Growing Our Talent

Doug Bohr, Chief Education & Programs officer, IFPA

Our industry values and rewards a strong work ethic. Grit and determination are part of getting a fresh product to market on time. For young professionals seeking to make their way in the world and carve out a career pathway for themselves, the old adage “paying your dues” can create a chasm of misunderstanding between generations of our industry.

Millennials, generally, have challenged the notion that staying with the same company and working their way up the company or corporate ladder over time is the path to success or longevity. It’s not because they are lazy or impatient. They are seeking new and challenging experiences, and as the business environment has become more dynamic than ever before, it is often hard for young professionals who are new to the industry to see a path forward amid the changes.

Many times, amid the turbulent markets we have ridden in recent years, whether up or down, managers are not able to show employees what a viable development path could look like.

We neglect these professional development conversations at our own peril. As we seek to attract and develop the future leaders of our industry, one of the fundamental barriers to retaining that emerging talent is the lack of an honest conversation that takes into consideration their personal and professional interests, aligns it with the practical business needs and priorities of the company, and develops a viable plan to provide professional development opportunities that directly support the business.

These can be stretch opportunities that range from being part of a team responsible for specific new initiative, enrolling in a professional development course to build a specific new skill, or attending a conference to stay tuned to new trends or developments in a particular area of professional development and business priority.

When talent is not offered these “stretch” opportunities, be it through new strategic initiatives within their unit or company or through professional development courses or conferences, they will seek them elsewhere, with other employers.

Professional development programs that connect employees to experiences and—just as importantly—to their peers across the industry provide your promising young talent the new growth opportunities they are craving and are essential to retaining to your top talent and building a high performing team in an industry that is, at its core, built on relationships. The more you allow your young professionals to step out of their day-to-day experiences, the more they will grow, and the more they will bring back to your company.

Your high performers are taking the long view of their career. They know that growth experiences and opportunities today are the path to a prosperous future for themselves and their families, and they want to know that their employers have a plan and are invested in a creating a path for them.

Given all that we have experienced over the past two years, we all understand if that path may take a few unexpected twists and turns, zigs and zags. They just want to know that you have a plan that includes them, values them, and make them feel a part of the future.

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