Aloysias Aloysias Maimane wonders how we can shift today’s talented young employees from a Sprint mentality to a Marathon mentality. How can we get them to stay for the long haul, and stick it out? He suggest three simple solutions that provide some of the pieces of the puzzle.

I have recently joined a gym and started working out on the treadmill. I realised in my few weeks of training that if I went onto the treadmill I was really going for the short sprints and not for the long marathon runs. Marathon runners have to have endurance and an overwhelming sense of discipline to run such distances. I’m in it more for the short run. It really does not matter how fast I run, so long as it is short and I can complete it. Immediate rewards. I wonder if today’s talented young people come into work in a similar way, expecting a short sprint rather than a long marathon?
The old way was the contract that stipulated that one could come into the company and have long employment durations. It was a contract (or an expectation) in which you’d work all your life with the view of retiring from the same company after 40 years. It was also about having the discipline to stay within a company and the company looking after you as a result. The company would take the same approach to training the employees – that it was all about development for the long term. The output here was to turn you into an endurance runner and treat you like one.
Change has inevitably happened and we are dealing with talented individuals who are not going to be around for the 90km race but could very well leave you after the first 10kms. These are the same young people who will see their work as a series of short sprints with different companies, or different projects within the company – so long as they are sprints.
We are fast moving into an economy where today’s talent want the short sprints. They rather see their work as short-term orientated and want to excel at that particular project. For today’s industry the question is, ‘how well can one mine the talent in this short sprint?� You see today’s talent will want each of the projects that they enlist for to allow them to express who they are, in terms of skills, and to develop them and help them become more employable. They will want to be given feedback in short spaces of time, or rather just-in-time for their next sprint. Talent see work as portraits and want each of their last portraits of work to leave you breathless.
Tom Peters, in his Talent tips booklet, talks about young people coming into the workplace potentially bringing innovation and skills with them. They’re new, fresh. They carry with them a new sense of arrogance. Each of these talented individuals act as if they are in themselves CEO’s of Me Inc (actually, they are!). It is the simple fact that they manage who they are and will add skills and information that will continue to develop them and keep their CV’s warm.
So how do we tap into this talent and skills? How do we leave talented individual pouring their passion into what they do?
Here are some possible solutions:

Acknowledge that one is working with talent

The new economy does not bring with it young people that will follow conventional rules and working methods. It will bring with it young people who need self-expression. The industry’s responsibility is to mine out the expression of that talent. “We have work to do and so time for self-expression does not exist!’ are cynical comments I often hear! It is critical to understand that without the expression of talent, retention of the very same talent is limited. You are dealing with a person who will intentionally want to do work that is purposeful and helps them feel that their passion is utilised. It is important that this component is built into their workspace. The risk of not allowing this expression is as dangerous as the risk of not wanting to bring innovation into the industry, so the supposed fear is that if one fails to innovate one begins to die.

Tap into passion

Passion is a driver in the connection economy. Jim Jannard, of Oakley, is quoted as saying, “I want our people when they walk in to be so stoked they can hardly stand it. I want them to be dying to come back tomorrow. I want them to be desperate to find a place where they can use their own particular talents to add to us and make us greatâ€?. How passionate about their work is the talent that you are recruiting? An increased sense of the “Wow! factorâ€? needs to return to the very projects that each of these talented individuals are involved in. The creation of the Wow! factor is the assurance of people that they can fail at this project without it being a risk on their employment. Talent must be given the liberty that any creativity and adventure that they bring to the project will be incentivised and built into their sense of development. It is the applause at the end of each project that motivates and often fuels passion.

A New volunteer movement

Today’s talent will need to volunteer more for projects that at times may even seem uninteresting and sometimes even unrelated to the work that they do. In a South African economy it is not always possible to move from one job to the next. Having said that it is critical that within the environment that one is in, that one begins to diversify ones skills and really do all the extra bits. In a sense, when one volunteers the motivation is different. It has everything to do with the personal development and creating breathtaking moments. The reward needs not always be financial but a drive and inspiration for today’s talent to self-actualize.
In my work with Non-Government Organisations, I realized that within an environment that does not have all the stable, cushy perks that come with the corporate sector, the NGO sector seems to mine out more skills out of it’s people and develop better leaders. I suppose where there are sacrifices to be made by individuals and employers, passion is stirred. It is key to allow the expression of talent in projects. Allow them to run short sprints. You can almost be guaranteed that they will not be with you forever but in the time spent how does one fully allow them to become medal winners in their sprints. Could we see a string of performances in the new economy that will leave competitors, customers and clients breathless when the see your staff in action.

Aloysias Maimane is part of the network of futurist strategy consultants and keynote presenters. He can be contacted at

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