By 2025, Generation Y will make up 70% of the global workforce. It’s clear that organisations must prepare for the shift of senior executive roles to Generation Y, despite a recent Odgers Berndtson report suggesting that 59% of companies are unprepared to deal with this transition to the next generation of leaders. The pressing question is – are the attributes of Gen Y suited to senior leadership roles? It’s important to look at both sides of the coin.

Pros

Generation Y are an inherently social demographic who find it far easier to communicate effectively through their increased connectivity via social media and telecommunications. This in turn is likely to reflect in their management styles as they look to communicate with team members and ensure projects remain on track throughout the process, rather than initiating a one-off review once all the hard work has been done. If we combine this with Generation Y’s demand for a more collaborative leadership style – involving an entire business in decision making processes, rather than reaching conclusions behind the closed doors of the boardroom – it becomes apparent that organisations under Generation Y leadership will become much flatter, rather than bound by strict hierarchies.

The naturally inquisitive nature of Generation Y can also bring positive changes into a business. With constant access to information through the internet and mobile devices, Generation Y expects the same ease-of-access and transparency in the workplace. This can mean access to company information, availability of research tools and freedom in terms of training and development processes. If these characteristics are present in senior management, it could translate into a more transparent business model, while offering the flexibility required by newer generations demanding control of their own career development.

Millennials as a generation are far more flexible when it comes to the work environment. They are less focused on rigid working hours and more focused on blurring the lines between working and social life. In terms of rewards – they’re far more aware of alternative benefits, opting for rewards such as increased holiday over financial incentives. This contemporary understanding of what the modern employee requires will allow Generation Y to connect with their employees as managers, leading to increased employee engagement and retention.

Cons

While Generation Y’s tendency to challenge traditional ideas and hierarchies can often bring about positive change in a business, it can also cause negative disruption in the workplace as the ‘old guard’ of senior management struggle to adapt.

Generation Y are generally seen as fickle in terms of longevity of their role at a company. They can be fiercely loyal to a company while working there, but won’t hesitate to jump between jobs in order to advance their careers. The key here is to harness the benefits they can bring to a business, before they decide to move on. This inherent ‘selfishness’, as many call it, can be a potential problem if present in those responsible for leading a team.

Generation Y leadership training and development 

This is a key factor to consider when discussing the leadership merits of Generation Y. Have the previous senior managers passed on their wisdom and knowledge, implementing effective training programmes to prepare the next generation for management level roles?

Generation Y in general have shown a real demand for more informality in the workplace learning process. They expect access to company intranets with learning materials, to be able to learn through networking with their peers, while also being given the freedom to create their own learning systems in the workplace. In many organisations this learning development culture can excel, helping to prepare Generation Y through giving them control of their own training and personal development. This autonomy is exactly what is demanded and can in turn help to retain talent.

Lawrence Knowles, Director, MidlandHR

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