Premium on superior talent even in downturn

Technology and opportunity today is placing a premium on superior talent. Even in a global downturn the most talented are always in demand since they can make big differences, and in challenging and changing times this differential is critical to company success.

Every generation is different in ways than the generation that came before but tomorrow’s leaders who sit a level or two below the layer that reports to the CEO of a company are truly one of a kind. Oddly since this group is not senior enough they are often not in direct contact with the upper layers of management and thus their needs may not be met.

This could cause much trouble to companies in the future. These individuals who range usually in the 24 to 35 age bracket have come of age in an era of expanding opportunities and a world where they are technology enabled. This combination allows them to quickly learn but also to get to know what is what and who is who in a company, the competition and more.

The legacy knowledge that their management has or hoards is either considered easily attainable or irrelevant. Seniority is not linked with capability and it is competence not years of service or level that earns respect. There is impatience like never before and in an on-demand, highly mobile, social networked arena there is a huge expectation that their issues will be addressed and resolved quickly.

Often some senior people in organizations may consider this group to be spoiled lazy impatient brats. Nothing could be further than the truth. These are highly energetic, motivated, and driven individuals who are creative, accountable and hungry to learn and they have very high standards they hold themselves to. They want the answer to three questions on any assignment. Question one: what are we hoping to achieve?

Question two: Is there a better or cheaper way to get the same outcome? And question three: how can results, outcomes and they themselves get better? Answering these with a) because we have always done it this way, or b) we cannot do it that way because that is too much work and will change our business or c) the boss says so, are not considered answers worth considering.

These folks are our future and we need to empower, enhance and hone their skills and keep them with us. How do we do this? Empower with clear goals: Talented people do not want to be told how to get a job done or have someone constantly monitor them but they do expect clear goals and metrics of success. They wish to understand why a goal is relevant and then have themselves and their teams to figure out how to achieve them. Spend time setting goals for projects including timelines and then step out of the way.

Provide access to information and tools: This is a generation that can access information and opinion with one click on their web browser or phone in their personal lives and they expect this open access to information and empowering tools at work. Anything that slows down or anyone that hoards is resented while those that provide access are celebrated.

Access to latest information and technology is seen as a form of compensation and a reflection of employers’ culture. In many organisations individuals are given an annual budget as part of their compensation package to purchase tools and technologies for office or home that make them more productive. Interestingly the more technology and tools individuals get the more they work and the happier they are.

Thus companies should never hold back on investment in subscriptions and other forms of data. Let them share the limelight: Nothing annoys this generation more than having their work presented to higher levels or utilised without at minimum credit to them and their teams and ideally their getting to present their own work. This generation wishes to build themselves as brands and learn in real situations and time, so they want to be present and heard at key meetings and events. Run the workplace in some ways as a model University: There is a reason that more and more companies call their physical locations “campuses”.

This is because in many ways an ideal workplace for the next generation represents a continuation of their University days. It is a place for them to continue to learn, to contribute and to grow. And like any great University they want access to superb facilities, good mentors and teachers and strong fellow students. In school the end result may have been grades, passing examinations, dissertations and learning. While at work it is revenue, profits, new products, patents and more.

They want an environment that is challenging but also one where they can challenge the status quo. There is a significant return to enlightened next generation talent management for companies. Not only is a highly motivated and talented work force more productive but they also ensure that market leaders do not become complacent since these are people who question the status quo and are constantly thinking without the benefit of legacy experiences.

In addition since this is a very connected group there is a network effect to being known as a great place to work. Talented folks speak to other talented folks and all of a sudden some companies begin to have a dis-proportionally large amount to talent (e.g. Google, or Apple, or Mckinsey or Goldman Sachs among others.) Like never before talent management, particularly the generations coming, will make and break companies.