What HR Leaders Can Do Today to Support Tomorrow’s Leaders

For the past few years, there’s been a lot of talk about the changing nature of work. More people are no longer as focused on following a linear career path where the sole intent is to move up the ladder in a specific field. Instead, some of the most talented employees want experiences across a variety of fields, and place a premium on work that adds value to their lives and makes a difference in the world. To keep the best and brightest, companies must find a way to keep these dynamic and inquisitive employees motivated and engaged.

While this new workforce will ultimately create major shifts in the fabric of organizations, most of us are still in the early days of this evolution. But, we can begin with a few positive changes now. Here are some ideas we’ve been pursuing at Workday:

Rethink Learning

It’s all about the experience. Whether it’s learning something new, taking on a challenging assignment, or sharing something you’ve mastered, meaningful experiences capture hearts and minds and can bring out the best in your team.

Take a page from Netflix, and make proactive recommendations on content that can position employees for growth in a new area.

Rather than approach learning as a “How to Do Your Job” instruction manual, organizations should deliver it more like an “Access What Interests You” video playlist. Open your learning content up to everyone, regardless of their role, and make it simple to find the material that matches their interests. The vast content-dump libraries of yesterday’s online learning systems are time-consuming and confusing.

Take a page from Netflix, and make proactive recommendations on content that can position employees for growth in a new area. Bring it to the next level by giving your employees the opportunity to create learning content in their areas of expertise, similar to producing their own YouTube tutorials. By providing employees with the opportunity to learn and teach on their own, you empower them to become better at their current role and beyond.

Changing the Manager Mindset

Most of us grew up in the world of traditional work where an employee was committed to a manager and a specific role was given to the employee. The manager assumed the employee would stay with the company for at least several years, perhaps moving up a level or two along the way. While this model certainly isn’t dead, it doesn’t fit the needs of today’s workers the way it once did. With employees starting to see work as a series of meaningful experiences, managers need to figure out how to adjust—to think less “job” and more “assignment.” Otherwise, you risk losing great talent to competitors.

We’ve been piloting a few programs at Workday with these new learning and “assignment” approaches in mind. One is our Career Growth program in Dublin, with personalized learning experiences, connections with experts who can act as role models, and projects outside the employee’s current role. While we’re still exploring what this program will look like long term, the early returns have been positive.

Taking these and other steps will require strategic thinking from HR leaders, but addressing the needs of a changing workforce now will help immensely when bigger changes come in the future. By providing ample learning resources and encouraging internal movement, your company will be creating a culture of opportunity for tomorrow’s leaders.