Preparing Young People To Lead

The vast majority of employers believe their companies will be in good hands when it’s time for the next generation of leaders to take over, new research finds.

A study from the staffing firm Robert Half revealed that 85 percent of executives are confident that younger professionals have the ability to become future leaders of their organizations. Just 13 percent of those surveyed said that workers born between 1978 and 1999 don’t possess any management potential.

To ensure that they are properly preparing younger workers to take the reins one day, many organizations are offering a wealth of professional development resources. Specifically, 60 percent of employers offer onsite training; 57 percent provide opportunities to attend conferences, seminars and webinars; and 55 percent facilitate mentoring programs.

Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half, said young employees are a highly educated, ambitious group of workers who gravitate toward jobs that provide meaningful personal and professional growth.

“To retain these employees and develop them into next-generation leaders, companies must provide plenty of training and stretch assignments as well as clear paths for career advancement,” McDonald said in a statement.

To help employers, Robert Half offers several tips to make sure their organizations are providing the proper level of development opportunities that younger workers desire:

  1. Understand what drives them.Young professionals want to work in inclusive and transparent workplaces, with many expecting to climb the ranks quickly. It is important to take advantage of their problem-solving skills, curiosity and confidence.
  2. Encourage their growth.Spend time learning about how younger workers picture their careers in the future. Then, give them tasks to help them move in that direction.
  3. Allow them to lead.Try giving younger employees opportunities to show their ability to lead by putting them in charge of small initiatives. When doing so, you can give them guidance, but be sure to let them set their own strategies.
  4. Give them mentors.Besides giving them people they can learn from and confide in, mentors can help young professionals perfect their soft skills such as communication and collaboration.
  5. Communicate often.Younger workers prefer face-to-face interactions with their bosses. To help guide these employees toward becoming future leaders, spend time communicating with them in person.

In addition to in-person interaction, young employees also want frequent feedback from their managers, McDonald said.

“Even the best performers benefit from consistent coaching,” he said.

The study was based on surveys of more than 2,200 chief financial officers from companies in more than 20 of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas.

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