Millennials. A generation which has frequently been labelled as loyalty-lite, hungry for feedback and with high expectations for rapid career development. Yet harnessing the talent and loyalty of this generational cohort will be absolutely critical in the next 10 to 15 years’ time as many of these Millennials ascend to leadership positions. Deloitte estimates that Millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025. However, it appears as if the leadership development of Millennials isn’t seen as a priority for organizations, according to a Brandon Hall Group’s 2015 State of Leadership Development Study.

The study found that just 20% of organizations identified the Millennial leader segment as critical for development over the next 24 months. Neither are organizations invested in coaching and mentoring of Millennial leaders. Millennial leaders crave advice particularly from senior leadership yet on average, just 7% of organizations invested in offering Millennial coaching, mentoring and dedicated time with their chief executive and other senior leaders.

Attracting and retaining the best of this generation is critical to the future of any business, remarked Seb O’Connell, executive vice president and managing director for Europe at Cielo. “While the Millennial population in the workforce is increasing rapidly, many baby boomers have already reached, or are fast approaching, retirement age. The flight of baby boomers, and consequent loss of skills and experience built up over many years, could leave a significant skills gap.”

O’Connell believes that employers must identify Millennials with high potential and create a strong pipeline of talent that can fill the void left by Generation X employees as they move into senior leadership roles. “Once these talented Millennials are on board, organizations need to invest in their training and development to ensure they have the tools to progress rapidly.”

If anything, Millennials are the best-placed generation to develop as leaders because of their understanding of the reality of today’s world, commented Angus Ridgway, cofounder of Potentialife. “Millennials don’t need traditional classroom-based leadership training. They don’t want to spend time studying. In their time-pressed world, they are eager to get to action. They will respond much better to approaches that allow them to practice and ritualize new leadership behaviors without leaving the context of day-to-day life.”

This is also a generation that is not particularly loyal to their employer. A Deloitte 2016 survey found that two in three Millennials expected to leave their organization by 2020. Chief executives have cited attracting and retaining younger workers as one of their biggest talent challenges, according to PricewaterhouseCooper’s 14th annual chief executive officer (CEO) survey.

One of the main challenges for organizations when it comes to retaining Millennials stems from their focus on company culture, transparency and employer brand, argued O’Connell. “Gen Y employees are more likely to turn down a job offer or even resign if they feel that the organization’s mission doesn’t resonate with them. Millennials aspire to work for companies that are good corporate citizens. As a result, there is greater pressure for organizations to build a compelling employer brand, which reflects their moral integrity. The values that inform the employer brand must be embodied at every level of the organization, so that they are perceived as consistent and genuine.”

Lisa Mullen, global human resources manager at Halogen Software believes that organizations need to retain and engage top talent, including Millennials, by making ongoing performance management part of their business rhythm. “One way that organizations can retain top talent is to provide its leaders with the resources and tools to manage employee performance on an ongoing basis. Creating a culture of ongoing performance management enables leaders to build a framework to regularly discuss what is and what isn’t working, identify learning opportunities and establish and follow a career development path.”

So what type of leader will a Millennial be? Millennials tend to be an enormously collaborative cohort who find strength and purpose in working together towards a common goal, commented J Walker Smith, executive chairman of global foresights and research consultancy The Futures Company. “As employees, Millennials’ inclusionary nature means they’re less inclined to blindly follow orders and more comfortable understanding the big picture and their part in it. As leaders, Millennials clearly must be mindful of the financial metrics of success. But they’ll likely consider ‘softer’ metrics, as well, including employee wellbeing statistics, CSR and brand reputation measures. I believe success for Millennials won’t be a story told solely by balance sheets.”

Walker Smith argued that in order to understand how to develop Millennials as leaders, it’s necessary to take into account how they differ from other generations but also to consider how the conditions under which they will be leading business will have changed, as this is bound to have a key influence.

Originally posted Forbes 14 March 2016