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Graduate expectations: engaging with the i-generation

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With the arrival of the next generation of high fliers, organisations have been forced to adapt in order to attract, retain and develop the best young talent around. But how best can employers engage with the so-called ‘i-generation’?

The graduate profile has changed

The latest crop of graduates has greater expectations than those entering the workplace 15 to 20 years ago. We were just as ambitious, but also prepared to meld more readily into the culture of an organisation. The i-generation has been reared with instant access to a wealth of information and as a result is more worldly-wise. I-generation graduates expect to be more informed and engaged in their organisation’s decision-making processes; and they anticipate a wider range of opportunities for career progression.

The traditional style of top down management needs to change - the i-generation will Challenge any suspicion of being fed a corporate line and if they will go elsewhere if they don't believe the organisation will meet their needs. However, movement between jobs is much harder than it was a few years ago and thus young managers are more likely to demand tailored training and skills development to maximise their future employability, both with their current employer in fast-changing times, and with other organisations.

Progression & development for graduates

Traditional appraisals that rely on mechanical form filling processes don’t cut the mustard with this generation. Appraisals are still highly important, but line managers must ensure they engage in meaningful discussions with individuals that consider their career development and prospects in the long term.

Many line managers often feel there are more pressing matters to attend to, and will therefore need to be given help to develop their coaching skills. Senior management endorsement is absolutely paramount in conveying the importance of these discussions.

Bespoke training solutions

Training generally focuses on skills and often fails to make a connection between the individual and the organisation, as previously there has been a lack of alignment between training and overall business objectives. Increasingly, there is a need to implement highly relevant, bespoke training courses, which emphasises to staff how they can apply what they have learned to their role in practice.

Managers should integrate specific and real business projects into workshops as these will increase the effectiveness of the training and improve staff engagement. Participants focus on the organisation's objectives, while peer group co-coaching allows people to overcome real Challenges in the workplace as well as learn new skills that will be useful in managing their people effectively.

A clear overview of strategy - key to i-generation

Often, there's 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 needs an accessible understanding of their company’s strategy. For example, the most effective senior managers translate corporate-level objectives and priorities in a way that these young managers and teams can easily relate to, and then translate into operational priorities and actions that are aligned with the business.

The human touch

It's no longer sufficient 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 an ideal opportunity to improve the communication among their teams, and already a number of chief execs are engaging the i-generation through more digital channels such as blogs, podcasts and video links. These are often linked together with face-to-face ‘walking about' and an increase in informal interaction to create a number of effective communication channels.

Looking to the future - engage with i-generation

Overall, the i-generation puts increasing emphasis on a work-life balance, and the financial crisis has brought this even more centre stage. 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 have faith in their team to deliver and to perform without direct supervision. Managers must ensure they are capable of managing through outputs/outcomes rather than focusing on inputs alone.

The i-generation has much to offer. Many organisations are not currently in a position to use pay rises, bonuses or extravagant rewards to retain their talented staff, and therefore need to look for alternative ways to engage them. Organisations that adapt to the development needs and preferences of the i-generation, will be taking a highly important step towards retaining and developing the senior managers of tomorrow.

Further information about Berkshire Consultancy and their work can be found at


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