Innovative, highly educated and driven, Millennials (known also as Gen Y) now exert strong influence at every level of their organisation.

Recent Census data reveals that the 30–34 age bracket is now Australia’s largest, followed by those aged 25–29. Basically, if you’re not focused on attracting and retaining gen Y talent, you risk losing your competitiveness.

So how can you groom your millennial employees into your next generation of leaders?

Managing millennial workers: Communication matters

Like every other group, gen Ys desire a job they enjoy, competent management, fair pay, and a good work-life balance. More than anyone else, though, they crave meaningful feedback.

Their most common questions can include:

  • Where am I going in my career?
  • What matters to my employer?
  • How can I help my employer reach its objectives?
  • How can my employer (and manager) help me achieve mine?

Ongoing communication is key, but make sure it goes both ways. Millennials want their voices heard, and they want opportunities to flex their leadership skills. What initiatives do they feel best fit with their goals? Are they ready to lead a project team? What educational opportunities will build their expertise and broaden their perspective?

Technology is a critical factor. Having up-to-date systems is a major drawcard for gen Y jobseekers; conversely, clunky old technology will drive them away. Remember that this is a generation that grew up with social media, smartphones and the internet. If you’re not current, you’re way behind.

Grooming your gen Y leaders

Once you’ve identified your potential leaders, encourage them to shoot for the stars. Don’t stop at having them manage the day-to-day aspects of a project; give them opportunities to manage key initiatives, set strategy and make big decisions.

Millennials love to be challenged. Formal and informal training opportunities should focus not just on their technical skills, but also on key non-technical attributes such as leadership and communication skills.

Those with the greatest potential may be ideal candidates for your succession plans. Sit them down and explain the opportunity, and why they were chosen. Help them recognise their strengths and shortcomings, and what specific steps they must take to advance up the ladder.

This kind of mentorship is essential for all up-and-coming leaders. Will you take on this role personally, or ask a senior manager to step in? Whoever ends up taking on the role of mentor will need to be able to help the employee build both their technical and non-technical skills – with the fine art of managing and motivating a diverse team being a key focus.

We’re living in the digital disruption age, so managers should not overlook reverse-mentoring opportunities, particularly when it comes to social media and other emerging technologies. Gen Y staff can offer an abundance of guidance to the gen X and baby boomer generations on new technologies, which inevitably helps to encourage a positive culture of change within the workplace.

Diversity is strength

Millennials are the future of our workforce. But the best teams bring together workers of all generations. Give your future leaders a chance to network and build relationships with people throughout the organisation, so they can learn about the business from colleagues with diverse backgrounds, experiences and responsibilities.

Yet generational change in the workplace doesn’t happen without challenges, which is why it’s important to create a culture where change is not only expected, but openly embraced.

Much digital ink has been spilled about the millennial generation. Like countless generations of people before them, they are driven, creative and eager to make their mark in the world. Unlike previous generations, they have a vast array of digital tools at their fingertips that they can use to leverage their energy and talents. Do you have what it takes to nurture the next generation of business leaders?