Earlier this year, I made a plea to my LinkedIn network. I wanted to know how organisations best develop those that are young and new to their business. The alleged generational challenges of ‘millennials’ or generation x/y/z (delete as appropriate) has been spoken about to death.
The narrative goes something like…
‘Once upon a time, there were millennials. They had had too many positive strokes. They were not ready for the working environment and jumped ship after a couple of years. They desired meaningful work. They wanted to make an impact without knowing how to make an impact. More needed to be done in education and everyone lived frustratingly ever after.’


This couldn’t be the end of the story. What were organisations doing to get the best from those new to the world of work… getting them off to the best possible start?

When it came to learning and developing the future of their organisation, what were they focussing on?


My network was powerful. My plea well received and in a short time, I had the pleasure of speaking to the HR Departments, L&D, Graduate Recruiters, Apprentice Coordinators of around 30 companies. Huge corporates to SME’s. ‘Pharmas’ to sea farmers.


Here are just 4 of the many highlights…


It must be Meaningful


A job is no longer enough (has it ever been?) and we now need to know and feel that we’re playing a part in something. Companies and industries are finding it more and more difficult to tell their compelling story. Visions that people are drawn towards.


This is why so many graduates now choose to work in Startups. They connect to the mission, the cause and they get to see how they contribute and make a difference.


It’s difficult to imagine an entry-level assistant sitting in their open plan office pressing the power button on their monitor and feeling directly connected to the life-saving aid that their company delivers to third world countries.


In an age of portfolio careers, it is here where organisations are investing heavily. To make a connection at a level beyond salary and benefits. It is no longer ‘time in service’ that breeds loyalty, it is a sense of personal purpose.


People and Relationships


With everyone I spoke to, having the right people around and available to any young new starter was number one on the list. They recognised the huge leap from education into a working environment and the heavy expectations (mostly held by the individual) that came with that. Yes, it is important to provide the correct level of support and guidance but this is as much about developing relationships skills. Trust, communication and feedback to name a few.


HR, a programme coordinator, supervisor/manager and a mentor tended to be the minimum a new start might expect.


In addition to this, the next level introduced internal coaches and cross-department relationships.


At the highest level, it was instilling collective leadership within young peer groups. Facilitating meetings, delivering projects, outside of a hierarchical structure, to enable diverse teams from all corners of the company to come and contribute to something together.


Self Directed Learning & Development


This is a favourite of mine. The theme that flowed through all conversations was the values that this generation holds. They believe in equality. Fairness and social justice.


So when it comes to learning they are less keen to be singled out for learning opportunities.


More so, it’s about directing their own learning. Development is hugely important and, if given the time and opportunity, a ‘Create Your Own’ style is preferred.


Imagine a pizza counter with a host of flavours and toppings to choose from. Having a suite of learning options to pick and choose from. E-learning, access to a library of books and materials, personal coaching…. they are the base and will build a tasty experience to satisfy their insatiable appetite for learning.


Let Loose


Once the induction is out of the way, they’ve completed their DPA mandatory training, taken a tour of the building and set their chair and desk at the optimal level, (for Health & Safety of course) space is being made to get creative. To teach the business something new.


This isn’t playtime and sandpits it’s extracting the massive skill set they bring from day one without the constraints of business as usual.


Innovation hubs – a place free of rules to creatively address business problems. An internal hackathon.


Entrepreneurship – making a difference by delivering a project within the community or a cause that sits close to their heart.


Reverse mentoring – young employees mentoring senior leaders. Bridging the cultural gap by cultivating mutual understanding, empathy and appreciation.


These are no longer extracurricular they are effective methods to draw out the potential of young talent. Building their confidence. Providing that sense of positive contribution. Developing their intuition. At the same time, working on tangible skills such as project and relationship management.


It’s good to talk and even better to learn. These are only a few snippets from the pages and pages of notes that I took.


I’m very grateful to those that were kind enough to give their time – thank you.


It has gone a long way to designing and shaping what we do today.


In the spirit of continuous improvement – I’d like to ask if is there anything else that you would add as an impactful method for developing young talent?