Whether they are viewed as entitled and self-centered or eager and self-confident, the newest generation of workers is certainly two things: brilliantly innovative and easily bored. Companies who wish to harness the drive, energy, and technical expertise of this generation without falling victim to their labile nature must solve a very real problem: How to keep this generation of workers engaged?
The solution: Give them something to work. Something they can visualize. Something transparent.
Internal transparency is vital to this generation of workers, much more so than any other generation before them. Millennial workers want specific information about the jobs, roles, and career paths available inside their employers’ organizations. They want to know the responsibilities and challenges of the people around them. They want to know the skills and experiences necessary to excel in each of those roles, and they want to know when a chance to move into one of those positions may arise.
This generation of workers is often cast as disloyal, but they simply value engagement and personal fulfillment over stability. Understanding where that fulfillment and engagement comes from can help an organization give them the very things they want – the things that translate into company loyalty.
Imagine, for a moment, a sales employee. This employee has been with her organization in an entry-level position for a year, and she has long rounded the learning curve. She shows up to work consistently, performs the same tasks she has performed for 12 months, and then goes home. Every day is the same routine, and now she’s getting bored. Her motivation is starting to slip, and her mind is starting to wander to other jobs and other companies. Within a month’s time, she’ll be gone, unless her employer can offer her a reason to stay. A path forward.
"Millennial workers want specific information about the jobs, roles, and career paths available inside their employers’ organizations"
Everyone’s motivation wanes in the face of too much familiarity. The solution, then, lies in disrupting that familiarity for employees without causing disruption to the overall organization. Offering transparent, customized routes that lead to a variety of positions within the company, depending on an employee’s strengths, weaknesses, and personal preferences, gives Millennial employees exactly what they need—an ongoing, personalized challenge—while also offering numerous benefits to the overall organization, including increased retention rates and a larger pool of high-potential talent to pull for key positions. A sophisticated career pathing program enables employers to offer these routes.
Most companies have some kind of career pathing or career development plan in place, even if it is informal or undefined. This kind of pathing generally involves traditional, defined career paths—the paths that historically have shown the most success for both the employees moving along them and the company employing them. Position-to-position moves are regular and expected and move along a vertical career ladder. A defined career path from accounting assistant to finance manager may, for example, move from assistant to Accounts Receivable to Accounts Payable to Finance Manager.
Millennial workers, however, are less likely to be engaged and retained by these traditional models, which means companies must work harder to create new paths and models for advancement and development. Career lattices, for example, feature offshoots into other departments, fields, or interests—paths perfect for a generation of workers motivated by new challenges and a chance to show off their innovative prowess.
A career path toward a leadership position, for example, if built on a lattice might include offshoots into human resources, sales, finance, and/ or any other department or role that may bring additional knowledge and understanding to the leadership candidate. Specific roles on the way to the leadership position are less important on a lattice than the competencies gained from them, and this method of gaining experience is particularly effective for a generation who clamors for mentoring; training and work experience go hand in hand.
While paths built on a career lattice are much more enticing to today’s workers, they do require extra effort on the part of employers. Companies have to be willing to let valued employees move from an area where they are deeply valued—and one in which they are showing great success—to an area of new learning, where success and value may take time. This effort will pay off, however, by keeping the employee challenged and engaged and by offering the company a loyal, well-rounded individual with greater ultimate potential.
Eager to brainstorm new career paths for your organization?
Ask your employees to share their own career journey within your company. Looking at his or her paths may inspire you to think outside the career ladder and/or add another role or department to an already established career lattice.
Take a deeper look into the competencies necessary for success in each position and department. What does a candidate need to succeed in that role? Where, other than inside the same department, may a candidate learn those behaviors and/or acquire those traits?
Research a career pathing software program. These programs often make the jobs of identifying competencies and worthwhile offshoots for lattices much easier.