Developing Managers and Leaders Among a Millennial Workforce


Millennials, born between 1981 and 1996, dominate the workforce right now. According to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. workforce right now, comprising 35% of labor force participants.

Generation Years Born Workforce (as of 2017)
Millennial/Generation Y 1981 to 1996 56 million
Generation X 1965 to 1980 53 million
Baby Boomers 1946 to 1964 41 million
Post-Millennial/Gen Z/Centennial 1997 and later 9 million
Traditionalists/Silent/Greatest Generation 1945 and earlier 3 million

Millennials are digital natives. They are constantly connected through their mobile devices, desktops and laptops, wearable technology, and voice-activated assistants. They want and expect to learn on the job, and according to LinkedIn’s annual workforce survey, they want to do it through fully self-directed and independent learning.

This article explores how to cultivate millennial leadership.

Related: Generational Differences in the Workplace (Infographic) >>

How to Develop Millennials Into Leaders

The millennial generation might have a negative reputation with regards to work ethic, but a Medium article titled “The 14 Most Destructive Millennial Myths Debunked by Data” found that millennials are quite similar to their parents and traditionalist grandparents when they were the same age. Their motivations, loyalties, generosity levels, and self-views tend to be related more to age and stage of life than to the year they were born.

Pew Research also found that millennials aren’t job-hopping any more than Generation X did: about 60% of Gen X workers and 63% of millennial workers worked at their jobs 13 months or more. Similarly, about 22% of both Gen X and millennials reported 5 years or more at their jobs.

To be successful, you’ll need to learn not just how to develop millennials into leaders, but also how to motivate people who are early in their career. Start by creating an environment or workplace culture that encourages, supports, and facilitates learning and development.

Start With the Hiring Process

Share with prospective employees your policies for leadership and employee development, and show potential hires how you facilitate continuing education and career growth for your employees.

Gamify It

Recognize employees who hit and exceed learning and development (L&D) milestones with rewards like gift cards, lunch with the CEO, PTO hours, or another award that resonates with your team. Some companies reward employees for being first to sign up and complete training while others track the number of total training hours.

Create a Culture of Learning

Schedule monthly brown-bag lunches where employees who participate in the L&D process can share takeaways, discuss what they’ve learned, and brainstorm ideas for putting their new knowledge into practice. You might also hold so-called “AMA”—“ask me anything”—sessions where employees who’ve yet to partake in the L&D process can ask participants questions about curriculum, time commitment, difficulty, and anything they want to know about your learning program.

Make It Easy to Learn

Learning and development are key to employee engagement and retention. Employees who stay at jobs are 24% more likely to say they had access to L&D development, according to a survey by Culture Amp. Consider whether a tuition reimbursement program for continuing education would be as effective as a custom-built workforce education program from a university. Companies can deduct up to $5,250 per employee per year for tuition reimbursement (see IRS Publication 15-B 2019, Employer's Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits). Make it easy to access coursework, and allow managers to allocate resource hours to L&D. You can do that by partnering with an online, accredited educational partner.

How Custom-Built Workforce Education Programs Work

We can use our model at Purdue University Global as a basis to explain how education partnerships work.

Our education partnerships are based on the world-class foundations of Purdue University. We help enterprises create specialized course bundles to prepare workers for leadership and employee development. We can also create customized degree and certificate plans to help your workforce advance their careers.

All of the coursework takes place online, so your employees can work at their own pace and have the flexibility to access content from any device anywhere.

Some examples of Purdue University Global’s L&D work includes:

  • A security officer training program for a security company that offers 20 college credits in four areas of expertise: security awareness and prevention, customer service, management and leadership, and security preparedness and response. We created a customized curriculum using courses from our schools of Business and Information Technology and Social and Behavioral Sciences.
  • A medical assistant training program for a health care system that urgently needed trained medical assistants. We developed an expedited program that could be completed within six months instead of the usual 15 months. The resulting curriculum consisted of two 10-week terms offering 33 credits each.
  • A cybersecurity training program for a defense contractor that identified skills gaps among its workforce. We customized a three-course training program to help prepare employees for the Certified Information Systems Security Professional exam, which employees must have in order to qualify to work on government contracts.

Work With a Reputable and Experienced Education Partner

To learn more about Purdue University Global’s customized workforce education and enterprise learning and development programs, get in touch with one of our experts.