I am almost exclusively a non-fiction reader, and my favorite books are the ones that reshape my way of thinking.
More recently, I read “Talent Generation: How Visionary Organizations Are Redefining Work and Achieving Greater Success,” by Sarah Sladek, in preparation for the discussion we had together on the subject. Over a month has gone by since we talked, and her arguments have lingered in my mind, indicating the importance of her message in starting a much-needed dialogue.
In the book, Sarah explains there is a strong need to engage the younger generations of talent as we are living in a time that is, quite frankly, absolutely unprecedented. My main takeaway from her book: When what we expect and need from our young talent is not in line with what we’re giving in return, we cannot expect them to stick around.
And, unfortunately, surveys are confirming this is what’s happening. Millennials are indeed job hopping.
This is an issue that is particularly important for associations, as it hits us on three levels:
- It impacts our current members as they struggle to retain their employees and must eat the cost when they are unable.
- It impacts the pool of our potential members as negative experiences may turn them off an initially desirable career path. (If Maddie the Millennial enters her first marketing position and leaves with a bad taste in her mouth, she might draw the broader conclusion that marketing isn’t her gig. That makes her quite unlikely to, say, invest in an annual membership to a marketing association.)
- It impacts our internal organizations, as we struggle to retain our own talent.
Now, if Millennial job hopping is in fact so endemic, the question is: Do we accept this as a given generational characteristic and plan accordingly, or do we dig a little deeper to understand how we can facilitate a more equitable balance between employee and employer?
I would argue a little bit of A and a little bit of B, but Sarah’s book constructively focuses on B.
I want to briefly point out that I keep referring to Millennials as they, as if I am observing under a microscope in a lab far, far away from the source. In fact, I myself am a Millennial, and identify with many of the characteristics that are bestowed upon my generation in terms of what we expect from our employers.
I have had jobs where I was counting down the minutes until the end of the day, only doing what I was asked but nothing more. I have also had jobs where my full mindshare and passion was dedicated entirely by choice, and I loved every minute of going into work and giving it my all.
So, what were the differences between the two types? What were the environmental factors that led to the latter experience, and more importantly, how can they be replicated by other organizations?
I found myself heavily identifying with the reasons provided in “Talent Generation,” which is why I still think about the book regularly.
For instance, in the jobs where I was the most engaged, I:
- Had a strong mentor.
- Was given massive creative license and decision-making capability.
- Had access to the resources I needed and was trusted to prescribe what those were.
I read this book through the lens of an employee – wondering if I could identify with the arguments Sarah set forth.
But I challenge you to read this book through a much more difficult lens: What can your association be doing to facilitate higher job satisfaction among your members? What’s lacking right now? Leadership training? Mentorship programs?
And does your association practice what it preaches? Can you look to your own organization and scrutinize the way they engage with young talent?
We’re uniquely positioned to make meaningful change in this area as long as we’re ready to open up the dialogue both internally and externally. With such a variety of industries under our purview, and the potential of both supporting and modeling new behaviors, if we can harness some of the vision to which Sarah points, we can start the dominos tumbling.