Millennials and Younger Leaders Are Most Critical of Leadership Development Programs

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Millennials feel today’s L&D programs lack innovation, on-the-job impact, and expertise from outside sources, according to Harvard Business Publishing’s 2018 State of Leadership Development Report

Only about 50 percent of millennials surveyed said there was strong alignment between program content and the business issues they face within their organizations – including transformation efforts in progress. In contrast, 75 percent of baby boomers recognized strong alignment.

Harvard Business Publishing, partner to Global 2000 companies in co-creating leadership development solutions that align with strategy and engage learners, found only 40 percent of millennials and younger leaders – aged 36 and younger – described their organization’s learning and development (L&D) programs as “excellent,” compared to 67 percent of baby boomers – aged 56 and older. This disparity between age cohorts is troubling for L&D managers, as millennials comprise a growing and increasingly influential portion of the workforce. However, this finding should also serve as a rallying cry to L&D managers around the globe that the time has arrived to reinvent leadership programs to more effectively engage millennials while meeting organizational needs.

Millennials and younger leaders have different expectations of leadership development when it comes to technology, relevance and choice. For example, while time constraints were cited as the biggest challenge for all respondents, the 36-and-under set was much more likely than older leaders to identify poor content, insufficient thinking and expertise from outside sources, and a failure to prove return on investment as the biggest barriers to leadership program effectiveness.

Additional insights from millennials and younger leaders:

  • Leadership development programs lack relevance: Only about 50 percent of millennials surveyed said there was strong alignment between program content and the business issues they face within their organizations – including transformation efforts in progress. In contrast, 75 percent of baby boomers recognized strong alignment.
  • Improvements are critical and should start with innovation: Millennials want to see significant improvements to L&D programs and expressed the strongest agreement around a need for technology innovation. Introducing new content and delivery tactics, such as gamification, simulation, social platforms, mobile and video are examples of new learning technologies L&D teams can deploy.

“Millennials represent the largest share of today’s workforce, and with Generation Z just arriving, it is critical that L&D teams understand the perceptions of leadership development from younger leaders,” said Ian Fanton, senior vice president and head of Corporate Learning at Harvard Business Publishing. “As learning increasingly becomes a significant source of competitive advantage in today’s complex business world, organizations need to think about their leadership development less like programs and more like continuous experiences. In order to engage younger leaders, these experiences need to emphasize why the learning is relevant to both the business and the learner, be easily accessible, be built on a foundation of trusted content, and include capabilities to effectively drive organizational transformation.”

As today’s current and future leaders, millennials will be in a prime position to drive large-scale organizational transformation and new approaches to the design and delivery of leadership development programs. L&D teams will need to tap into these leaders’ energy and creativity to build innovative programs that drive change throughout their organizations.

To read the full State of Leadership report, visit http://www.harvardbusiness.org/2018-state-leadership-development-report

About the survey
In August 2017, Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning, with independent research firm Stingray Research, conducted an online survey of 734 L&D and line of business (LOB) practitioners. All the respondents were from corporate organizations with more than 1,000 employees. Nearly 70 percent of the organizations were publicly traded, with the remainder privately held. The respondent mix was roughly half L&D and half LOB practitioners.

Geographically, half worked in organizations based in North America, while others were based in Asia; Europe, the Middle East, or Africa; and Latin America. Respondents’ organizations reflected a diverse array of industries. Manufacturing, financial services, and technology had the greatest representation, while other industries included healthcare, pharmaceuticals, energy, retail, transportation, leisure and media, professional services, telecommunications, consulting services and construction.

About Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning
With more than 25 years of success delivering dynamic learning experiences to the world’s biggest brands, Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning partners with Global 2000 companies to co-create leadership-development solutions that align with strategy and engage learners. The company combines unrivaled subject-matter expertise and scale with unmatched flexibility and contextualization to bring the right programs to the right learners in the most useful ways. From highly focused executive leadership programs to enterprise-wide engagements for thousands of global employees, each learning experience leverages the remarkable depth and breadth of Harvard Business School and Harvard Business Review resources, industry experts, technology-enabled and user-friendly solutions, and a creative, collaborative mindset to help clients discover something new. The result is stronger companies better prepared to meet their challenges and thrive both today and in the future. Harvard Business Publishing is comprised of three market groups, Higher Education, Corporate Learning, and Harvard Business Review Group, and is an affiliate of Harvard Business School. For more information on Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning, visit http://www.harvardbusiness.org. Follow the company on Twitter @HBPCorpLearning and connect with other talent development leaders on LinkedIn through the Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning Group.

Media Contacts:
Laura Beauregard
407-734-7320
HBP(at)pancomm.com

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Marisa Naughton
@HBPCorpLearning
since: 09/2009
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