The Opportunity for Learning

As a Baby Boomer I profess a level of ignorance about what “motivates” younger generations. But because I am in Human Resources and I am a generally curious fellow I probably know more than many of my generational peers. Also, I make sure I “follow” a good number of younger bloggers. (I must admit it is much easier to follow younger bloggers than it is older bloggers.) I try to keep current on the issues of Gen X and Gen Y.
One of the writers I follow is Steph Beer who writes Stepwise. She writes a very readable blog on some very interesting topics. The one I read this morning is entitled A Talent Exodus for the Rest of Us. Steph talks about the current interest of younger professionals to work for the “bigger and sexier” companies that offer some glamour in the working environment or at least the allure of glamour. Companies such as Google, Amazon, Disney and, believe it or not, The State Department. She asks the question

“Where does that leave the rest of companies? Probably in a catch-22, where they struggle to hold onto their most talented employees while facing a broader market shortage of technically skilled workers (and rising labor costs).”

She then offers this piece of wisdom:

“Know this: employees have interests and desires that extend beyond their day to day, but most CEOs don’t have a clue about their direct reports’ real priorities and concerns.”

Ms. Beer then goes on to offer several suggestions for keeping talented employees and attracting them as well. I will leave it to you to discover what those are, but I wanted to focus on one of her suggestions. Training! I personally believe however, that this works across generations. Most people I know like to have the opportunity to learn new things.
Humans by nature tend to be a curious sort particularly if they are learning something about an avocation rather than an occupation. So why not offer opportuntities for people to explore interests, be they interests that benefit the company or be they interests that do nothing more than just make the person a more satisfied employee? Here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  • Do you have a fund to allow people to attend conferences?
  • Do you have a structure that allows people to pursue pet projects?
  • Do you have a structure that allows people to cross-train?
  • Do you allow people to pursue degrees that do not have a direct connection to the business?

I know some of you may be saying “We don’t want to spend that money, because they will take that training to another company.” And that may be true if what you are paying is so far under the market. But if that is the case they will probably leave you anyway. Others of you are saying “Those things cost money and don’t produce any revenue.” That is true, those things do cost money. But that cost is much less than what turnover costs are. As to not producing revenue, I will disagree with you there. Satisfied employees are more productive employees and more productive employees produce more revenue.
So give it some thought. What can you do training and education-wise that will benefit all generations of your employees?

1 thought on “The Opportunity for Learning”

  1. This is a very good point! As one the working generations between Gen X & Y and the Baby Boomers, I fall into the category of I would like to have a more creative workplace but have my parent’s work ethic of, work is not a place to socalize, you have colleagues, professional aquaintences, but not friends. That’s for you personal life.
    Nowadays it seems that the personal/social atmosphere begins at the workplace. Whether it is because we have become so isolated in our personal lives, that the workplace (if you are not home officed) IS the place to interact, face to face, with the “rest of the world” or, that the new generations of workers, because of the predominance of technology and instant information (IM, Twitter, Facebook) that the more creative/social workplace keeps their (in my opinion) shorter attention spans, more connected with the work. And that includes offering trainings and paying for classes.
    Perhaps the line is bluring (for better or worse) that our work lives are now becoming part of our personal life. And the more companies invest in the outside interests of their employees, the more employees connect with the company and want to stay.

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