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Steven Ross


Head of Career Development

Read more about Steven Ross

Talk to your talent today about their tomorrow


Growing economies create more job opportunities. Your talent will be feeling more confident, and more focused on their development than ever, so if you’re not actively engaging with them about the ways they can develop their career with you, then someone else soon will. 

This is particularly true when it comes to your Generation Y talent. While they are more likely to recommend their employer than any other workforce generation, we also know that as the first to embrace social media, the preference for regular communication is strong and extends to their performance at work and where it might lead. 

This can be both a blessing and a curse – get career development right and evangelical employees taking to social media will do wonders for your employer brand, but if you can’t quench their thirst for feedback and development opportunities, it’s likely you’ll be increasing the work of your recruitment team to backfill the role.

But what action can you take? Whilst not exhaustive, below are some of the areas you can focus on to help engage Gen Y talent in developing their career with you.

Regular career discussions

A recent Penna survey found that the most common reason for individuals leaving an organisation was “lack of opportunity”. How many managers of those leavers even knew that their staff were looking for an opportunity?  It’s critical that you are having regular conversations with your Gen Y talent. Our research showed that over half (51%) of employees have career conversations just once a year with their managers, which doesn’t create the necessary level of trust and understanding required for having open, honest and transparent conversations about career direction. Gen Y employees in particular are hungry for information, guidance and advice on a day-to-day basis.

This doesn’t mean doing away with formal annual or bi-annual reviews. Ideally  the formal meetings will be an opportunity to follow up on the actions that might have come out of one or more informal conversations  – not the place where new areas of discussion about career direction are being opened up.

Preparing managers

Any move you make as a business to help your people develop their career could potentially be amplified or completely undermined by the manager that they talk to. This means you have to ensure your managers can prepare for and structure the formal career conversations they might need to have, but also that they feel well equipped and confident to handle these in the right way. 

It’s important that the business communicates the pathways and processes for career movements and that managers are briefed about things like offering different working patterns (work-life balance is particularly important to Gen Y), opportunity for project work, secondments in other departments (careers are seen more as a scramble net to climb rather than a ladder) or training opportunities to help people develop vertically or horizontally.

Only by properly equipping the manager with the “what” and “how”, will they be able to navigate the conversation with their team in a way which is not contrived or doesn’t feel genuine. 

This is not to say that in every career, conversation will (or should) fit into a mould. The important thing is to set clear actions for both parties in order to progress . Doing what you say you will is important for Gen Y if you want to keep them engaged.

Empower them

It’s important that career development is driven by the individual.  The manager and organisation have responsibilities to help enact, but the direction – particularly for Gen Y – should come from the the employee. Online career development tools, especially those used on mobile devices, are useful in helping people get more informed about the direction they should take, and can then serve as a useful input into conversations with managers.

Likewise, coaching, group workshops on career navigation can help provide individuals with food for thought about whether they want to move up, move sideways or develop in their current role, and can be useful in helping them form a plan to take to their manager.

Key to engaging and retaining employees (but especially Gen Y’ers) is that they feel valued and important.  By equipping managers to talk to them about how they can best navigate their career in your business, you demonstrate they matter to you and they are much more likely to stay and develop than want to move on.

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Steven Ross

Head of Career Development

Read more from Steven Ross

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