highly qualified in technical skills, but they need to work on other competencies, particularly diplomacy, communication, listening, patience, and relationship building.

Millennials are entering the workforce lacking the skills and competencies they need to be leaders and many believe they are moving into management without sufficient preparation.

What do Millennials say about themselves? The Study found that Millennials, often characterized as being quite confident (some may say overly so) in their abilities, have more insight into their need for development than might be expected. Two-fifths of the Millennials in the study indicated that they don’t think their cohort is entering the workforce equipped with sufficient skills to move ahead.


There is a strong positive correlation between the amount of the training and development budget that is devoted specifically to working with Millennials and success in developing their leadership potential.

Although a majority of respondents agreed that Millennials need specialized leadership development in order to succeed, most companies don’t currently offer leadership development programs specifically for Millennials and have no plans to create them.  However, participants in the study from higher-performing organizations were 57 percent more likely than those from low-performing organizations to have a leadership development program in place designed for Millennials. The majority of organizations use on-the-job training as a development approach but formal mentoring is the only approach correlated to higher market performance.

Another study on informal learning done by i4cp and ASTD in 2013 explains that informal learning “includes activities such as casually touching base with a colleague and inquiring about best approaches before undertaking a new project, chatting with a mentor, exchanging instant messages with co-workers, or reading blog posts Many of the most cited methods and approaches were those that are typically associated with Millennials. In looking at the responses among Millennial respondents in the leadership study, the most cited methods and approaches to development were on-the-job training, providing feedback early and often, and setting clear performance expectations, which are all informal learning approaches. Millennials are moving away from the more formal learning approaches, and are embracing those that allow the enhancement of knowledge to be less formal and more on their terms.


ASTD released the research report, Leadership Development for Millennials: Why It Matters, in mid-March. ASTD members are eligible to receive a free white paper summarizing the results. The full report is available to non-members for $499.  Contact for more information on the report or the white paper.

On May 10, 2013, there will be a webcast with Jay Jamrog, Senior Vice President Research, i4cp and Tammy Erickson, of Tammy Erickson Associates, covering the results of the study.