apprentice factory manager
Development strategies should harness the knowledge of the different generations present in a company.
Motion Industries

Managing today’s workforce is a complex situation. Due to advancements in medicine and the resulting quality of life improvement for older workers, five generations can be found in the workplace: traditionalists, baby boomers, Generation Xers, millennials and the newest addition, Generation Z. Each generation presents different challenges and opportunities, but all need development activities.  

Many companies design robust workforce development strategies that apply to all employees, but smart companies leverage the strengths of each generation to help in the development of others. Try the following to help ensure the most is made of development activities.

Recruiting Future Employees

The leading edge of Generation Z is entering college, mixing with the trailing end of the millennial generation who are finishing their degrees. Workforce development programs for these future employees should include a real-world application of what they are learning in college with a mix of marketing the company as a place they should join when they graduate.  

Employers should identify colleges and universities that offer degree programs in areas that meet the needs of the company now and in the future. Spend time developing relationships with the departments responsible for the degree programs in which there is an interest. Do not rely solely on attending career fairs—typically that provides only 30 seconds with a student who stops by, and that student will find it difficult to differentiate one company from others in the room. 

Internship Programs

If possible, develop an internship program with each school. This presents opportunities for students and employers to “try before you buy.” Employers spend a summer showing off their opportunities and culture, developing a deeper relationship with the student, and determining if there is a good fit. Students are doing the same, so make sure to provide assignments that are meaningful, give them occasional access to management over lunch, provide a mentor to assist them and stay in touch after they go back to school. If there are certain students of interest, be prepared to make a job offer well before they graduate. 

If committing to paid interns over a summer is not possible, work with the schools to offer field trips to company facilities so that extended time is available with the students. Use older millennials as ambassadors in these programs, as it is easier for a student to relate to someone close in age and possibly from the same school. The key to these types of programs is extended periods of contact with the students to sell the organization. 

Programs for Existing Employees

While programs focused on prospective employees are largely about attracting talent to the organization, development programs for existing employees are primarily focused on professional development. These are known to bring about multiple positive results, such as higher productivity levels, higher employee engagement scores, reduced turnover rates and an enhanced candidate pipeline via employee referrals. 

Development programs for existing employees take many forms. The most obvious manner are classical programs from a learning and development department. If a company is not large enough to have its own learning department, it can still offer many off-the-shelf courses, such as office productivity tools, taught by qualified instructors from a local community college. 

Many providers offer generic, professional development seminars across the country on any given day. Industry organizations often offer highly specialized training classes to everyone in a specific industry. If the thought of employees mingling with competitors gives pause, many programs are available as private sessions where a company controls who is allowed to participate.  

Specialized Programs

Lastly, the most labor-intensive method to develop employees is one geared for high-potential employees. These programs are often specialized and company specific. They require a considerable amount of effort to develop, but then can become easy to administer and can be repeated for consecutive years with minor tweaks. 

High-potential programs usually involve cohort groups given specific projects to complete and often lead to lifelong connections. Many universities have departments that specialize in developing these types of programs and can provide everything from a turnkey solution to assistance with content.  

Each program can be enhanced by using the talent already on the payroll. A traditionalist or baby boomer can reenergize when teaching others who are new to a company or function.  

Using multigenerational assets to enhance development offerings will yield better results, cross-pollinate ideas and make the organization more attractive to prospectives. Regardless of the budget or size, it is imperative to develop a company’s most important asset—the people.