millennial-leadership-cropped-quintin-mcgrathOne of the challenges faced by CIOs and other organizational leaders is managing people. Every employee has a different personality along with a different set of needs and interests. 

Further complicating this scenario is the fact that there are five generations of workers currently in the workplace: Traditionalists (born before 1946); Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964); GenXers (born between 1965 and 1976); Generation Y or Millennials (born between 1977 and 1997) and Generation Z (born after 1997). While each person is different, each generation carries its own motivations and tendencies – e.g. Traditionalists are seen as quiet, loyal and respectful of authority while Millennials are widely viewed as self-expressive, open-minded and passionate about the mission of their company. 

Case in point: one study reveals that 84% of Millennials care more about making a difference in the world than about professional recognition.

HMG Strategy recently caught up with Quintin McGrath, Senior Managing Director, Technology Management & Enablement (TME) group at Deloitte Global, for his insights on managing and leading Millennials. McGrath leads and mentors many Millennials and offered a number of keen insights and observations worth sharing with other technology executives.

HMG Strategy: What are some of the nuances for leading Millennials that you’ve factored into your leadership style?

Quintin McGrath: The Millennial style of leadership is a much flatter, first-among-equals approach. Leadership roles often rotate within the group depending on the task and the skills in the group. For someone who wants to lead effectively, I’d advise them to be open, listen and be empathetic rather than hierarchical.

Leading Millennials requires much more give and take; apply the attitude of “how do we figure it out together?”

Further, Millennials are looking to leave their mark on the environment around them. I look for ways to create opportunities for Millennials to serve the community and to help them make an impact. 

What are some of the steps you take to engage with Millennials on your team?

QM: One of the key steps is to recognize that as digital natives, there are things that they are able to do and come naturally to them that the previous generations find harder to do. There are things that they understand well and that we, in previous generations, need to rely on them for. One way to do this involves reverse coaching and bi-directional mentoring, where you mentor them but also draw from their experiences and insights and let them teach you. Asking someone to teach and guide you is a wonderful sign of respect for them, and something that goes a long way to enrich engagement.

Going back to the Millennial’s desire to make an impact, as we’ve seen recently in the 2018 Deloitte Global Millennial Survey, Millennials want to be able to impact the world, to do something more than just for themselves. The study shows that they are concerned that businesses are too often focused on profit and have too little focus on positively influencing and giving back to their community. I intentionally demonstrate that making a positive impact is important to me, and I invite them to join me in these endeavors.

For older executives who lead Millennials, what would you share with them? 

QM: The world has changed dramatically; much of what I learned in business school 20 years ago doesn’t directly apply to the world today. We need to continually adapt, learn and re-learn. A key resource for learning is the Millennials in your teams. They see things differently, they work and live differently. Leaders must look at the bigger picture, considering all dimensions and perspectives. See it from their eyes and understand their needs, fears and insights, and be willing to change your perspective.

What are some of the things Deloitte is doing to foster a culture of learning to accelerate the collaboration process? 

QM: There is a lot of intensive in-person training over the Deloitte professional lifecycle. For instance, a program called “G-Force” has been implemented for certain people based in India that are entering into junior management. In the program, leadership skills are assessed and each individual is presented with gaps and areas for improvement, such as creativity, decision-making in a complex environment, and communication. From an online perspective, Deloitte works with multiple organizations to provide relevant and focused online training. This allows the flexibility for Deloitte people of all generations to do training at their convenience. 

Deloitte has also invested in a physical training facility outside Dallas, TX called “Deloitte University” and is replicating this in similar facilities around the world. It represents a huge commitment to Deloitte’s culture of learning that extends well beyond Millennial development.

What are some of the topics that are explored in these online training programs?

QM: Both in-person and online trainings explore those topics that are necessary for effective leadership and client services. So, Deloitte looks at how the world is changing and the evolution of robotics and AI. For instance, by the time Millennials enter leadership roles, robots will be a part of the workforce with people. As a leader, how will you manage that environment? What’s the culture going to be? How will ethical issues be addressed?

That training helps Deloitte people determine how to take advantage of automation, so that humans can focus on what they’re good at, such as creativity and adaptability, and leverage the machine for what it is good at, like large data analysis.

There’s a lot for emerging leaders to think about and how to adapt to this changing environment.

How is executive education being addressed at the senior levels of Deloitte?

QM: In terms of understanding Millennials, Deloitte is determined to get a clear picture and make sure that it remains accurate. As such, the Deloitte Global Millennial Survey sought to understand the perspective of Millennials. Millennials are also engaged as a reference group, in order to recognize their insights and perspectives. That’s one big area for Deloitte. 

Another big area is where Deloitte senior leaders have Millennial mentors to help them with social media and how to take advantage of these tools. Further, Deloitte is focused on preparing its senior leaders and is intentionally reviewing the criteria used to evaluate and select the next generation of leaders. 

What are some additional aspects of the multi-generational workplace that executives should be thinking about?

QM: With companies like the Facebooks of the world, there are young leaders of large organizations, and often the leader is younger than the people they lead. For instance, my son is 30 and a part of the Millennial group. He works for a large aerospace company and leads many people, some of whom are older than he is. 

I believe the statistic is that forty percent of people in the U.S. are managed by younger people. This is clearly complex from both the younger leader and older employees' perspectives and requires careful thought and wisdom. That’s going to be one of the critical trends as Millennials move up in the workforce. 

Going back to the aspect of the Millennial’s desire to make an impact on the world around them: I would say that Deloitte, not simply in response to the Millennials but also because of Deloitte Global CEO Punit Renjen’s core leadership approach, has become a purpose-driven organization. Deloitte asks continually, “How can we make an impact that matters - not only for clients but also for Deloitte people, their families and society?” We’re here to make a difference and to make the world a better place. 

Key Takeaways

  • Millennials typically don’t view themselves as having a single leader – they tend towards peer or group leadership, and the leader may change based on a particular situation. A hierarchical leadership approach doesn’t resonate well with this group.
  • One effective way to engage with Millennials is through reverse mentoring – recognize the things they do well that older employees and executives typically don’t (e.g., social media).
  • To effectively lead Millennials or workers in other age groups, start by understanding their needs and interests, and what their triggers are.
  • Figure out how to show that you care about more than profits, and invite your Millennials to join you in these endeavors.