The upcoming generation of business talent will have needs—and parameters for personal and organizational success—that are far different from their current workforce counterparts. Training them to be outstanding performers and team contributors will be the No. 1 organizational development challenge between now and 2020.
The working world has undergone incredible changes over the last 10 years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average job tenure is currently only four years (compared to 15 years in 1980). The average worker could change jobs as many as six times, and that number will only go up for younger workers just now entering the job market. At the executive level, according to the Corporate Leadership Council, on average, 50 percent of newly hired executives are fired or quit within the first three years. Up to 40 percent are laid off within 18 months of hiring. Studies show that 25 percent of managers in the Fortune 500 change jobs every year.
This kind of rapid turnover creates two organizational imperatives. The first is the use of personality assessment to identify the leadership capabilities of each person within an organization so that those with high potential can be nurtured and targeted for retention. The second, related effort is the implementation of leadership development programs.
Every company should identify where leadership and talent gaps are likely to occur through retirement and normal attrition. The company then should plan a strategy to develop talent internally, or source it externally, or both. According to a recent study sponsored by Birkman International and Stanton Chase, only 18 percent of U.S. companies have put in place a talent acquisition plan, with 31 percent saying they have one planned but not implemented and 51 percent having done neither.
The realities of high turnover and the need to identify new talent and capabilities must be viewed through the lens of workplace demographics. Most organizations now understand there are significant generational differences in the primary demographic segments of their workforce. From the trainer's perspective, there are three main age categories, and members of each group have their own characteristics and their own needs when it comes to the focus, content, and delivery of their individual development plan (IDP).
Baby Boomers are those individuals approximately 47 to 62 years old, and there are anywhere from 70 to 80 million of them in the workforce today. As a group, they tend to define themselves through their jobs and achieve their identity through the work they perform. Boomers tend to be competitive, moralistic, optimistic, and self-focused. From an IDP standpoint, Boomers typically view training as a means to career advancement, defined as achieving the highest feasible income and responsibility levels. IDP delivery forms they are most comfortable with are classroom teaching, independent reading, and one-on-one coaching.
Generation X, ages 26 to 46, are the "baby bust" group—the lower birthrate of their age cohort means they make up about 40 million members of the workforce. Gen Xers define success by creating the life they want, value flexibility, and view themselves as free agents not indefinitely tied to any organization. Their IDP expectations are above all for self-focus and self-investment, with programs adding to their intrinsic personal value by helping them build a portable repertoire of skills. If the IDP delivery is fast-paced and interactive, it will register with Gen Xers.
Millennials is the term now commonly applied to the youngest workers, those ages 25 and under, a group formerly referred to as Generation Y. They just now are entering the workplace in force, and there are potentially 80 million or more of them. For Millennials, everything is about speed, customization, and interactivity—the more digital the better. They love freedom and responsibility, and have been given both throughout their lives. As the products of "helicopter parents" and similarly inclined teachers who have hovered over them and provided praise, stimulation, and support, Millennials expect consistent and positive feedback. Perhaps the members of no other generation have bonded so closely with their peers (as much through technology as through personal interaction), and their emphasis on collaboration combines with skill at multitasking to give them more "friends" than members of other generations can possibly imagine. The IDP challenge for Millennials is that they want to learn as much as possible, as quickly as possible, and as personally as possible. Whether online or in person, training that is multisensory, immediate, team- oriented, and driven by positive feedback will resonate with them.
Millennials and Training Delivery
The challenge posed by Millennial generation members is not motivating them to work but finding the right training strategies to generate that motivation. Given the predisposition of Millennials to constant stimulus, group interaction, and immediate feedback, training strategies should emphasize an intensely personal and stimulating range of tactics:
- Training should be ongoing.
- Training should be digital and interactive.
- Training should use gaming techniques.
- Training should be team oriented.
Millennials and Training Application
Finding tomorrow's leaders is critical to creating an organization that is capable of self-sustaining change as the demands upon it evolve. The best way to accomplish this with tomorrow's workforce is to structure training so it emphasizes the organizational assets of Millennials, and fits them where they will be the most comfortable and able to execute to the fullest of their capabilities. The training focus should be on measuring and understanding whether personality traits mesh with specific job requirements. Job requirements go beyond hard skills and experience to include the ability to work with others or lead others productively and effectively by exhibiting and using certain characteristics.
The generational characteristics of Millennials can support organizational growth when training reinforces each person's potential for individual success. These are the measurements for organizational impact that should be emphasized as part of the training process:
- Acceptance of feedback. Millennials respond well to individual, one-on-one mentoring, and feedback.
- Acceptance of leadership responsibility. Some of the skills people classically use to "get ahead"—such as self-serving aggressiveness and promotion—are detrimental to their performance as leaders or managers who can boost organizational performance. These negative characteristics also generally are foreign to the Millennial world view. They, thus, can themselves be a positive force for supportive values of organizational leadership, and (if convinced through effective training that the objectives are worthwhile) can provide valuable backing for senior management's programs and initiatives.
- Advancement of teamwork. Millennials have grown up as part of technological and social networks. Training programs that emphasize team projects and related rewards will find a receptive Millennial audience.
- Advancement of workplace satisfaction. Quality of work life elements such as communication, teamwork, and flexibility will be effective motivators for Millennials, and with proper training, they can actively work to advance them throughout the organization.
Millennials and the Future
Millennials as a group have tremendous potential to transform the organizations where they work by serving as a new generation of strong leaders who are flexible, able to cope with change, and ready to find new ways of solving problems. The best ways to realize this potential can be learned, cultivated, honed, and enhanced through effective training programs that use accurate personality assessment to identify individual capabilities.
The focus of training then can become measuring and understanding how a given individual's personality traits mesh with specific job requirements to work with others or lead others productively and effectively. The best personality tests analyze and report what motivates workplace behavior, and identify the needs that drive behavior in positive and productive directions. Members of the Millennial generation need feedback, stimulation, interaction, and a team focus. By channeling these traits to the best fit with job responsibilities, any organization will be able to find its next leaders, improve its current leaders, and bring about a whole new level of excellence in its management.
The Birkman Method has been in use for more than 50 years and has been used by 2 million-plus people and 5,000 organizations worldwide. The personality assessment and related reports facilitate teambuilding, executive coaching, leadership development, career management, and interpersonal conflict resolution. For more information, visit www.birkman.com or call 800.215.2760. For the extended version of this article, visit www.trainingmag.com/nextgen.