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I enjoy talking with colleagues about trends we see in the workplace, who is doing what about those trends, and how effective those actions are. There seems to be an interesting trend developing: as the economic uptick slows a bit, organizations are worried about how to keep their high potential performers. This was predicted but as with so many things, when people are overwhelmed, it’s hard to take action. Now the predicted is occurring and after months of staying the course, these high potential performers are weary of hanging on (often by their fingernails).

  • Promises of development opportunities have faded – so they are not developing new skills and are not getting increased visibility
  • Training has been put off and sometimes cut out – resulting in no new skills or content being taught or learned and little new content is shared by overwhelmed mentors
  • Deferments of pay increases continue – and now staying in place feels like falling behind
  • Senior Executives aren’t leaving – and regardless of the reason, the executive pipeline is now clogged up

What’s an organization to do if it wants to hang on to its talent? Many craft some kind of program or initiative that takes aim at retention by whatever means. Often designed by Baby Boomers or Gen X folks, often steered by Human Resources, these initiatives seek to engage employees and hang on to them via key assignments, mentoring, or ‘sabbaticals.’

Most of these programs overlook a key factor – Gen Y folks, both the talented and the not-as-talented, don’t’ stay in one place very long. The loyalty that other generations hope to impart is not a key priority for these Y folks. If they find themselves in a job or a career that doesn’t align (or no longer aligns) with their wants, needs, desires, or interests, they will simply leave for one that does. That’s a hallmark of the generation. Programs that seek to engage them and keep them seem like —

Desperate plastic surgery as seen on all of those “housewives” shows! Desperate Plastic Surgery refers to the middle aged person who gets lots of plastic surgery procedures in an effort to look younger. We can pick them out of any crowd, they look tight, permanently surprised, a little facially frozen, with muscles and tissue that may not move and often defies gravity. The work done is so over the top that they appear more desperate than divine. They look exactly like what they are: middle aged people who are very anxious about aging.

It strikes me that programs to make Millennials (AKA Gen Y’s) behave like Baby Boomers or give them Gen X values miss the whole point. These folks are not X’s or Boomers and they won’t be after creating a program or an initiative. It’s just like getting desperate plastic surgery – it can’t change the very thing it’s trying to change. Middle aged people (for the most part) do not look like their children and Millennial employees do not have the same loyalty about jobs and employers that older generations have.

I propose that it’s time to recognize that this generation and this economic situation are here to stay. When we talk about the ‘new normal,’ let’s treat it that way instead of behaving as if it’s really just a stage that is lasting longer than expected.

Some of my colleagues (thanks Stu) and I have some interesting ideas about what might actually be an effective way to move forward given how things really are today. If this is an issue for your organization, I hope you’ll contact me. It’s true – things might change back to how things used to be. There are folks who get plastic surgery and really do look amazing. Though it’s important to remember that plastic surgery it changes the way the look, not their actual age.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 24th, 2011 at 1:22 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.