12 Principles to Developing Millennial Talent

As Jack Miller, the General Manager at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, spoke about millennials at the Arizona Hospitality Summit in November, I was impressed. Mr. Miller shared his resort's commitment to actively understanding the millennial generation in order to better serve and employ them. His commitment to learning about people proved why the Princess is annually awarded their AAA Five Diamond status. They see the future, they know their customers, and know where future business is headed.

It is vital to see the future of the millennial generation in the workforce. Forget the conversations about stereotypes, complaints, and management, businesses need to focus on strategically developing millennial talent. The millennial talent is the present and future of business. Those that do it right will win out.

"In the long run, your human capital is your main base of competition. Your leading indicator of where you're going to be 20 years from now is how well you're doing in your education system." - Bill Gates

Businesses who strategize and systemize their talent development with the millennial generation and post-millennial generation while outrun all its competitors. After all, the millennial generation will not only be roughly 50% of the workforce by 2020, but also have many seats at the executive tables by then. The strategizing for millennial development into the leadership pipeline must happen now.

How Talent Development Strategies Are Being Executed

Larger businesses are strategizing their talent development internally through human resources or talent development's own department. Smaller businesses are outsourcing help in their strategizing and execution. Mid-size businesses are all over the board. Some have talent development departments, while others are relying on consultants.

One thing is consistent though. All industries understand the need to develop talent, they just might not fully understand talent development. As Tony Bingham, president and CEO of Association for Talent Development, wrote during ATD's rebranding in 2014, "The term talent development means building the knowledge, skills, and abilities of others and helping them develop and achieve their potential so that the organizations they work for can succeed and grow."

No matter where you are in the process, I encourage you to apply this principle, "Ready, Fire, Aim." It doesn't have to perfect, it doesn't have to be right, and it doesn't need to be the final draft of the strategy, you just need to strategize quickly and implement even faster.

12 Principles to Talent Development's Future

To help you get started, here are 12 principles you can apply to developing top millennial and post-millennial talent in your workplace:

