As multinationals seek to become bigger, faster and stronger to compete on the global stage, they’re launching new corporate development programs to mobilize their workforce. And their efforts are reaching far beyond out-dated cushy executive retreats.
I will cover a few insights into what kinds of programs make millennials tick, and what initiatives effectively foster leadership development.
Let’s start by covering some of the challenges companies face in managing people from different generations.
As organizations expand, evolve and become more multinational, they bring in many different populations and generations of employees and managers. It can sometimes become difficult to have these different generations work together. Their values, experiences and educations are often different. When you bring them together and ask them to produce results, we have to help these workers overcome their differences to be as effective as possible.
Millennials, in general, are characterized as Generation Y. They are, at the moment, the youngest, most junior population in any organization.
Millennials are unique because their baby boomer parents, in general, have given them experiences and support unlike any other generation in history. Many millennials had helicopter parents, so some may say they’ve been sheltered and entitled, but also received additional opportunities. As a result, they come to work with many relationships and expansive background experience.
Some corporate leaders and managers feel that millennials are a little bit more entitled. While they’re willing to work hard, they also want access to high-level information about, for example, strategy. Or they want exposure to clients. Accessibility is very important to them.
They want effective communication to understand how their role, as small as it may be, funnels into the larger organizational strategy. They also want a suitable work culture and environment, so they can feel good about where they work and feel integrated into the organization. They want to know about how the work culture is going to benefit them, beyond just ping-pong tables and free food. They want an effective, fun, engaging work environment. A physical work environment, imitating that of Google, means nothing if there isn’t an accompanying business culture to go with it.
Career orientation is also important for millennials. They don’t expect to take jobs that will give them a lifetime of employment. They want to build transferable skills that they can use for the rest of their careers.
A common misperception is that millennials do not want to work hard. But, in my experience, they work very hard. They also want to understand the broader strategy and organizational goals. They’re willing to work hard, but when it comes to work/life balance, they want some predictability in when they aren’t working. They want some predictability and flexibility in spending time with their family and friends, and also focusing on their health to ensure they are balanced.
Unlike prior generations at this age and stage in their careers, where they may have been willing to invest more time in their work, this generation wants to have more of a balanced experience.
Now remember, millennials are a product of the baby boomers. They saw their parents work really hard in the 1980s and sacrifice a lot of family time to climb the corporate ladder. They saw that this led, in some cases, to divorce or chronic health problems, and so this new generation does not want that. Millennials are willing to work hard, be engaged and stay motivated to be successful. But they want flexible corporations that can give them more balanced lives.
With all these different generations in the workplace, there are implications for corporate leadership programs and issues that need to be resolved. No two ways about that.
“Many millennials had helicopter parents, so some may say they’ve been sheltered and entitled, but also received additional opportunities.”
One of the best strategies is to stay focused on helping to mold effective managers. From a leadership development standpoint, I like the idea of to working with “Producer Managers”. The Producer Manager is an employee who has risen through the ranks quickly as an individual contributor. After various promotions they became managers, not necessarily because they are good managers, but because they were great individual contributors. As these people become managers, it is the organization’s responsibility to then teach them how to be good managers; to help them understand how to motivate, communicate and lead others. I’d like to see organizations help set a culture where people from diverse backgrounds can have fun and be effective; to teach them to evaluate people in the organization objectively, not just subjectively. These are skills and attributes that people don’t necessarily pick up by working their way up through the organization as producers. What we need to do, as learning and development professionals, is to take these highly motivated, highly impactful people and show them the benefits of being good, effective managers. We want the good work that they do to cascade down to others.
Encouraging strong performance in a multi-generational, global team
As companies become more global, they are confronted with cultural differences among clients, employees and partners. We have to ensure our leaders are trained on issues related to sensitivity. They have to understand how their behavior may be perceived and how their actions may be received. It is imperative to spend a lot of time coaching different leaders and bringing people together to generate cultural awareness and sensitivity.
“Thought leadership.” What exactly is thought leadership and how do you nurture that within a company?
Thought leadership can be defined as new insights and new ideas about a given topic that can be shared with a wide range of people, and those insights and ideas can be applied in other organizations and other scenarios.
