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Be a Magnet for Next-Generation Talent

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

In his Forbes article, “Six Driving Forces of Change That Will Shape 2019 and Beyond,” Robert B. Tucker notes that Millennials are now the dominant generation in the workforce and Generation Z isn’t far behind. With this turn, he warns business leaders, “The war for talent will heat up.”

To address this issue, employers should leverage learning. In a Gallup survey, nearly 90 percent of Millennials said professional development is important to them in their jobs. And the draw is even stronger for Gen Z—it’s one of the top drivers of employee engagement for individuals under age 25.

The March 2019 issue of TD at Work,Leaders: Learn to Attract Top Talent” by James M. Kerr and Steven Kenney, outlines opportunities to help the next generation of leaders learn and grow. For instance, they say organizations should encourage managers to offer stretch assignments. This can take the form of formal rotational and job-swapping programs, or companies can simply invite employees to participate on projects beyond their typical scope of work. For example, Google’s “20 percent time” program allows employees to devote the equivalent of one day a week to projects outside their regular job. Ultimately, this led to the creation of Gmail and AdSense.

These types of learning experiences help employees “see where the issues and opportunities are to improve the business and their own development,” write Kerr and Kenney. “That’s a good talent magnet win-win.”

Another strategy is to provide workers opportunities to be more entrepreneurial. In his Entrepreneur article, John Rampton reports that more than 75 percent of Gen Z-ers see and even label themselves as “entrepreneurial.” According to Kerr and Kenney, smart companies position themselves as places where this cohort “can bring their entrepreneurialism to bear for their own satisfaction as well as to benefit the firm.”


In fact, organizations should make supporting and leveraging an entrepreneurial spirit a top priority. That doesn’t mean promoting Gen Z employees to managers their first year on the job, though. Instead, Kerr and Kenney recommend giving them start-to-finish ownership of projects that already fall within their job roles or something with a cross-functional team. Another option is to make it a development goal to use entrepreneurial skills to bring a personal passion to the workplace.

“Young people with initiative are drawn to companies with a track record of letting them run with their ideas. Once you have them on board, you may find they’re the source of your company’s next big thing,” note the authors of this issue of TD at Work.

Finally, if you want to attract and keep younger workers, your organization must showcase how it makes a difference in the world. A Bersin survey points to 40 percent higher retention in mission-driven companies, especially among Gen Z, as well as higher levels of innovation in those missions. Similarly, workers are looking for companies with a green footprint. According to a new Swytch survey of 1,000 U.S. workers, about 40 percent of Millennials said they have taken one job offer over another because of a company's sustainability, and 70 percent said it would impact their decision to stay with a company for the long haul.

“Younger individuals’ desire to work for organizations addressing social challenges links back to their entrepreneurial spirit,” write Kerr and Kenney.

If you’re implementing the ideas described here, you already have the factors in place to be a talent magnet for the next generation of the workforce.

About the Author

Ryann K. Ellis is an editor for the Association of Talent Development (ATD). She has been covering workplace learning and performance for ATD (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) since 1995. She currently manages ATD's Community of Practice blogs, as well as ATD's government-focused magazine, The Public Manager. Contact her at 

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