Millennials Heading to the C-Suite: Don’t Panic

HR Consulting Chicago

There’s a little debate about when the millennial generation started. Some claim that it began as early as 1978, while others say that it originated in 1985. Let’s just say that somewhere in between those years, an entirely different generation was born. And it’s about to take over your C-suite, whether you’re ready for it or not.

C-Suite Essentials

For Millennials to take over the C-suite, we have to acknowledge what they need to become.

The best executives are both well-rounded and slightly eccentric. They are agile change managers, honest team builders, and strategic, influential leaders. The C-suite demands technological savviness and strong communication skills – traits that don’t come easily in one package. And even with all of those characteristics, the most critical attribute is one of the hardest to find: fearlessness. Packed with knowledge and support, executives often need to be able to take a leap of faith to move their enterprises forward. The risks may be calculated, but they still require a gutsy courageousness that can’t be ignored.

Millennial Stereotypes

With the C-Suite essentials in mind, now let’s turn our attention to Millennials – the subject of many hilarious Internet memes. The common “faults” associated with Millennials aren’t necessarily their fault. They were raised in the age of “helicopter” parenting – where parents tried to constantly watch, protect, entertain, and often indulge their children. As much as some of them may hate to admit it, they are the generation of participation trophies and social media.

Millennials are often typecast as:

  • Being suspicious of big business or authority
  • Feeling somewhere entitled
  • Seeking instant gratification
  • Wanting to set their own rules and boundaries
  • Having short attention spans

The Millennial Reality

As with every generation, Millennial stereotyping has been largely blown out of proportion. The truth of the matter is that Millennials have great qualities, they are:

  • Highly-educated
  • Inventive
  • Technologically-adept
  • Easy-going
  • Respectful of intelligence, skills, and achievements

Perhaps most importantly, Millennials truly want to inspire others. They have big hearts.

And don’t forget: they also just happen to be in your target audience, so what they say and think shouldn’t be dismissed.

C-Suite or Bust

The 82 million Millennials will be entering the C-suite before you know it, with a complete takeover by the 2030s. They are our future leaders, our innovators, and our contributors. There’s no doubt that they will need to overcome some hurdles in order to run corporations. Their biggest obstacles? Distrust and risk aversion.

With all the hovering (and maybe social media), Millennials have acquired a healthy distrust of almost everything – from business to politics. They have also acquired a love of security, with parents protecting and caring for them well into adulthood. This sense of stability doesn’t exist in business, though – especially in the C-suite.

Peace-loving Baby Boomers somehow found their way into Corporate America. Instead of corporate cars, maybe there will be a corporate Uber budget. Who knows?

HR can Bridge the Gap

It’s imperative for HR to welcome Millennials with open arms. Pick their brains. Listen to what they have to say. CHROs need to figure out how to engage them on their own terms, and then develop them into calculated risk-takers. If HR can show them that they are appreciated and supported, then they will develop the moxie they need to take leaps. Millennials are already full of confidence; HR just needs to show them how it translates into the corporate structure.

HR also has to convince Millennials that Corporate America isn’t all that bad. Helicopter parents have lots of rules, and so do enterprises, so they will appreciate the structure as long as they realize that it’s a good thing. They want to achieve, be creative, and make a positive impact on the world – and these qualities are going to translate well in the C-suite.

Millennials will change business as we know it, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It happened with the Baby Boomers and it will happen again, so go ahead and embrace it now. If you do, you’ll gain some important insight for today’s target audience – and you will be on your way to developing your leaders for tomorrow.

And who wouldn’t love a corporate Uber budget?