Sean Graber believes Millennials aren’t ready for the leadership roles they’re stepping into. And there just may be census data to substantiate his claim. As Baby Boomers retire in ever-increasing numbers and leave positions of leadership there simply aren’t enough members of Generation X to fill the gaps being left behind. As a result, Millennials are being thrust into leadership roles far earlier than they might have been in generations past. This rapid advancement is finding some unprepared for the position into which they are stepping. Many of these Millennials are not ready to lead.
Now, before you accuse Graber of gross generalization and anti-millennial rhetoric let me assure you he understands that this isn’t true of every Millennial in leadership. He was quick to qualify, “You can’t generalize. When we make statements like that we are speaking of the average experience. To say ALL Millennials are unprepared would be patently untrue.”
Disclaimers noted, there is truth to the notion that those with less professional experience or fewer years in the work place … well, they have less experience. Graber explains, “Millennials just haven’t had the time, in many cases, to develop the skills and expertise that they need to take that next step.”
So how does he suggest we remedy this situation? Certainly giving Millennials the time to develop is an option, but it’s often not a viable one. Therefore training is required to quickly get young leaders prepared for the positions they hold. Many Millennials would relish this opportunity for increased training. In fact, statistics show that one-third of Millennials rank “learning & development opportunities” as an employer’s number one benefit.
But investing capital into training Millennial employees – who are notorious for having a high turnover rate – can be a scary proposition. Companies fear it could be a waste. Graber disagrees. He suggests, “These learning opportunities are a big part of why Millennials are joining your company in the first place. He suggests, “By ignoring this benefit, I fear companies are exacerbating the problem they are trying to mitigate.” From a long term perspective, investing in Millennials makes good financial sense.
Where then should companies invest their training dollars? Graber believes companies make the biggest impact when helping employees develop soft skills. He believes a focus on helping team members develop interpersonal and managerial skills is paramount. He also believes coaching and hands-on learning environments are the most effective ways to accomplish this. That’s why he created Virtuali. The company’s mission is to help organizations develop and engage emerging leaders. Virtuali’s Go! curriculum is immersive and experience-based. And the training (part of which takes place abroad) happens while the participants continue to work full-time.
Drawing on his own experience living in Spain, Sean knew that real life event had a huge influence on his personal and professional development. Because of this, he considers the final module of the Go! curriculum in which learners are fully immersed in an international environment to be the most exciting. Not only are participants studying what it is like to do business internationally they are applying lessons previously learned to remotely manage their teams back home. The Go! curriculum is a powerful way employers can teach high potentials the soft skills necessary to lead effectively without losing productivity in the process.
to Give You Momentum
- Experience is the Best Teacher
- Companies need to be in the Business of Developing Employee Soft Skills
- A Collaborative Mindset trumps Generational Differences
According to the company website, Virtuali was born because its founders saw both a problem and an opportunity. Sean watched friends and colleagues leave jobs in search of more opportunities to learn, meet new people, see the world, and grow. He knew this didn’t have to be the status quo.
By the time Virtuali launched in April of 2013 his idea was about six months old. Those initial six months served as an incubation period during which Sean spoke with friends, mentors, coworkers and others in the learning and development industry. He gathered feedback and began to network with others who were supportive of his concept. It was through this process that he connected with his co-founder Kyle Borchardt, Virtuali’s COO. The two then built a leadership team that combines men who are new to the industry and bring fresh ideas with others who have years of experience and long-term involvement in leadership development. He believes that this mix of experience and inventiveness is a powerful combination.
If you’re open, willing to learn, willing to put yourself in the shoes of someone else it doesn’t matter what generation you’re from, you’re going to be able to work across those generational lines.
Graber shrugs off the idea of cross-generational compatibility issues on his team. He explains, “Our society makes a big deal about generational differences, and certainly there is truth to the fact that generations are different, but what it comes down to more than anything is mindset.” He believes if you’re open, willing to learn, and willing to put yourself in the shoes of someone else it doesn’t matter what generation you’re from, you’re going to be able to work across generational lines. Continuing he says, “I don’t think it’s a question of when you’re born or what experience you have; but rather are you willing to be flexible and empathetic. It’s those skills that allow you to work through any boundary – generational, cultural, linguistic or whatever the case may be.”
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Why Millennials Are Not Ready to Lead
“The two then built a leadership team that combines men who are new to the industry and bring fresh ideas with others who have years of experience and long-term involvement in leadership development.” – possible nit pick here but just men? What?
I wouldn’t call that a nit pick AT ALL. I would call it an observation! And an accurate one.
Thanks Moly. Not just Graber believes this, I believe.
What do you think of the Go! Curriculum, Alex? Do you think it sound like a viable way to help solve the problem?
It is absolutely a viable way to solve the problem. The only way to effectively develop leaders is through impactful experiences. It’s the same way we use marketing. Why haven’t we used the same process to leadership development?
The Go! Curriculum is fantastic, but I think we can experience the same development without going out of country. The process should look exactly how Virtuali has organized. Self-exploration and assessment > Education to provide the skills > Impactful experiences > Self-assessment
Great points in this story, Molly. Sean hit some key notes for all of us to remember, including experiences matter as do having the collaborative mindset to strengthen each other’s leadership capabilities. From their training approach, they seem very focused on how to deliver a great combination of experience and study to gain momentum in strengthening Millennial leadership skills more quickly, meeting the shorter generational leadership hand-offs.
As with any leader, Millennial as Sean is or older generations like me, knowing what you know and what you don’t know is essential. From here, we can grow, collaborate, and engage in more meaningful ways. Great story! Thanks. Jon
Knowing what you know & what you don’t know IS key… and when the second list is longer than the first (like it is for me) the question becomes what do you get to dig in and start learning next?!? 🙂
Thanks, again, for the forum & opportunity to tell these leadership stories. I learn so much from each person I get to meet!