Young ProfessionalsConsider a popular statistic: Generation Y, or Millennials, are expected to comprise more than 50 percent of the workforce by 2020. That is just five years away, so it is essential for this new generation to prepare for a future of leadership.

In ATD’s 2012 whitepaper Leadership Development for Millennials, 56 percent of employers surveyed believe that Millennials require specialized leadership development programs to succeed. Envisioning a world that works better begins with instilling the right knowledge and skills in young professionals.

Seeking to better serve future leaders of the profession, ATD introduced its Young Professionals initiative in 2014 to encourage professionals entering the field to expand their expertise while shaping the future of the talent development industry. Keeping up with trends and the hottest gadgets is part of the Millennial culture, but how can organizations promote a sustainable future with strong leaders? We asked ATD CEO Tony Bingham to share his thoughts on the future of the industry and what that means for new professionals entering the field.

Q: How can organizations prepare for a future with young professionals as leaders?

TB: In order to meet the demands of the future, organizations need programs designed to meet the development needs of Millennials. Opportunities for regular and focused development are important to this generation, and acting on that is critical. And, since this generation looks at technology as a utility (like electricity), we must shift our perspectives and design our content to support consumption via a variety of technologies. Smartphones, tablets, apps, social networks, and the cloud are used in virtually every workplace and with increasing frequency. If we want to engage this generation, our design and delivery must include the devices and channels most favored by them.

Being the “employer of choice” will be determined in part by the talent development team. In order to help attract, grow, and retain young professionals with leadership potential, a prioritized talent development function must be in place. This goes beyond a requisite training program’s focus on technical skills. Young professionals also seek to enhance transferable soft skills. Organizations should consider mentoring and coaching programs in the areas of communication, relationship building, and diplomacy.

Q: What is the best way for today’s young professionals to make an impact in talent development?

TB: Young professionals do a great job connecting with one another and adapting to new technology. This group has the opportunity to influence the field by increasing collaborative efforts and sharing content, ideas, and practices across the entire global community using digital and social media. Young professionals must be engaged in creating a culture of collaboration and one that is comfortable with change. It’s their responsibility to get their voices heard, and it’s the responsibility of senior leaders to ensure that an environment exists where this generation can comfortably share their thoughts, and be confident that they are being actively listened to.

Q: How can young professionals engage with other ATD professionals?

TB: Talent development professionals of all ages are encouraged to share their knowledge with the ATD community by connecting in person at ATD conferences, ATD education programs, local ATD chapter meetings, or online in our very active social channels (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, WeChat, Pinterest, and so on). I urge young professionals to share their ideas by creating blog posts, podcasts, videos, or infographics. [Editor’s note: If you’re interested in contributing content, let us know by submitting this form or emailing youngprofessionals@td.org.]

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Q: What difference would ATD membership make for a member of Gen Y? Why would a young professional want to join the ATD membership community?

TB: This generation understands the importance of community and connections, and that is what ATD membership is about. ATD is dedicated to supporting the growth of talent development practitioners throughout their professional journey so that they can drive results in their organizations, and enjoy greater satisfaction in their careers with a well-proven model for success.

Young professionals—really all professionals—need information that is available on demand and highly relevant. With more than 70 years of history, ATD is a trusted source of data-driven best practices, case studies, and education focused around 11 communities of practice (targeted areas of interest). We are constantly searching for offerings that our members will value—we do the work of ensuring that the information is relevant and valuable, saving our members time. Membership also provides many benefits, including discounts, connections to subject matter experts and to one another, assessments, career guidance, and access to content created specifically for members.

Additionally, ATD membership and local chapter membership offer many opportunities to network online and in person. It’s always great to see people meet face-to-face at our conferences after virtually connecting on one of our social channels. There is nothing like personal, face-to-face connection. Networking is powerful and robust in the ATD member community.

Q: What career advice would you give to young professionals just starting out in talent development or people looking to make a career change?

TB: Never stop learning. But, learn with a plan or model. Get involved in online discussions and attend face-to-face events. Joining an association like ATD allows you to develop your networks, potentially leading to new career opportunities, skills, industry information, and relationships. When you’re ready, consider developing expertise and earning recognition through one of our Master Series offerings (trainer, instructional designer, performance consultant, and so forth) or ATD’s industry certification, the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance credential, to demonstrate your skills, advance your career, and deliver even greater results for your company.

Q: Do you have any final thoughts for young professionals or the organizations that want to attract and retain them?

TB: Great organizations have great people, and in today’s workforce those great people come from multiple generations. While each generation has unique characteristics, I think an important reminder is that every generation has something it can learn from others. Organizations would be wise to recognize the unique opportunities this provides by creating an environment for collaboration within and across generations. Being a lifelong learner is particularly important in this field. Whether you’ve been in the profession for five months or 35 years, you have to continue pushing yourself to learn new things, challenge your assumptions, meet new people, expose yourself to growth opportunities, and embrace change. I think this applies to individuals as well as organizations. We are entering a period in business where innovation and change are key areas of focus for CEOs. The best organizations are developing their talent and their cultures to meet these important challenges.

ATD young professionals are encouraged to get involved and submit blog posts, podcasts, videos, or learning visuals. Read more about how you can share your content.