Complex Made Simple

How to make sure millennial leaders impact your business positively

‘’When we speak about utilising innovation to transform our planet’s future and preserve its resources, to allow its citizens a life of unparalleled comfort in their old age, it is the younger generations to whom we must turn.’’ – Henk de Jong, CEO Philips Latam


The Middle East, with its rapidly expanding youth, holds the key to building the strong societies of tomorrow in the region. For the challenges we face here are but a microcosm of those faced by the entire world. Yes, we have some challenges, but the foreword puts it into perspective.

Who are the next generation? The millennial generation – those born between 1980 and 2000 – are today’s youngest working segment and they also will become the largest, comprising an estimated 75 per cent of the global workforce by 2030.

All-time high

As cited in the latest Aon Hewitt Qudurat TM research study, along with the economic opportunities that exist in the Middle East, the region is similarly endowed with a young and growing population, according to an Arab Human Development Report (AHDR).

“The number of children and youth is at an all-time high in the region. The increase in the proportion of 15- to 24-year-olds in the total population, referred to as the ‘youth bulge’, a rapid growth in the number of young people in the region’s modern history.”

This could prove to be a hugely significant demographic dividend. Having a larger proportion of the population in the working age pool may enable the region to develop a diverse and flourishing economy, based on its human capital potential.

The reverse also applies. If the Arab world is unable to effectively develop its future generations, the outlook would look less promising and we could instead be facing a demographic time-bomb.

If this does not awaken us to be prepared for the next generation, nothing will.

Critical focus areas

Recruiting and managing multi-cultural millennials are critical areas that require an understanding of their unique motivators, preferred leadership style and influences of our youngest generation in the workforce. They have different expectations and preferences at work than previous generations.

A critical focal point is to align and prepare your current management team to embrace and understand exactly the benefit of the next generation. It is not wise to ‘’make’’ the new generation fit, but to dovetail skillfully the strengths they will bring.

To evolve your recruiting practices to best capture the attention of millennials, it is important to understand how today’s youth define success as a guiding light for their motivation. The next step is to understand the skills they bring to the workplace upon graduation, so you can prepare your management team to be ready for onboarding, leading them to achieve their full productive potential.

Reap the rewards

Taking on graduates can be hugely rewarding for businesses. However, if you’re not familiar with this group and their needs, it can be challenging to identify talent and to understand what skills need to already be in place and which can be developed from scratch, when the graduate already has their feet under the table. Sourcing, selecting and securing graduates can be time-consuming and it might feel like a leap of faith for your organisation.

But if you’re planning to increase your workforce, graduates are a strong option. Alongside being a cost-effective addition, as they are up to speed on digital and technological developments, graduates bring enthusiasm, energy and a thirst for knowledge to your business, all key to maintaining employee morale and productivity.

One of the main challenges is that, once hired, graduates can find it difficult to adapt to the working environment, with many of them finding it difficult to juggle the demands and pressures of working. Therefore, induction training is one of the first detailed plans that any organisation can focus on for the newly arrived millennials.

An induction for this group requires bespoke output and sets the path for their future development and work expectations and, more importantly, for the adaptations required within.

What would a millennial induction look like?

There’s no shortage of research on millennials’ strengths, weaknesses, abilities and preferences, or what it takes to develop successful leaders in today’s organisations. It’s up to executives and HR professionals to find a way to combine the best qualities of this generation – the ability to confidently take on leadership roles and make decisions, utilise technology to solve problems and bring people together, and the desire to understand what the organisation is trying to do and work to support that goal – and everything we know about what it takes to be effective managers and leaders.


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Providing opportunities for millennials to lead and equipping them to succeed in their new roles can yield tremendous benefits.

Whether we’re ready or not, millennial leaders are here. We don’t want to just get ‘’used to them’’. We want to make sure that we’re tapping their potential to help our organisations, and themselves, succeed.

If you are onboarding, consider, as a minimum:

  • The profile of the graduates
  • The current work status of the organisation
  • Environmental factors

The upshot is you will need to generate a bespoke induction to create the right start and fit for all newly arriving millennials.

Also, make the decision in consultation with current leaders so you maintain alignment. It is highly likely that you will note that some leadership and management adjustments will need to take place to accept the new era. Dovetailing always requires a two-bucket approach.

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So what is different?

The approach should be implemented with the group’s learning styles firmly in mind.

Millennials are more tech-savvy, free-thinking and confident. Sitting them in a training room for a week is not going to be the best approach. You need to adapt the style completely to millennials and it does take some consideration.

While it seems simplistic, dealing with technology, innovation and culture, for example – a focal point of leadership development for previous generations – will largely take care of itself. Leadership and development for millennials, paradoxically, must put much more emphasis on the traditional foundations of effective management.

A good tick list to consider our learning approach to the millennials is as follows:

Consider technology: This era is very tech-savvy and responsive to online presence. They’re digital natives. They’ve grown up online and expect to be connected 24/7, so they don’t really adhere to previous generations’ steadfast notion that an office is the only place where work can be done. They have honed the ability to communicate in nuanced ways through many channels. If anything, their biggest communications challenge may be learning to be effective when they are physically present.

Confidence: On the whole, this group is a very confident and success-hungry crowd; they need to be encouraged to fit the workplace. Their heroes are entrepreneurs and even if they aren’t out on their own, millennials will embrace organisations where they’re allowed to operate as “intrapreneurs.” They want to work with purpose and make a difference.

Traditional learnings: Moving from an individual contributor position to a leadership role requires millennials to have more complex skills, such as negotiation, conflict management and coaching. And they likely will have to apply these skills to manage multi-generational mixes of former peers (often friends) and more experienced (Gen X or even baby boomer) employees.

Language: It sounds like an odd concept, but consider the language and approach to learning: there is a whole new language out there if you look. Of course, it is up to you just how ‘’down and hip’’ you wish to get…

Just stopping and considering who we have tapping on our talent management arenas of tomorrow, will make a considerable difference.

Have you actively altered your approach to consider millennials…?

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Some of the most pressing leadership issues will be discussed at the third edition of Top CEO Conference and Awards, set to be held on April 11 at the King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia.

Mediaquest’s Top CEO Awards in the GCC are distinctive because only the CEOs of listed companies are eligible. The awards are based on the financials of those companies; furthermore, the process is transparent and audited. TRENDS is also working closely with INSEAD to ensure that the formula is the most accurate, and with Hawkamah to ensure that corporate governance and disclosure criteria form a part of the ranking.

Learn more about Top CEO here.