Millennials Rising.001For the last 8 to 10 years Talent Development has slipped to a secondary focus in the human capital psyche of organisations. Today, however, the development requirements of a new generation of talent is causing it to once again rise to the fore.
This dynamic is being driven by the entrance of the Millennial Generation into the corporate workforce.
Before looking at the unique expectations and requirements of this new group of talent it is helpful to consider how Talent Development, as a discipline has evolved through the lifetimes of those currently in, or exiting, the workforce. [bctt tweet=”Consider how Talent Development has evolved through the lifetimes of those currently in the workforce”]
The Silent Generation, born in the 1930’s & 1940’s entered the workplace through the 50’s and 60’s. They lived and worked in a world very different to that which we see today. Talent Development as a concept was nonexistent. Everybody was treated in approximately the same way and the prevailing sentiment was that you spend your time, and pay your dues. The message drilled into young men [not women] was “get a good job, in a good company, and stay there for the rest of your life”. A transaction took place between employer and employee where, if the employee proved their loyalty the employer reciprocated with job security.
The Baby Boomer Generation born through the 50’s and 60’s came into the workplace during the 70’s and 80’s. They also functioned in business environments that offered very little of what we today see as Talent Development. Baby Boomers were very visionary and directed their energy into developing and building successful companies. The Boomer legacy in many of today’s large or multinational corporations is reflective of this overarching business ethic of the Baby Boomer Generation.
Baby Boomers were rewarded for their efforts with promotions, wealth, money, and the social kudos associated with success. In the absence of structured Talent Development a process of “natural selection” worked its way out in the workplace. In the Baby Boomer world talent success and recognition went to the most hungry, most resilient and ruthless, the fittest, strongest, or the most connected.
Generation X where born through the 70’s and 80’s and moved into the workplace through the 1990’s and early 2000’s. A core part of their world view is built on an embracing of, and expectation of, change. The workplace they moved into had evolved slightly over the proceeding 60 years but it was still much the same as it had been in the early 20th Century. Generation X experienced discomfort with this environment of permanent stasis and began to agitate for a different way of engaging with people. Talent management as a discipline, and organisational requirement, rose to the full in response to this activity and agitation.
Talent Development became important in a world that could no longer offer job security but still needed core and critical staff members to be dedicated and focused. In the absence of job security organisations were surprised with Generation X’ers perceived lack of loyalty. Generation X were significantly more self-orientated then previous generation’s “company man” had been. Organisations were not prepared for these changes in employee perceptions. At the same time, there was the rise of right-sizing / down-sizing, and retrenchments as strategic activity in the human capital space.
Talent Development dynamics were driven by the new demands of employees but also by a new set of strategic requirements on the organisation. In the down-sizing culture, management positions became less available. The ability of an organisation to just offer promotions based on years of service was consequently curtailed. Organisations now needed to make sure that the best people were promoted into these limited positions. At the same time, when trimming headcount it was imperative that the right people where kept, or incentivised to stay, and that only those who didn’t fit the organisation’s strategic objectives where let go or made redundant.
In response to these dynamics the workplace experienced some new “firsts”. With promotion no longer an effect of time spent in the job the corporate workplace experienced the proliferation of MBA’s and the rise of professional managers. Organisations responded to the expectations and demands of Generation X by allowing casual Fridays where employees could wear jeans and no tie, and the limited institution of flexitime as responses to the “sudden” drive for Work-Life balance, or integration.
This process brings us to the expectations and experiences of the current workplace as the Millennial Generation – born through the 1990’s and early 2000’s enters the workplace and makes its presence felt in surprising new ways.
One of the most important differences that older generations need to come to terms with is that the millennial generation are not just younger versions of Generation X. Generation X is aware of the sea-change that they brought about in corporate life with their different expectations. They are now in management positions and the feeling is that there has been a lot of work done to understand talent and to change organisations to meet those understandings. There are many elements of the Millennial Generation worldview that resonate with Generation X, consequently there seems to have been an unconscious expectation that the Millennial’s would not need much more than what Generation X have already achieved. This misunderstanding is at the heart of the modern Talent Development challenge. It is also one of the reasons why Talent Development has dropped off the radar as Generation X have moved into leadership. Paradoxically, this misunderstanding is the very same reason why managers are once again asking about what needs to be done to retain, develop, and attract Millennial Talent.
There are many areas that require focus for Talent Development but the two most important ones are understanding the Millennial Generation’s digital reality, and appropriately engaging with their quarter-life crisis.
The Millennial Generation are the vanguard of the Digital Natives. They grew up in a world where digital technology is endemic and part of almost every facet of their lives. Modern organisations, however, have Digital Dinosaur policies and legacies and are led by Digital Immigrants. Consequently, “modern” organisations are not effectivity structured and equipped to align with this digital reality.
Millennial Talent is looking for a workplace that is effectively integrated with, and enabled by, appropriate digital technology. [bctt tweet=”Millennial Talent is looking for a workplace that is effectively integrated with digital technology.”]  All of this includes an understanding that when Millennial Talent use digital technology of their own in the workplace they are not “goofing off” they are actually functioning normally. Companies that place limitations on digital tools, digital platforms, and online activity and engagement, are creating an environment that is not only foreign to Millennial Talent but in direct conflict with their views and expectations of normality.
Effective Talent Development in the digital world requires every organisation to have a detailed, honest, and realistic audit – and consequent strategy – for the digitization of their environment. It is also important that organisations revisit policies and procedures that make it difficult to maintain a digital lifestyle while at work. Millennial Talent does not want to work in organisations where they are expected to leave a significant parts of their lives outside of the door when they walk in the morning.
The second significant area of understanding is the impact of the quarter-life crisis. This kicks in at about 28 years old and lasts until just after 30. During this life experience Millennial Talent evaluates who they are and where they are in terms of the self actualisation parameters at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. They are asking themselves if the person they are at this point is who they actually want to be for the rest of their lives.
Older generations experience and interpret the fumbling of these decisions as Millennial Talent being flaky. What they actually need is life skills support in order to navigate this period of upheaval and self reflection. Most Millennial’s don’t even realise that they experiencing the quarter-life crisis, and that what they are experiencing is normal for their generation and even has an name.
The quarter-life crisis has a significant impact on any strategy aiming for Talent retention. The Talent Development task, at this stage, requires supporting Millennial’s with life skills. The objective is developing loyalty and attachment to the organisation anticipating an effective retention conversation in their early 30’s.
The Millennial Generation, just like their Generation X forebears are beginning to agitate for a new way of working. The future world of work will be crafted by, and evolve out of, the dynamics being dealt with right now.
Connect with TomorrowToday
In order to understand more about what your team, and organisation, need to do to engage Millennial Talent more effectively, contact a member of the TomorrowToday Global team team to arrange a meeting. We look forward to discussing our Talent Development program, and how we can assist you in understanding the changes needed if you are to be a Magnet for Talent.

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