3 Ideas to Retain the Young & Talented When Career Paths Are Scarce

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Steve Boese (another go-to blogger of mine for anything relevant and important in the moment in HR) recently pointed out this alarming statistic:  For the first time since these things started being tracked (1950), we are on the cusp of the number of employees aged 55 and older (Baby Boomers) surpassing those aged 25-34 (Gen Y). (Click through for Steve’s post to see a chart that makes this very clear.)

Let that sink in for a moment. Very soon, the average organization will have more employees nearing retirement than mid-career employees ready and able to take their place.

This is especially surprising to me as it’s the generation in the middle – Gen X – that’s far smaller than Boomers or Gen Y, but that’s not mentioned in this chart. Gen Y is larger than the Boomers, and yet they’re about to be surpassed by Boomers in the workforce.

Creating career paths for the young & talented

Of course, there are obvious reasons why this may be, including those employees who would typically retire at 65 remaining in the workplace much longer due to the recent recession and loss of planned retirement funds. Regardless, the reality remains the potential lack of career path for those who typically at this stage rapidly advance in their careers.

If you can’t offer a clear career path, what do you do to keep these young, highly motivated, talented employees on board and engaged with your organization? This article offers a few ideas, but I don’t think they go far enough.

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Here are three more ideas to create career paths for young, talented individuals.

  1. Ensure all employees understand very clearly the value they and their efforts bring to the organization with frequent, timely recognition and detailed feedback.
  2. Continue to train and develop employees in the roles they are in. Skills can always be improved.
  3. Allow employees to invest some increment of “work time” in creative ideas and outlets that could bring benefits to your organization, e.g., Google’s “20 percent time.

What other creative ideas are there for retaining young, top talent when career paths aren’t evident?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is senior vice president of client strategy and consulting at Workhuman, where he leads the company’s consulting and analytics divisions. His writing is regularly featured across major HR publications, including HR Magazine, Human Resource Executive, HR Zone, and Workspan.