ATD Blog

3 Ways to Develop and Grow the Next Generation of Emerging Talent

Monday, July 9, 2018

I can remember the moment like it was yesterday; the decision I made to enroll in my high school entrepreneurship class. It was the first time I had been exposed to the feeling of creating my own destiny and recognizing the satisfaction of taking control of my future. I can attest to the fact that our future business leaders share the same feeling when taking entrepreneurship classes.

My experience in the entrepreneurship class resulted in a business plan for a restaurant called Danny’s Sports Bar and Grill. That plan didn’t take shape because I decided the restaurant business wasn’t for me. However, through that experience, I learned valuable lessons on developing strategy, understanding the financial implications of running a business, and taking many ideas and putting them into a single vision. These skills have stayed with me and have only increased my ability to add value to my firm.

As human resources and talent development professionals, we are in a prime position to influence those who take our place as we move forward in our careers. But with the changing needs of each generation entering the workforce, how do we know what the best strategies are to appeal to newest members of our workforce?

Fortunately, there is no shortage of information on the preferences, needs, and behaviors of the emerging Generation Z (born between 1996 and 2010), which currently make up approximately 9 percent of the workforce, according to Pew Research.

If you plan on hiring members of this generation, here are a few strategies that can be used to develop them so that we can maximize their potential and leverage their strengths.

Support Their Entrepreneurial Passion

According to a Gallup study, 40 percent of students in grades 5-12 plan to start their own business, and 24 percent are currently learning how to start one. Remember Danny’s Sports Bar and Grill? Students today are taking the same classes and leveraging the same skills to prepare for their future. The reality is that many of these students may never end up owning a business, but the development they gained along the way toward that dream could potentially add tremendous value to your organization.


We can leverage the entrepreneurial passion of Gen Z by involving them in high-level projects where they are challenged to develop a strategy and vision for a project. Additionally, if we give them ownership of high-stakes deliverables, we will open up our organizations to innovative strategies to support our constantly changing business environment.

Customize Their Development Path

A new trend that has emerged over the course of the past decade is the ability to create a customized degree program. Similar to the process of purchasing a new vehicle and picking your options and add-ons, universities are doing the same. One example of this is Indiana University–Bloomington’s Individualized Major Program, where students design their own curriculum of 30-42 credit hours culminating in a final project or thesis. Students can also “add a personalized touch” to their degree by designing a minor. In fact, Indiana University is just one of many universities moving to this model.

With this trend on the rise, students will be expecting employers to follow the same type of approach when it comes to designing their own curriculum. If we can tailor a customized development path for these young workers, we will allow them to capitalize on their strengths and contribute on a high level to add unique value to an organization.


Give Them the Freedom to Learn Their Own Way

According to Deloitte’s 2018 Millennial Survey, where 1,844 members of the Gen Z population were surveyed, three out of four said that continuous professional development, self-directed learning, or self-paced learning will be important in helping them perform their best. Today, people can learn at their own pace and choose the medium that they can receive it in. A learner can get the same content in a video, podcast, audiobook, physical book, online course, or live course, and they have the ability to choose one or multiple options based on their preferences.

By allowing the learner to identify the way in which they learn best and digest content at their own pace and method, they are more likely to retain the information and use it to benefit an organization, thus creating a higher ROI on the costs of the learning program.

We’ve discussed three strategies for how we can tailor our talent development approach to meet the needs of emerging talent, but it is worth remembering that these approaches can be beneficial to all our professionals as the business environment continues to evolve.

How will you be adjusting your approach to remain agile as our emerging talent enters the workforce?

About the Author

Dan Schwartz is an HR communications manager with BKD CPAs and Advisors. In his role, Dan is focused on executing communication initiatives for BKD to support the firm’s culture and communicate the Employee Value Proposition (EVP). He is responsible for developing, writing and overseeing the release of internal and external communication documents and programs that promote the firm's key people initiatives. Dan has published articles, books, videos, and podcasts related to career development and leadership development. He is the author of TD at Work: Managing as a Ground Floor Leader, Winning Strategies: Achieving Success in the Classroom, Career and Life and is a contributing author to Find Your Fit: A Practical Guide to Landing a Job You'll Love.

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