In their 2014 Employee Engagement Trends Report, consultants at Quantum Workplace looked at survey findings from more than 400,000 employees at nearly 5,000 organizations.
In exploring the importance of various drivers of Millennial engagement and retention, Quantum researchers found that Professional Growth and Career Development came in at number one. They observed: “If young employees aren’t having their needs for professional development met, they will seek opportunities elsewhere.”
Clearly, the ability to grow in both their job and career is a necessity for workers ages 18 through 34. But current data shows that employers are not meeting this need effectively. More than 60 percent of Millennials leave their companies within three years of arriving, according to data from a 2013 Cost of Millennial Retention Study.
Gaps in Career Conversations
Research conducted by The Ken Blanchard Companies points out an opportunity for employers to address this need. Blanchard teamed up with Training magazine to poll a cross section of 456 human resources and talent management professionals. The study found gaps of 29 and 39 percent between how often employees had career conversations with their leaders versus how often they desired these conversations.
When it came to job development conversations, the survey found a 29 percent gap when respondents were asked to evaluate: (1) the frequency with which their leader discusses job assignments that would help to broaden their job experience and knowledge; (2) how often their leader discusses the training needed to improve their performance during the current performance period; and (3) whether the leader makes time and resources available to help the employee get the training they need.
When it came to career development conversations, the survey found an even larger (39 percent) gap when respondents were asked to evaluate the degree to which their boss: (1) understands the steps that must be taken to prepare them for career advancement; (2) explains organization policies and procedures that impact career development; and (3) discusses potential career opportunities.
The Senior Leader’s Role
Leaders at all levels have an important role to play in making sure that career development conversations are occurring. For senior leaders, that means setting the strategy. In their article How to Quell Millennial Discontent consultants at talent mobility firm Lee Hecht Harrison recommend six starting strategies for senior leaders:
- Engage Millennials in effective career development conversations. Ask managers to work with Millennials to develop career options within the organization that will help satisfy their career aspirations.
- Hold managers accountable for building and developing Millennial talent. Formally include the task of developing Millennials among managerial accountabilities.
- Use career planning and development to prepare Millennials for new roles. Offer them role hopping as an alternative to job hopping.
- Help Millennials manage their careers actively. All too often, Millennials regard managing their own careers as a simple matter of seeking jobs elsewhere. Channel their energies toward developing their careers internally by providing opportunities for them to work on cross-functional teams or lead key projects that enhance their visibility.
- Involve Millennials in the creation of a coaching culture. Coaching others grooms Millennials for leadership, helps them build relationships with fellow employees, and deepens their investment in the organization.
- Promote internal networking to further help Millennials increase their visibility and build relationships. Ask managers to stand ready to make introductions, involve Millennials in larger projects, and ensure that their achievements are recognized at higher levels.
Don’t let your best and brightest young talent leave the organization because no one took the time to discuss career options with them. Make career development a key part of every manager’s conversational skill set. Help your managers see the importance of conducting stay interviews today to avoid exit interviews tomorrow. You’ll be surprised at the impact career conversations can have!