Find Out How to Win Over Your Millennial Employees

Two people writing leadership on a whiteboard for group of millennials

We have a lot of data about millennials in the workforce. There are more than 50 million millennials employed today, and by 2025, they’ll represent 75 percent of the labor force. Generations Y and Z — those individuals born between 1978 and 1999 — are the next wave of managers and CFOs. They’re highly educated, talented, tech driven and eager to take finance leadership roles.

In contrast to how companies timed promotions with past generations, millennials won’t be held back until they’ve stacked up the years of experience and the job titles. Eighty-five percent of CFOs recently surveyed by Robert Half said they are confident their millennial employees are prepared to assume leadership positions. To further millennial employees’ leadership goals, more than half of the financial executives interviewed said they offer professional development programs to help their young workers gear up for management roles.

Read more about millennials making it to the corner office, from Robert Half’s recent study, and see the infographic below.

Here are four steps managers can take to help millennials advance to leadership roles on their finance teams:

1. Learn what makes them tick

Millennials are a highly educated, innovative group who gravitate toward jobs that provide meaningful personal and professional growth

Paul McDonald


As a group, millennials have been widely studied. As Paul McDonald, senior executive director for Robert Halfm said, “Millennials are a highly educated, innovative group who gravitate toward jobs that provide meaningful personal and professional growth.”

While there are always exceptions to generalizations about any group, here are some conventional observations:

- They’ve been affected by the Great Recession and its aftermath, along with the explosive growth of student debt.

- Millennials tend to job hop more than older generations, perhaps because they’re settling down and starting their own families later.

- This is the first generation in history to be immersed in technology throughout their lives.

- Millennials also stand out with their problem-solving skills, curiosity, confidence and dedication to work-life balance.

2. Help them challenge their abilities

In the recent survey, CFOs said their organizations groom millennial workers with ­­onsite training, conferences, mentoring, seminars and webinars.

McDonald added that finance leaders can also build upon the enthusiasm and energy of this cohort by offering formal and informal opportunities to expand their knowledge.

“To retain these professionals and develop them into next-generation leaders, companies must show them how they can advance in the organization and provide training and stretch assignments,” McDonald said.

Stretch assignments speak to another defining characteristic of millennials, which is a strong desire to make an impact in the workplace. Empower them to grow as leaders by engaging in team-based work projects, taking on extra work and testing new roles.

Chart showing how CFOs help millennials become leaders

3. Offer coaching and mentoring

The coaching and mentoring you offer your millennial employees will help them excel in their roles and learn essential leadership skills.

Consider coaching millennials on your team in interpersonal skills, such as active listening and communication abilities, body language and collaboration as they grow into their leadership roles.   

Also try to establish reverse-mentoring relationships, in which you pair millennials on your team with more experienced colleagues to help senior staffers develop their confidence with technology tools, for example.

4. Provide frequent feedback and reward

Research shows millennials often prefer face-to-face interaction with their managers. That's why you should provide frequent performance appraisals, encouragement and career counseling. You should take a sincere interest in your workers' job satisfaction and career growth, and maintain an open-door policy with them.

Once you understand the professional goals of your millennial employees, you can reward their good work in meaningful ways. With millennials, that may include an increase in salary or benefits, scheduling flexibility, training opportunities, choices of location, enhanced work space and travel opportunities.

As baby boomers retire, and millennial employees continue to take on a growing number of leadership roles in the workplace, you’ll be glad you worked to develop this next generation of managers with strategic training and development, challenging projects, feedback, and mentoring.

By identifying and cultivating their diverse range of talents, you can position your millennial employees for a smooth leadership transition.  

For greater insight on preparing millennials for leadership roles, download “Creating a Leadership Pipeline: Developing the Millennial Generation Into Finance Leaders” from Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF), Robert Half and author Michael S. Seaver

Kathleen Downs, a vice president with Robert Half Finance & Accounting, started with the company in 2000. Before that, she was CEO of a recreation/retail/education organization in Bonn, Germany. Kathleen is actively involved with a number of professional organizations within the finance and accounting field and sits on several not-for-profit boards.

To read more of her columns, go to Ask a Recruiter on this blog, and ask her a question in the comment space below.

More resources for helping millennial employees   

For more information on developing millennials for leadership roles, read Robert Half’s guide, “Get Ready for Generation Z.”

What comes after the end of the alphabet? Generation Alpha? Subscribe to the Robert Half Finance & Accounting blog, and we’ll keep you posted.

Study about millennials climbing corporate ladder

Tags: Millennials