Training tomorrow’s leaders may require an extra measure of patience and a revamped succession plan for today’s management.
In an age when the younger generation wants it and wants it now and when the notion of loyalty isn’t necessarily as revered as it once was, we must refocus as we look at succession planning through the lens of Gen Y.
It’s clear that Gen Y likes the idea of hopping and skipping their way from job to job instead of “sticking with it” at the company that gave them their first opportunity. And perhaps, in many cases, corporate America has jaded this generation by laying off parents and grandparents just as they reached their peak. In other words, some have come to see “loyalty” as a dusty concept that doesn’t always pay off. Yet, we need to identify the top tier of this next generation and start preparing them to lead.
Also, this generation doesn’t put a lot of value on experience because it doesn’t benefit them right now so they are going to try to sweep that under the rug. Time will tell if their attitude toward experience changes 10 years from now.
So, how do we groom Generation Y for future leadership roles? Or maybe the question should be: How do we get them to stick around long enough to capture those roles eventually?
First we must understand today’s 20-somethings. They were reared in a culture that handed them a sense of entitlement and they’ve latched onto it and won’t let go.
They believe they deserve that job or promotion just because they’ve always been told they could do anything. Regrettably, if they don’t get “it,” they may plan their exit strategy.
Here are the keys to connecting:
Communication is key…it’s everything…to transforming your Gen Y employees into your next crop of leaders. They need to know your plan. Convey a spirit of ownership to them so they can see the possible “golden egg.” The idea is make them “sticky.” Sure, they may take your valuable training out the door and across the street, but they are more likely to hold on if they know they are tagged for better things. You have to show them that you want to make them the best employee possible. Don’t lose them to a competitor who is dangling a larger salary. You have to ask “Would you be willing to pay them that amount if they were coming to you right now?” If someone’s offering them that, it’s because they are worth it and maybe it’s because what you’ve invested in getting them there. You may have to take a hard look at the value of their employment with you.
Coach them on their “soft skills.” They communicate through text messaging and emails. We have to teach them how to have face-to-face conversations, which is what your customers expect. Professionalism, dress and personal interaction are the caveats for this casual co-hort.
Connection with their supervisor is high on the priority list of a Gen Y employee.
They are very relationship-oriented. When they’re not 100 percent satisfied with this two-way relationship, they leave. You don’t quit a job … you quit a boss. That just puts another challenge on the supervisor because it’s everything we were taught not to do. Now we must figure out how to create healthy—not co-dependent relationships—with the new kids on the block.
Consider short-term and long-term loyalty bonuses to incentivize them to stay with you so you see a return on your considerable investment in their training. This lump sum would be contingent upon still being employed with you five or 10 years later. If not, they would have to pay back part of the bonus.
Create a multigenerational liaison committee comprised of representatives from each of the four generations in today’s workplace: Veterans, Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y. Look around your boardrooms and see who is there younger than 40…likely, not many, if any. This committee isn’t decisive, but informative. In other words, they have a voice of opinion regarding policy and training. Bounce ideas off of each of them to find out what they want. Let them tell you what they’re thinking and utilize this platform to see who shines, who’s vocal and who’s coming up with good ideas.
Challenge them with a career advancement ladder. Remind them, if necessary, that a ladder doesn’t just have two steps. Give them the option to participate in a step-by-step testing and training program that allows them to have a sense of progression and validation. This helps to satisfy their need for continual feedback and control over their advancement.
Remember, it’s got to be about them before it can be about you. They are not like other generations who said, “I know I’m going to have to pay my dues before I can move up.”
Don’t overlook your more seasoned employees to cater to Gen Y. Just don’t exclude Gen Y for future plans because they are more challenging to build your succession model around.
Brian Townley is Senior Vice-President of Human Resources and Employee Development for The Banks of Central Texas. Brian is also President of Motivational Management Group, www.motivationalmanagementgroup.com
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