Some ideas for retaining talented Generation X employees

Recently during a business lunch my bright, young companion leaned across the table and said, "You know, Joan, I wouldn't still be with my company if it weren't for my manager. He really is the best boss I ever had. He told me that his job as my manager has two purposes: to make me successful and to help me grow. If it wasn't for him teaching me and challenging me, I would have been outa' Dodge long ago!"

This statement resonates clearly for many young, talented employees. They know that job security is long gone so they hope for someone who can boost their learning curve along their own self-made career path. This is the manager they dream of...someone who won't be threatened. Someone, who will teach, coach, and challenge them! In fact, it's the kind of manager most people want, not just the young professionals.

Although it's risky to generalize, the generation X'ers tend to be more loyal to their technical field than they are to their employers. They've seen what has become of their parents' sense of dedication and loyalty in the face of downsizing and reengineering. And this young crop of professionals is more cynical and suspicious of big business. The cover of a recent "Fortune Magazine" screamed out their sentiments with a cover story entitled, "Kissing Off Corporate America."

At the same time, companies are finally feeling the demographic pinch at the tail end of the baby boom. There simply aren't enough skilled people to fill jobs. So what is a company to do?

It seems clear to me that any company who hopes to attract and keep the best talent needs to look at employee development as a competitive strategy. In order to be the employer of choice, companies are going to have to re-think what they do and how they do it.

Here are some ideas to rattle your cage:

·        Career development counseling provided as a benefit to all employees

·        An on-site career center where assessment, computer-based training and other resources are available for employees to learn how to manage their own careers and achieve maximum performance

·        Planned rotation programs that move high-potential recruits every six months to a year for several years. At the end of that time, they may get offers from past managers/mentors...but no guarantee of a job.

·        Planned rotation programs that are open to long-term employees

·        Remove people management responsibilities from managers who stifle employee growth

·        Create two employee development tracks: technical and managerial, both with comparable salary and status perks and training opportunities. Technical "masters" would win increasing freedom to select projects with more autonomy and/or develop business plans that would be funded by a panel selected to review and approve innovative, new business ideas.

·        Part-time and full-time "apprenticeships" available for insiders who want to learn a new skill and who meet the requirements to be a candidate

·        College courses taught on-site for credit

·        Leadership labs and assessment centers for selecting and developing qualified leaders

·        Job swapping for three to six months to learn another part of the business and to gain empathy and understanding about key inside customers

·        Throw out job descriptions and assign work more like a small company would; by deploying skills and talent where it's needed and encouraging everyone to wear many hats

·        Teams rotate leadership responsibilities

·        Teams split up leadership responsibilities based on interest and talent

This is just a start. Why not continue to brainstorm with your co-workers tomorrow? Who knows, you might come up with some ideas that would cause the best and the brightest to line up at your front door. It would also make your company a great place to grow and develop the talent it already has.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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