(Full disclosure: Stitch Fix is a Bridge client).
Companies are struggling with a tight talent market, and with more baby boomers retiring, most employers aren’t prepared with a management succession plan—the next generation isn’t fully prepared to step up. Millennials are becoming the largest portion of the workforce, but many of them feel they don’t have what it takes to be a manager due to the current state of L&D programs.
It’s especially critical for businesses to evolve to meet the unique needs of the next dominant generation, as one-third of millennials are constantly looking for new opportunities. However, if millennials have the opportunity to grow in their own organization, they’re more likely to feel engaged and want to stick around.
Having a strong pipeline of employees ready to step in as permanent managers also helps assure coverage and provides a clear path of growth and development, while also supporting a culture of continuous learning.
The Making of a Millennial Manager
Harvard Business Publishing’s 2018 State of Leadership Development report shows that millennials are accustomed to choice and more autonomy. They also know their technology and expect it to be “a natural extension of development programs.” Also, a clear sense of purpose and collaborating drives millennials—not competing—with a team.
To improve their L&D offerings and help develop millennials to take on management roles, organizations can start by identifying high-potential employees and creating training programs and learning paths. Providing opportunities to gain experience across the organization, even in different office locations or departments, builds valuable networks for employees.
Employers might consider embracing trial and error—and iterating “quickly in a safe environment” to help employees feel empowered and engaged. Creating a culture of learning that includes immediate feedback, micro-reflections, and self-awareness can help employees better develop their leadership skills. If employers focus on how the next generation of leaders learns best, millennial leaders will be better equipped to help transform the workplace.
Leaders Get Stitches: How Stitch Fix Develops Employees
So what are some companies that successfully develop their people and build a strong pipeline of managers? Fashion retailer Stitch Fix is more than just great clothes; it’s a company dedicated to investing in its employees’ leadership development. Every single Stitch Fix employee goes through leadership training, whether they have expressed a desire to become a leader or not. Why? The company wants to empower its people to invest in their own leadership styles and has the “underlying belief that every individual—no matter where they sit within the organization—has the power to exhibit those values and act as a leader in their work each day.”
Stitch Fix also uses leadership training to hold its existing leaders accountable to the company’s leadership attributes. Senior leaders are challenged to ask themselves: “How do we need to develop ourselves to make sure that we’re growing along with the company?”
Bottom line: creating a strong pipeline of the next generation of leaders is more than just ensuring coverage; “it demonstrates a commitment to continuous learning and growth that benefits all staff.”