How will millennial managers shape the future?

Millennials will prefer a less hierarchical working style to their Gen-X counterparts

Millennial employees now dominate the workforce, and it won’t be long before they’re running those same organisations. So what can we expect of their leadership styles? Jose Carvalho showcases some research from American Express.

We’re fast approaching the point at which millennials will become the largest generation in work. Soon, the millennial managers of today will step into the most senior roles and become leaders of business themselves.

To better understand how businesses will change as millennials rise to senior management roles, American Express surveyed over 2,300 global leaders and millennial managers.

The research suggested how business leaders and HR managers today can set their companies up for success in the future. So, what kind of employers will millennials be, and what will they want HR to focus on?

A democratic and fulfilling culture

Our research found that millennials would like to base their leadership on democracy and run flatter organisations than their Gen X counterparts.

They are firm believers in talent over experience, and want to run organisations that encourage people to rise to the top quickly: 54% say that progression in a business should be based on democracy, versus just 43% of Gen X-ers.

The millennial business leader will also be collegial, listening to colleagues at all levels in the business, and share credit for successes.

They will spend as much time on the culture of the business as on strategy, and will want to invest in fostering a better internal culture.

Millennial leaders are also significantly more likely to invest in CSR than the generation of workers before them, with 58% saying they would invest time and money in CSR if running their own business, compared to 50% of Gen X-ers.

This generation is likely to want HR to share their concern about the social values embodied by the business and help create fulfilling jobs to get the best pick of the talent pool – making sure that the emphasis is on purpose as well as on profit will be key to attracting a new generation of leaders to your business.

A multi-generational workplace

As the retirement age increases, and people work for longer than ever before, it will become more common for people of different ages to work in the same environment.

This means that millennial businesses will see older and younger professionals working far more closely. HR departments will need to navigate the differences in a workforce made up of several different generations.

They will need to make sure they are catering to the millennial call for greater passion in their management teams and their ambitions to progress within organisations, without forgetting the values that Gen X workers have brought to their organisations – such as integrity and transparency in leadership, and a good work-life balance.

Key to managing the diverse workforce of the future will be encouraging dialogue between generations.

It will be important for older workers to help younger leaders navigate the practicalities of doing profitable business, and offer their advice and support in ways that they would not have had access to.

Younger employees, for their part, can share their visions of profit and purpose, and help foster a culture of collaboration and innovation. With so many valuable opportunities to learn, this could spark a big rise in both traditional and reverse mentoring schemes.

Hands-on people planners

Our research also showed that the millennial CEO of the future is going to be heavily involved in workforce planning.

One of their top priorities will be around employee welfare: when asked what the biggest challenges are to businesses of the future, millennials responded with paying employees fairly (49%), followed by retention of talent (40%).

Three-quarters of millennials also want HR to support employees outside of work, compared to just 67% of Gen X-ers.

The kids are alright

Alongside millennials’ focus on purpose, greater meritocracy and passion and collaboration, they haven’t lost sight of the importance of driving profit.

To achieve success, 71% of millennials think that businesses in the future will need to manage costs tightly, and 53% think that maximising shareholder profit is important for success. While businesses will need to navigate these upcoming changes carefully, it’s clear that the millennial organisation is one that will combine passion, collaboration and profit.

Our research also showed that millennials are demanding more from the businesses they work for, and will eventually come to lead, building upon the values brought to business by Gen X-ers. This evolution of the C-Suite will demand new management structures, and businesses would be wise to start thinking about what these look like now to attract the leaders of tomorrow.

Jose Carvalho

About Jose Carvalho

Jose Carvalho is SVP and General Manager at American Express Global Commercial Payments Europe
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