As we all have likely heard at this point the population size of millennials is huge. So large in fact it is likely that at some point this year they likely crossed the 50% marker in total working population in the United States. Their influence and future leadership in the workplace is inevitable, but what type of leaders will they be? Will this wish to be equipped to solve problems within organizations? Will they lead organizations to focus on processes or people? Will they enter into existing businesses or seek to start their own? We won’t know for a while how they may approach some of these future leadership issues but I thought I would survey some of the millennials that have been through the Impact 360 Institute Gap Year to see if I could get a feel for what they might be thinking and where their interests lie as current college students. Here’s what I learned.

By Now Millennials Are Making Up at Least Half of the Total Working Population in the United States.

To start I wanted to test how open the group was to learning about the skills involved in being a good leader. Are they interested in being developed as a leader or do they believe they will just be able to “wing it?” Studies have suggested that millennials, while often eager to tackle problems, seem to overall suffer from a lack of problem solving and critical thinking. It would be expected that most any age demographic entering the workforce would be slightly behind on these types of skills but having been tagged as the “selfie” generation this group is probably set up for some criticism on that front. Still, I thought it would be interesting to see how strong a desire they had to learn about how to improve as leaders believing that if the results showed there wasn’t much interest then the stereotypes around millennials thinking they have it all figured out would bubble up through a demonstrated disinterest.

The group I surveyed resoundingly seemed to indicate that they did not think they had it all figured out nor were they beyond learning more on how to solve organizational problems. Over 94% of those surveyed indicated interest in continuing learning more about how to be better equipped to help contribute leadership skills to an organization with over half being very strongly interested. More specifically, 92% demonstrated interest in learning more about how to solve specific challenges that organizations face with again well over half indicated a strong interest. These two results seem to indicate strong desire not only to contribute toward problem-solving but also the desire to learn more about skills to help them do so. I see that as openness to growing in their understanding of leadership principles and in their understanding of problem-solving methods. Granted, the results do not guarantee that they necessarily believe in the conventional approaches but that they do want to learn about them. Perhaps this might be seen as an opportunity for millennials to use their unique perspectives to offer new twists on conventional methods to help adapt organizational responses to this technologically rich world in which businesses live. Perhaps, as this Forbes article suggests, some of these future leaders will see solutions that current leaders may not and may be able to help reshape an older company’s reputation for a new generation.

While Many Employers Have Indicated Millennials Seem to Lack Needed Problem-Solving Skills There is Opportunity for Their Unconventional Perspectives to Apply New Tactics Toward Long Existing Challenges Organizations Face.

An additional surprise that the survey revealed was a lesser interest in entrepreneurism than expected. Millennials, possibly due to so many successful tech startups by members of that generation, can be thought of a business-start up type of group. When asked about their interest in learning about entrepreneurism approximately 1/3 indicated strong interest with the largest opinion only indicating they were somewhat interested. It may be that having potentially watched family members and friends of the family lose businesses in the Great Recession has significantly cooled an interest toward starting their own business.

What would not be surprising to most people would be the responses from millennials on their desire to learn better how to work with people in order to grow a leadership footprint. One of the things we have learned from our internal surveys with students in the Gap Year experiences is they value the community they build while in the experience above most everything else. It them makes perfect sense that almost 100% of those surveyed indicated an interest in learning more about how to learn to best work with people to build influence with approximately three out of four indicating a strong interest in learning that skill. It would therefore be logical to assume by the findings that although this particular group surveyed strongly valued learning about how to be their best in both understanding processes and people skills they value people at a much higher level.

People Over Processes.

The workplace is becoming a more and more interesting interaction of Boomers, Gen X, and millennials with each passing year. As I shared in a previous post many employers and some across society continue to have concerns about if millennials have what it takes to succeed in the marketplace. I’m encouraged, however, that among this group of millennials there appears to be a strong interest in learning more about how to be best prepared to succeed in the challenges organizations face in both their processes and their people. Most assuredly millennials will eventually leave their mark on the day to day work culture as they grow in numbers and influence and we here at Impact 360 Institute are proud to help shape their future influence.