Thought leadership, at its most basic, is articles, white papers, books and blogs written by leaders that can be shared within an organization or outside an organization. Thought leadership can come in different forms, including writing, interactive dialogues and interviews. Or it can come in the form of much more intimate, one-on-one discussions through mentorship.
For example, a political leader or a sports coach could talk to a large group about a crisis that they went through from a leadership perspective and explain how they navigated that crisis and came out victorious. They can explain the lessons they learned, which could be applied in other scenarios and other situations.
The process of sharing those ideas and having a dynamic dialogue creates an atmosphere where people can learn about new themes and new experiences. People within an organization, from the highest level to the lowest level, can take away relevant information.
“Millennials are willing to work hard, be engaged and stay motivated to be successful. But they want flexible corporations that can give them more balanced lives.”
War for talent
The war for talent is a real phenomenon now. For the first time in the last five years, there are a lot more job opportunities available to employees, both in their industry and outside of their industry. People are leaving the industries that they’ve worked in at a much more rapid pace. All of a sudden, companies are finding that it’s really challenging to keep their people, and it’s challenging to find replacements. The talent war is escalating.
In order to recruit talent, you must have a value proposition that shows people why working at your organization is so important. You need to set an attractive culture. You need strong and dynamic leadership that people want to follow. You have to create an environment where people say, “This is a great place to work. This is a place where we win. This is a place where we are productive. This is a place that nourishes and nurtures.” That message gets out and becomes broadly communicated. Then your recruitment team must codify these themes to encourage people to come to your workplace.
“All of a sudden, companies are finding that it’s really challenging to keep their people, and it’s challenging to find replacements. The talent war is escalating.”
On the other side is employee retention. Once you get the best people, you want to ensure they stay. This leads back to all the things we talked about before. Organizations have to spend a lot more time on this than they did in the past because it’s getting easier to find alternative jobs. Now, in this war-for-talent environment, companies have to spend much more time on their human capital. You have to stay close to your employees, understand what they want and provide at least some of the things they want. Organizations need to monitor and evaluate how well they are serving those needs.
Companies have not had to focus on this very much in the past — particularly large companies — because they would always have talent coming in. Employees would come in and they would want to stay for a long time over the course of their careers.
Now, because of the millennial orientation and because of other opportunities cropping up around the world, we’re seeing that employees may want to come for a little while, but then look for opportunities elsewhere — for example, at small technology companies or small hedge funds. This is an area, in which I have spent a lot of time thinking about this dilemma and how to solve it. Working to create a culture where people actually want to come in, stay, develop transferable skills and think about longer term opportunities within the firm is most crucial. Many companies are thinking about their employees in this way, and they must, as the talent war heats up.
Corporate learning and corporate strategy
Historically, companies that have been most successful were able to develop a very strong corporate strategy. But it wasn’t necessarily true that corporate training, learning, and leadership development needed to be aligned with that corporate strategy in order to be successful. But business is much more dynamic now. The speed of getting products to market is much quicker. Organizations are now facing much more intense competition, which means they need to make sure they have a rock solid corporate strategy, as well as strong leaders that can implement that strategy as quickly as possible, and more efficiently than anybody else.
How can we get our people to develop these strategies in a much faster, much more creative way? That’s where corporate training and coaching comes into play. That’s why jobs like mine are so critical to an organization. We have to think not only about corporate training and education, but also about creative ways to stay constantly linked up with top leaders as they are developing new strategies.
It’s particularly important in large, global organizations that there is a seamless connection between the people, the leadership development, the professional development and the strategy. If this isn’t aligned, you could wind up with a dynamic strategy that employees simply can’t implement.
Historically, an organization like GE was known to develop its talent within its own corporate university. GE made a point to pair strategy with development and learning. Now many other organizations are doing that as well. Staying on top of making sure that leaders are getting the right leadership development, providing them with lessons, interventions, coaching, and access to learning content that will help them be as dynamic as possible is not only beneficial but essential.
You’ll see a lot of corporate universities following suit and multinational organizations that are hiring chief learning officers or creating forums for corporate strategy and corporate learning to come together. They are spending money, providing the resources and taking the time to get this right because it ultimately pays off, allowing companies to implement their strategies more effectively and get the returns they’re looking for. If you do not do this, you truly lose out.
Now is a time when you can’t just have the strategy.
You have to have the learning and strategy paired up. Otherwise, you lose your competitive edge.
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