When was the last time you heard a Twenty- or Thirtysomething wax poetic about managing people? Not since the Boomers arrived in organizations in the 1970′s and 1980′s! If you eavesdrop at the local bar the conversation is all about management of one’s own business — not about managing in someone else’s. A Sixtysomething client has had six job offers in the past four months. Why? He should be getting mailings from retirement homes. (He may be and didn’t mention it.) He’s in great demand because he likes to manage people! Doesn’t everybody? Clearly not.
Recruiters, both contingency and retained, tell us that finding younger candidates to manage people is increasingly difficult — unless they are ethnic or racial minorities or the children of immigrants. The under-forty crowd wants to avoid the emotional stress managing people causes. As one man, 27 said, “Why would I take on that level of misery? Every manager I know looks worried 90 percent of the time!” His observation is accurate.
What’s a corporation to do? How about resurrecting an idea from the 1960′s known as cross-functional job rotation a.k.a move them regularly and train them ruthlessly? The today twist would be to get a written commitment that in exchange for training the employee agrees to stay with the company for X months or years or to pay the company X dollars for training received. In the 1960s and 1970s the Boomers were excited because they thought such programs were the “fast track.” Today’s Twentysomething will respond to the training even if he/she wants to be self-employed. By making people agree to pay back the cost of training if they leave you give the company enough time to make its case. Management training isn’t a fantasy and can be taught.
When I’ve talked to people who went through extensive training programs in the 1960s and 1970s most agreed they’d do it again. It gave them skills more quickly than working in a single department for several years could. Since few strategies are out there to keep the young until you’ve gotten your money’s worth why not try this one?
More on Millennials in the Workplace
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