So much has been written about how different Millennials are from the rest of humanity that you’d think aliens had abducted this new generation and replaced them with completely irresponsible, self-absorbed tech junkies. But when it comes down to it, there’s really only one difference that matters when comparing Millennials with past generations in the workplace: Millennials have more bargaining power than other generations had. And what are they demanding? According to research from Gallup, Millennials want an employer that cares about their career development.
And that’s a good thing. Showing a genuine interest in helping Millennials develop their careers is not only the best way to attract and retain them, it’s also the best way to keep your company competitive during the next 10 – 15 years as Baby Boomers are retiring en masse.
Different Question, Same Answer
I recently presented on succession planning at the annual Community Social Services Employers Association of BC conference. During a Q&A period someone asked me how they can possibly implement a succession plan when they can’t even afford to pay their employees competitive wages. This makes it nearly impossible to retain employees for very long which makes succession planning pointless.
The answer to this question is… get serious about your employees’ career development.
As I’ve said before, the engine of succession planning is an effective career development plan for every employee. With that in mind, consider this. Employers who can’t afford to pay their employees competitive wages can offer employees something that many other employers don’t: great managers who genuinely care about their employee’s career development, even if their career development takes them elsewhere.
When I suggest that, the immediate reaction of many business leaders is “Why would I invest in the career development of someone who’s likely going to leave me?” Well, let’s look at your alternatives. You can either:
- not invest in your employee’s career development and have them be less productive, less engaged, and more likely to leave you to develop their careers elsewhere, or
- invest in your employee’s career development and make them more productive and engaged while they are with you, as well as more likely to remain with you longer.
At least some of those employees will identify with the mission of the organization and want to stay for the long haul. And remember, career development does not need to cost any money at all. The best career development comes when people are given incrementally greater responsibilities and more broad experiences.
Four Keys to Creating a Culture of Talent Development
So how can employers make career development part of their corporate culture and identity?
- Make talent development a strategic priority. Culture starts at the top. Talent development needs to be on a very short list of the CEO’s top priorities. When it is, it won’t take long for everyone else to get the message.
- Separate career development from the performance review. This demonstrates that career development is a priority and allows for more frequent, informal career development discussions.
- Keep it simple. Offer managers some sample questions to help them initiate career development discussions with their staff. Also provide them with a form to capture employee feedback, but don’t force forms on managers or employees.
- Get serious about succession planning. Developing leaders at all levels is the natural destination of career development discussions, and the ultimate sustainable competitive advantage.