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5 Things Millennials Need to Succeed in the Workforce

Tuesday, January 19, 2016
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One million Millennials enter the workforce each year, according to ATD research. What’s more, by 2020, 40 percent of the workforce will be composed of Millennials; this percentage will increase to 75 percent by 2025. 

Are your organization and talent development function prepared for the changes that come with this generation? ATD’s study Leadership Development for Millennials, which surveyed 592 business and learning professionals, offers key insights on ensuring organizational and Millennial success in the coming years. 

1. Millennials Need Soft Skills Training 

It is startling that 56 percent of the study’s respondents, including Millennials, admit that this generation is not equipped with the skills they need to be successful in the workforce. While Millennials are technologically savvy, they lack the soft skills that research shows creates effective leaders; skills such as communication, listening, patience, leadership, and relationship building have all proven to be challenges for Millennials in the workplace. Organizations will give themselves a competitive edge if they seek opportunities to develop Millennials’ weak spots. 

2. Millennials Need Leadership Development 

Just under half of survey respondents said that Millennials are often promoted to management positions before they are fully equipped to handle them. This may be a side effect of employers’ attempts to retain their Millennial workforce: Millennials are known to seek organizations that can guarantee opportunities for growth and development and will quickly leave one organization in favor for another with this opportunity. One way for organizations to overcome this challenge is to consider a specialized leadership development program for Millennials. According to ATD research, high-performing organizations are more likely to have leadership development programs for Millennials than low-performing organizations. These programs help to ensure that Millennials are prepared for higher-ranking positions before they are promoted. 

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3. Millennials Need Informal Learning 

Millennials do not prefer a formal training approach; 53 percent of respondents reported on-the-job training to be the most effective training and development strategy for Millennials, followed by setting clear performance expectations and providing feedback early and often. Talent development professionals should ensure that Millennials have plenty of informal learning opportunities presented to them. 

4. Millennials Need Job Rotation

On average, Millennials last only two years at a job, compared with five years for Gen Xers and seven for Baby Boomers. While organizations that want to retain their Millennial workforce should of course focus on training and development, those looking for a competitive edge should take their retention strategies one step further. Rotational job programs, currently used in only 28 percent of organizations, present a strong alternative retention approach. High-performing organizations were 19 percent more likely to offer rotational programs to their employees. While this may not be a feasible option for organizations on a constrained budget, it is worth considering.

5. Millennials Need a Strong Company Culture

Millennials are known for their lack of patience with structure and hierarchical organizations, and 54 percent of respondents believe they will have a greater influence on an organization’s culture than it will have on them. Consequently, organizations may want to consider what type of culture will attract Millennials in the first place to effectively recruit and retain this generation.

As with each new generation that enters the workforce, Millennials bring their own set of needs. Organizations should address these needs if they hope to thrive in this new business environment. Millennials are the future of the workforce; let’s be prepared. 

Research for Leadership Development for Millennials was conducted by ATD and the Institute for Corporate Productivity. The full research report, including research methods and graphs, is available for purchase

About the Author

Clara Von Ins is the Human Capital Specialist at the Association for Talent Development (ATD). Prior to working for ATD, Clara worked for the American Red Cross as the disaster program coordinator in Santa Barbara, California.


Clara received an bachelor’s degree from the Ohio State University in psychology and education. She is currently attending the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill remotely to obtain a master’s degree in public administration with an emphasis on nonprofit management and community and economic development. 


1 Comment
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What I have seen in the workplace is that organizations do not spend the resources to train the millennial for leadership positions. In addition, when a mentoring program has been put in place, the Generation X and Baby Boomers resist training the younger generation for fear they will lose their jobs. Have you seen this trend in the workplace?
Thank you Clara for a well-researched article.
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