Exactly how to attract and retain Millennials and avoid creating unnecessary tension with them has become an art form, and important new context just splashed onto the canvas.

Deloitte just published a large-scale survey of Millennial employees (and 1,844 Gen-Z workers) that revealed critical gaps in skill development. In the study, respondents listed job skills they felt were essential and how well they felt their employer fared in helping them develop those skills. 

Here's where the four biggest gaps are, and how to start closing them:

1. Interpersonal skills.

LinkedIn's CEO Jeff Weiner recently named communications/interpersonal skills the number one biggest skill gap in the U.S.

The greatest problem with communication is the illusion that is has taken place. How often have you been in meetings where everyone was just talking past each other, where someone was droning on and causing their audience to tune out, or so many things were left unsaid that a meeting after the meeting was required?

There are many ways to dramatically improve employee communication skills. It starts with realizing it's an area in need of improvement and requires a willingness to invest in helping employees get better.

2. Confidence and motivation.

The fact that Millennials (and Gen-Z) are looking for help here isn't surprising. Research shows self-reported emotional well-being on college campuses is at the lowest level since it's been measured. It's a direct side effect of the high pressure and low self-esteem students feel. 

If you need more tangible proof of this phenomenon, look to Yale University, where a recent course broke the record for the largest enrollment ever. An astonishing 1200 students, one-quarter of Yale's student body, signed up for a class on... happiness? These are your younger employees not so long ago. 

And if you're thinking the youth will "get over it," think again. In research for my book Find the Fire, I surveyed over 1,000 executives (of all ages) and asked if they'd felt a material dip in their self-confidence and self-esteem based on something that happened at work in the past six months. An incredible 93 percent said they had. 

The most important thing you can do on this front is realize we're at crisis levels of low confidence in the workplace, and that as leaders, with your words and actions, you can either plant seeds of growth or seeds of doubt. Be intentional about doing the former.

3. Critical thinking.

When I was with Procter & Gamble, I liked our use of the famous P&G one-page memo--much maligned but undeniably powerful for forcing young executives to think critically and to condense their arguments and recommendations down to a page. It was that old Mark Twain quip come to life: "If I had more time I would have written a shorter letter." 

To jump-start critical thinking skills:

  • Make analysis a requirement. Nothing develops critical skills like digging into data, sorting through it to find trends, and boiling down observations into simple recommendations (yes, even written on one page). Analysis isn't just for analysts--every employee should get practice.
  • Ask why-why-why. At P&G, this is a particularly popular approach among manufacturing plant employees. When trying to solve a problem, start by asking the why behind the problem. Then ask why that's the case. Then, guess what? Ask why again. The point is to stay inquisitive and penetrate down to what the real issue is. Too many people stay at the surface in the name of speed. The lack of disciplined thinking actually means solutions come more slowly in the long run. 
  • Be aware of your biases. Ever been in consumer research with someone who was just looking to verify what they thought--listening only for what they wanted to hear? Being aware of your biases helps you keep an open mind and invites more balanced thinking.
  • Seek outside input--don't think in a vacuum. Working in an echo chamber means it's only your own words that reverberate back. You're literally siloed that way. Seeking outside perspective forces you to expand your horizons and challenge your assumptions.

4. Innovation and creativity.

We all want to bring our unique creations to the world. When we're in an environment where that gets stifled, a deep lack of fulfillment settles in. Here's how to help get employees' creativity flowing:

  • Help them find inherently interesting challenges or pressing problems/opportunities. When we're deeply engaged in such things, we involuntarily open our minds to creative thinking because we want to see such things through to conclusion. 
  • Uncover insight from those who buy or use what you sell. Creativity feeds off inspiration, and you can always find inspiration by reconnecting with the end user of your product or service. The desire to creatively solve others problems/fill their needs is human nature.
  • Don't talk about building it--build it. This Facebook mantra is a great reminder to get out of planning mode and into prototyping mode. When you begin building, seeing your idea come to life stirs your creative juices.

So help close these skill gaps and maybe you'll stop-gap the outflow of young talent. 

Published on: May 21, 2018