In addition to culture and salary, personal development ranks very highly as one of the key reasons why Millennials choose to work and stay with an employer. Despite this, many businesses still adopt very outdated ways of developing their employees and wonder why they are having such a high staff turnover and are unable to attract the best modern thinking talent. To ensure you stay on top of your modern employee development, below are five essential approaches you should adopt:
1. Remove standardised and centralised corporate training
Many businesses, particularly larger ones, operate centralised employee development with a list of approved training schemes and associations with specific training companies or academic institutions. The reasons many adopt this approach are for efficiency and economies of scale, yet if the primary objective is to develop employees to be their best, they often fail spectacularly in achieving this. As such, it makes this approach a very costly option as businesses are spending money on something that doesn’t yield results.
In my recent research, I found that the traditional personal development schemes adopted by most organisations, which included pre-determined company training courses, books/learning materials provided by the company and subscription to approved training programmes was preferred by only 7% of Millennials, with 93% saying they preferred new approaches to personal development (detailed below). So with such a small minority of modern employees valuing this traditional approach to training and development, isn’t it about time businesses started investing in something new?
2. Adopt a formal mentoring programme
Mentoring is not a new concept, yet so many businesses fail to adopt an effective mentoring programme. In a recent article, Deloitte’s Global CEO, Punit Renjen, said: “There is really no secret (to success) and there surely are no shortcuts. In my case, it was a pretty simple equation: hard work + some lucky breaks + great mentors.” And Deloitte’s recent 2016 Global Millennial survey backs this up where 94% of Millennials said their mentor provided good advice and 83% were satisfied with mentoring in helping their personal development. I too found in my research that the majority of Millennials said that mentoring was the most important thing in personal development.
With both demand from a Millennial workforce for this type of personal development high and the cost of utilising your existing workforce and network being relatively low, mentoring can be a very cost effective way of developing and retaining Millennial staff. It also has a profound learning effect on the mentors too, who also gain as much, if not more from their mentees by understanding their perspectives on things.
3. Trust Millennials to choose their own development
A lot of the pre-determined training courses simply do not work for many employees, in particular Millennial employees. Of course there will always be a need for functional training that is skill specific for each particular job, but modern employees also want the trust and autonomy to decide what will have the biggest impact on their wholistic personal development. Some may argue why would a business give staff money to spend on unrelated training such as a cooking course for example, but my view is that those that think like this are missing the point. The whole reason for personal development programmes are to make people the best they can be, inside and outside of work. By doing so they remain happier and more content meaning they are more likely to stay longer, be less stressed to think clearer and more productive.
4. Give regular ad-hoc feedback, not just annual reviews
Much of the personal development feedback in businesses is given at best quarterly and at worst annually. Why on earth would you want to wait a year to hear if you aren’t performing well? Also, the main driver of many of these performance reviews are to do with how much annual bonuses people should get and less to do with the genuine development of an individual. As such, this type of feedback often becomes nothing more than a tick box exercise and a debate on quotas relating to numbers of people in each appraisal band. Put simply, annual reviews are ineffective ways to nurture effective personal development.
As well as the negatives of annual reviews, we are now in an environment where almost all Millennial employees are used to instant communication whether it is Whatsapp messages or Facebook likes, where they are used to getting immediate feedback. So to have one method of instant feedback out of work and slow, annual feedback in work is completely in conflict, which is why only 1% of Millennials favoured annual performance reviews vs 37% preferring adhoc, informal feedback. The benefits to organisations of this more regular feedback is obvious too as it allows all employees to ‘course-correct’ and make incremental improvements on a regular basis rather than wait until the end of each year, increasing the productivity and standard of work as they go.
5. Adopt an authentic volunteering programme
A huge 96% of Millennial employees said they thought it was important to participate in voluntary programmes within the workplace. This could be something as simple as being part of a mentoring programme to help other employees inside or outside the company or offering professional support to a charity for free. What it doesn’t mean is the rollout of some random, inauthentic voluntary programme as part of some Corporate Social Responsibility initiative that is more for company PR than it is for genuinely helping others and employees.
An authentic volunteering programme has to have a clear value exchange where the employees doing it experience some tangible learning that aids in their personal development, and the recipient of the support also gains value. For example this could be offering mentoring to others inside or outside the business, or it could be offering some sector specific skills to charities or startups that they don’t current have e.g. marketing, accountancy or HR, or even being a non-exec on a non-for-profit or social enterprise. There are many options available, but authenticity and a clear value exchange is key in making volunteering as a form of personal development work.
In Summary, many traditional businesses have training and development schemes that are costly, too generic and simply not fit for purpose for a modern, Millennial workforce. Businesses need to think differently, embrace new ways of training and utilise their own teams and networks to deliver personal development programmes that really add value to employees, employers and the community around them.