Creating Capable Managers: Tips for Developing Millennials


The Institute of Leadership & Management predicts that by 2020, millennials will comprise more than 50% of the UK workforce. In many businesses, particularly in fast growing industries like technology, this statistic may already be a reality!

The next generation of business leaders are more collaborative, digitally savvy leaders who operate very differently to the perhaps more traditional leader who came before them. Much has been said about the differences between generations, but what do you really need to know about this empowered workforce? What is myth and what is reality?

Challenges of Growth

This year MVF, one of the UK’s largest tech companies, will hire around 100 graduates in roles from digital marketing to sales to technology. In fact, 66% of the people we hired in 2016 were new grads or second jobbers, a trend that is set to continue. Hiring and training talent in our bespoke fast-track academies works best for our business, but when the majority of your employees have never had management experience, getting a funnel of future leaders is a challenge.

Unlike the stereotype that exists about millennials, they actually take their career very seriously. Progression isn’t just about the title or pay rise, but understanding the wider business goals, how they can contribute, add value and be a part of a successful growth story. They don’t want to simply be given the title of ‘manager’, but want thorough training so they can contribute in a meaningful way.

So, what are the key ways you can engage your teams and really tap into the skills of future millennial leaders?

Creating a Sustainable Pathway to Management

After conducting research in-house and externally, we found that our talent wanted a clear path to progression, and development programmes that would feed their hunger for learning and desire for recognition. In order to give our talent opportunities to upskill for progression, and to make sure we have a pipeline of great managers coming through the business, we designed and implemented a bespoke Management Development Academy.

Our six month programme was designed in collaboration with external employer brand, training and coaching experts Fizz Pop Bang and Coachmatch, but has transitioned to be delivered by internal facilitators. By having internal facilitators, the material continues to evolve to be specific and tailored to our business rather than relying on a generic one-size-fits-all management development approach.

The programme covers content designed to give first time managers the tools, insights and feedback they need to be successful, impactful leaders. Existing managers can improve their skills and learn additional valuable skills for the future, and upcoming talent is given the opportunity to learn more about what management entails and also feel invested in and ready to take the next step up when the opportunity arises.

Skills for First Time Managers

In developing this bespoke programme for our millennial leaders we first had to understand what the gaps in knowledge were. While there is a lot of content covered in our academy, there are three themes which are vital to MVF’s success.

  1. Giving and Receiving Feedback

Good communication skills are a must for any manager, and we wanted to make sure that everyone had the tools to make sure this happened consistently, regularly and for the right reasons. We found this was one of the skills our cohorts found most useful.

  • Listen: Millennials are great multi-taskers, but it’s also important to give team members your undivided attention sometimes. This can be hard for anyone but the modern world makes it even more difficult so we train our teams to love silence and give room to each others’ thoughts.
  • Ask for feedback: You don’t know everything and you aren’t expected to! Everyone has blind spots. We teach our teams to create open, consistent dialogue so everyone feels comfortable telling you what’s working, what isn’t, as well as what they need from you to succeed in their roles.
  • Give feedback: Genuine feedback is more than a simple ‘thx’ or thumbs up emoji. We suggest everyone learns how to give constructive, genuine, evidence based feedback, and how to have tricky conversations without diminishing morale.
  • Keep it up: Worthwhile conversations are regular and consistent, so the concept of an annual, bi-annual or quarterly conversation is foreign in growth businesses. Keeping the dialogue going is key to focusing and delivering fast.
  1. Hiring For Success

Learning tactics to hire against the company’s core values helps build a more cohesive and aligned team and drive impact quickly. Teaching future leaders how to hire top talent is therefore an essential skill to equip your millennial leaders with.

  • Planning: Teach your teams to think to the future instead of the now when hiring. What roles and responsibilities are going to drive their team into the future? For this to be put into practice, managers need a good understanding of the business’s overall vision to make sure they are aligned.
  • Interviewing: Really thinking about what questions will get the information you need about the individual, and being able to probe candidates all helps to form a holistic view of the person so you can make the right hire.
  • Fineprint: First time managers need to learn about legal boundaries, what you can and can’t do, and what their responsibilities as a manager actually are. This is vital to mitigate risk across the business, but is often overlooked.
  • Plan yourself out of a role: Our managers are ambitious and want to move ahead. We stress the importance of creating a self sufficient team who can eventually operate without them, so they can move on to a different role within the business.
  1. Adopting Flexible Leadership Styles

During the self-reflection stages, many of our 2017 cohort were quite easily able to identify their preferred management style. What surprised them was learning that everyone should be able to flex between different management styles to suit the situation.

The biggest skill to learn here is that it’s not all about you! The management style you implement isn’t about what you want, it’s about what your team and specifically, individuals within your team need. If your team is motivated by work-life balance and family time, team bonding outside of work may not be as positive as you think. If your team are new to the workforce, they may benefit from daily stand up meetings and regular check-ups while they find their feet.

Creating our own coaching framework and exposing MVFers to different coaching approaches has been key to individualising flexible leadership and creating a new programme catering to our millennial workforce. Our 2017 cohort have also learned to ask the question about how individuals best learn so we can set them up for success faster, rather than making assumptions that everyone will learn in the same way.

Managing the Manager

It’s never a bad idea to take a piece of your own advice, and when it comes to managing millennials, flexible management styles are a must.

Millennials are often characterised by their hunger for recognition; they are digital natives when it comes to communication and most want to work for a purpose over a paycheck. There are some simple ways to change your management style to leverage these motivators to get the best out of your team.

  • Regular rewards: Rather than reviewing salaries every year, or every six months, try offering opportunities for reviews in more regular intervals. Being able to reward achievements with incremental salary increases or other rewards sooner rather than later goes a long way.
  • Meaningful meetings: Digital communications are often easier, more efficient and less intrusive, so of course many people favour them! Face to face meetings are still really valuable but can take up a lot of time if not managed properly. Introduce meeting standards across your business to make sure meetings have a time limit, agenda, action items and are genuinely needed to make face time more valuable.
  • Don’t get comfortable: Business’ grow through great ideas and anyone can have a great idea. Provide the right environment for individuals to innovate; experiment, test, learn and iterate.
  • Invest in the vision: The Gen Y workforce want to know how their time and effort is making a vision become a reality. The focus for this generation is on authenticity and real company vision, so ensure this is really clear from the outset and runs through everything you do.

About the author: Andrea Pattico – MVF Chief People Officer. Andrea has been dedicated to developing individuals to be the best version of themselves for more than 20 years; working for several leading fast-paced international organisations and joining MVF in 2016


Leave A Comment