Building Coaching Cultures with Millennials and Millennial Leaders

Updated: Aug 30, 2019


Organisations today who ignore the needs of Millennials and the next generation (known commonly as Gen Z) do so at their peril.


Where does the Millennial generation fit in terms of age?

Generation Z: Born 1997-99

Young Millennials: Born 1993-96

Core Millennials: Born 1987-92

Mature Millennials: Born 1982-86

Generation X: Born 1965-81

Baby Boomers: Born 1946-64


In 2011, PwC embarked on a two-year study looking at the future impact that Millennials would have in their business. They determined that by 2016 their workforce would be 80% comprised of Millennials. (Read the study here.)


This study came about as they started noticing different behaviours from this generation particularly with regard to how long they stayed in the organisation, something that is still observed today and yet not widely understood.


More recent research indicates that by 2020 the world’s workforce will be predominantly (over 50%) made up of Millennials and the younger Gen Z generation. With older generations also staying in the workplace longer, it means that for the first time there could be up to five generations of employees in organisations at any one time.


In 2017 the Human Capital Institute (HCI) and International Coach Federation (ICF) built on their signature series of Building Coaching Cultures in Organisations research and released specific research on what is important to understand about this Millennial generation of employees and leaders.


The phenomenon that PwC first started seeing in 2010-11 was that Millennials had a propensity to move on to other companies sooner than their older counterparts. This was not something that a large firm like PwC had previously encountered. This ongoing behaviour has given rise to disparaging comments about this age group such as:

  • “they job hop”

  • “they are not loyal”

  • “they are self-obsessed/absorbed”

  • “they want to work in their own time and on their own terms”

Recent research by Gallup titled, “What Millennials want is good for your business"

came up with findings consistent to those found in the previous PwC, HCI and ICF research. The key question therefore is: Are businesses listening to this research and what are the core elements that organisations can and need to focus on?


If you take a different perspective on what Millennials are looking for it creates a much better and more helpful understanding. Research indicates that they are looking for:

  1. A job/role that has meaning and purpose—it is not “just a job.”

  2. An organisation that provides new job opportunities, development and new experiences.

  3. An organisation’s Vision, Mission, Values and Purpose that are aligned with their own—again, it’s not “just a job!”

  4. An organisation that makes them feel valued and heard and therefore want to have ongoing conversations with their managers, not a once-a-year appraisal.

  5. An organisation whose leaders use a coaching approach with them, rather than the old “command and control” way of working, which will allow them to grow and develop.

Replacing an employee can cost on average 150% of the employee’s salary (Gallup.com) and “presentism” (the concept of people physically coming to work but leaving themselves at the door) is on the rise. It is therefore an imperative that organisations take time to work out how to manage and develop Millennial’s and future generations. It just makes good business sense.


The HCI/ICF research, in line with the above, indicates that the top three activities Millennials want from their job and their organisation are:

  1. Developmental opportunities

  2. Flexible work arrangements – (e.g. working from home, working different hours)

  3. Advancement opportunities

…and what Millennials are looking for in leaders and consider to be the top managerial skill are:

  1. Coaching and developing employee

  2. Engaging and inspiring

  3. Have strong Emotional Intelligence.

What this indicates is the need to develop a coaching culture within your organisation. There are excellent examples of organisations (large and small) who have successfully achieved this and have achieved an ICF Prism Award in recognition.


Finally, it is also vital that the other generations are not forgotten. Organisations need to be flexible and address the needs of different people at their different stages of life. However, the above two top managerial skills of adopting a coach approach and engaging and inspiring employees, are important to all generations. It’s important not to ignore your Millennial workforce and it’s also vital to be inclusive and establish working practices and culture that meet the needs of all generations. What is your organisation doing to meet the needs of a multi-generational workforce?



Hilary Oliver is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) with the International Coach Federation (ICF). She is also a trained Coaching Supervisor and Mentor Coach. Hilary trains coaches and works with managers and leaders to develop their coaching capability. She works as an international Corporate Executive and Board Level Coach, a leadership development designer and facilitator working with a wide range of organisations. Hilary also specialises in working with organisations to support them develop coaching culture. She has been the President of the UK ICF and is a Past Chair of the ICF Global Board.

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