· 2 min read · Features

How to meet the expectations of the i-generation

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The 'i-generation'of high fliers has arrived and organisations are being forced to ring in the changes to attract, retain and develop the best young talent.

Today's graduates are far more demanding than those starting out 15 to 20 years ago. We were equally ambitious, but were prepared to meld more readily to an organisation's culture. The i-generation has grown up with instant access to a wealth of information and is more worldly-wise as a result.

They have greater expectations from an employer: they expect to be more informed and engaged in decision-making processes; and they expect a wider range of opportunities for career progression.

The old habit of top down management therefore has to change - the i-generation will challenge any suspicion of being sold a corporate line and if they don't believe the organisation will deliver, they will be off.

Jumping ship is not so easy during the recession, though, which means young managers are demanding tailored training and skills development to maximise future employability, both with their current employer in fast-changing times, and elsewhere.

So what does it take to adapt to the i-generation?

Career development

The traditional annual appraisal is becoming outdated - it is seen by many as a mechanical form-filling process and a waste of time. Appraisals are still very important, but line managers must engage in meaningful career development discussions with individuals that include longer-term development and career prospects. Line managers, who often feel there are more pressing matters, need to be given help to develop better coaching skills. There is also nothing like senior management endorsement to convey the importance of these discussions.

Engagement in learning

Training is traditionally skills-focused and often fails to connect the individual with the organisation. In the past there has been little alignment between training and overall business objectives. There is an increasing need to implement highly relevant bespoke training courses, putting emphasis on how to apply the learning to the tasks faced by staff in their role come Monday morning.

Integrating specific and real business projects into workshops increase effectiveness and engagement. Participants focus on the organisation's objectives, while peer group co-coaching is an effective way to resolve real challenges in the workplace as well as learn skills useful in effective people management.

The bigger picture

There is often a disconnect between the strategic business overview that senior management hold and down the line, leaving young managers in the dark when it comes to the bigger picture. This can be detrimental to confidence and decision-making.

The i-generation need a more accessible understanding of company strategy. For example, more effective senior managers translate corporate-level objectives and priorities in a way that units and teams can readily relate to and translate into aligned operational priorities and actions.

Communication

It is no longer enough, however, to simply give a clear strategic focus in words and corporate publications  - the new crop of young managers respond far better to the human touch. Technology has provided senior management with a huge opportunity to improve general communication and some chief execs are already engaging the i-generation through new channels such as blogs, podcasts and video links, together with more face-to-face ‘walking about' and more informal interaction.

Work-life balance

The i-generation puts more emphasis on a work-life balance, and the recession has brought this into focus. Organisations that have the confidence to trust younger staff with the responsibility and autonomy that come with flexible and home-working will reap the benefits. Strong and confident line managers trust staff to deliver and to work without direct supervision. They need to be capable of managing through outputs/outcomes rather than focusing on inputs.

The i-generation has a lot to offer. At a time when many organisations can't use pay rises, bonuses or extravagant rewards to maintain talented staff, they need to look for other ways to engage them. By adapting to the development needs and preferences of the i-generation, organisations will be taking an important step towards retaining and developing the senior managers of the future.

Sue Young is principal consultant at Berkshire Consultancy