  1. Believe in People. People are business' greatest asset and every person has a value. To develop young talent or any talent for that matter, you must believe in people and their value. Business leaders believing in the value of people see the benefit in development. This might sound elementary in concept, but priorities and cashflow speak a different story. If you believe in the value and potential value of people, you will see the upside to talent development and invest accordingly into your business' future.
  2. Flexibly Progress. Keep moving forward in your talent development. Developing people is a continuum moving with the change of time. Do not settle on what worked yesterday, but evolve your strategy and implementation routinely. Tiffany Jassel is a Regional Director of Operations and Talent Development at Vista Host Inc., a hotel management company out of Houston, TX with approximately 1500 employees. Tiffany says, "Traditionally we provide annual reviews for all associates, but in this mentorship model and on our Think Tank Thursday discussions, we're truly reviewing performance improvement models weekly." Your talent strategy must have reevaluation check points like reviews in order to adapt accordingly. Regular reviews or employee open forums are great ways to keep your pulse on what needs adjusting.
  3. Leverage Experience. Do not overlook any talent when developing younger talent. Leverage your current employee value for the future of your business. One key element to true emerging talent development strategies is the usage of experienced employees. Whether this is in the form of mentorship, training, or apprenticeship, use the experience of other employees to strategically raise up the next generation of workers. Make mentorship and cross-organizational training through multiple generations a regular part of your talent development strategy.
  4. Systemize Organically. Build an organic aspect into your development. Structured programs are not always the answer. Sometimes setting up the environment is the only system needed. Talent development needs an organic element. Angel Franklin is a Global Leader Talent Management and Development professional and has worked with large multi-national companies worth $20 billion plus, including Fortune 500s and Big 4 Consulting Firms. Angel says, "When you push a bit deeper, we often find that 'program-focused' mentoring doesn't really serve their (millennials) needs. Rather, organically grown mentor relationships do. So we are constantly looking at how we can create the right environment for organic mentoring relationships." 
  5. Develop the Person. Employees are more than their employment status and job description. Develop employees as people and get better people in your workplace. In addition, they will be more engaged because they have been invested into. Millennials are very intuitive on motivation. They understand if you are just using them as labor or you are truly valuing them as people. Treating employees as people puts a human element of trust, respect, and loyalty into the workplace culture and also builds in employee retention--saving business' a ton of money by the way. Help develop the person and not just the employee.
  6. Train Beyond Google. Most information is just a few Google searches away. Training for information only is history in talent development. You must go further. You must look at experiential learning and training in order to be unique in talent development. How does your talent strategy train beyond information? What do you provide in training they cannot get anywhere else? Be unique and be strategic. Make your training a strong competitive advantage in business. By the way, millennials talk and love to tell stories about businesses. What story will they tell about your unique training style?
  7. Build a Family. Collaboration is not enough. Millennials want more, they want a family feel at work. When they feel the connection and loyalty at work, their production increases. Young employees want relational characteristics such as trust, commitment, and transparency at work--much like a family. Kristy Lubeck, VP of Human Resources at VEREIT, Inc. where they excel at developing the next generation of employees, says, "Transparency is important. From senior management down, we value transparency in our workplace through things such as goals, we are transparent about our goals. It keeps the ongoing communication across all levels." Transparency is a great way to build a family-type of culture in the workplace.
  8. Promote Within. Kristy Lubeck says, "Sometimes millennials expect promotion a bit too quickly. There expectation is not always bad, it just needs to be clearly guided at times." Expectations should not be eliminated, but rather guided like Kristy explains. VEREIT doesn't want to defeat expectations, but rather encourage the value of promoting within. There is a fine line. Homeowners Financial Group, whose headquarters are in Arizona, does the same. Caroline Conner, Director of Corporate Culture at Homeowners Financial Group, similarly says, "Keep them (younger employees) engaged through challenges and give employees the opportunity to promote and advance." Millennials who have a plan for progression and advancement to any degree, get excited about their development. Get young employees excited about development by regularly promoting within. This will increase hope as well.
  9. Use Entrepreneurship. Leverage the hopes and dreams of millennials and post-millennials by flaming the fire of entrepreneurship. Most millennials have some degree of an entrepreneur spirit. Instead of suppressing those spirits, put them to use. Intrapreneurship is an increasingly hot topic within the talent development industry. With the gig economy looking to rise, explore those wild spirits that are mutually beneficial to business and employee. Are there new business ideas, marketing strategies, or even subsidiary businesses your young talent can explore? Get creative with your intrapreneur employees.
  10. More than Training. Call it entitled or adapting to the times, training is no longer a luxury, but an expectation. Millennials understand the value of training and assume businesses will want to develop their employees. Training employees to develop professionally is becoming less optional and more expected. Angel Franklin said, "It (training) is becoming an expectation. Employees are expecting that the company will aide in their continued growth, training is a cornerstone tool we use to help meet those expectations. If we want to really develop people in the future we have to move past information gathering and into proactively creating experiences that allow them to learn. The days of giving someone a training class to develop are not obsolete, they just won't be enough."
  11. Holistic Development. Kristy Lubeck says, "It (talent development) needs to be something everyone can believe in within the company and connects across the whole company culture." The future of talent development will be more inclusive and holistic within companies. Talent development will not be the step child of the business, but the driving force to progression. The investment into talent development as a whole will determine the next 10 years of business.
  12. Tell the Story. Your company has a story and your millennials want to be a part of it. Some of the recent business successes like Zappos, Facebook, and Google live on their story. People know their story and want to be a part it. Let your business and employees tell the story. The involvement of young employees in stories will be an investment into the future. Millennials want to stick around to hear the developing storyline. Let them live it, share it, and advance it. Empowering young employees to drive the storybrand is marketing wisdom. This might not seem like a talent development principle, but trust me, it certainly is.

Talent development will continue to shift in the coming years. Ask yourself, "Are you actively developing your greatest asset in business or simply managing the employees you presently have?" Be proactive about your talent development rather than reactive.