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How to Reinvent Your Mature Business With Young, Tech-Savvy Professionals

Date: Sep 02, 2015 @ 07:00 AM

In the following article, industry veteran Bill Verhelle offers eight suggestions for hiring and retaining young, technology-savvy workers into a mature business.

1. Interview differently. The standard interview process developed for hiring seasoned executives is not especially useful with young, entry-level employees. Instead of talking about past workplace accomplishments or hypothetical workplace scenarios, ask broad, open-ended questions. The purpose of the interview should be to determine the candidate’s attitude and interests. Try to identify candidates that really want to make a difference. Hire bright candidates with the most optimistic outlook (best attitude). Put them in roles where they can build upon their personal interests.

2. Communicate big transformative goals. Incremental growth and profitability goals are not sufficiently motivational. Discuss challenges for which you don’t have all the answers. Ask your staff to help you solve the big, strategic challenges. Your goals might include transforming your distribution model or becoming the best company in your marketplace through innovation and a commitment to excellence. If possible, ask your employees to help you set the specific goals. Then paint a clear picture of what your company will look like in five or ten years if the goals are achieved. Challenge your team to accomplish those big goals and agree upon ways to benchmark your progress.

3. Staff cross-functional teams of younger workers, and isolate them from the larger organization. If you run a large business in a mature industry, staffed with more mature workers, keep your newly hired, younger workers together in a cohesive (isolated) group. Ideally, hire them into a single team, business unit or subsidiary. Locate them where meaningful change can occur without the approval of the larger organization. Don’t put the team in a position where every transformative idea they bring forward is judged or voted on by the middle managers in your existing organization before anyone can move forward. Instead, put them in a team where they have the authority to test their new ideas, on a small scale.

4. Assign the new team to one of your most inspired, respected young managers. Pick someone who is patient with his or her reports; but, who calls it like he or she sees it.  Choose someone who isn’t afraid to break a little glass when necessary in support of an innovative new idea that might improve the business. The leader you select should also have a sincere commitment to the professional development of the people for whom they are responsible. Young professionals can tell if a manager really cares about them and their long-term success. Loyalty is a two way street. The sooner your firm can demonstrate its loyalty and commitment to the young professionals entering your business, the better.  Make sure the manager you select for the team is an authentic individual that will consistently project your values to your new staff.

5. Treat the new hires differently than you have treated new entrants to your organization in the past. Make sure the team leader knows the importance of this special team. You should personally commit to investing substantial, face-to-face time with the team (at least every month, if not weekly). After highlighting the big, strategic vision you want the organization to accomplish, spend most of your time in each meeting asking questions and listening. Nothing communicates respect like listening; and you may be surprised what insights you’ll gain regarding your overall business strategy from their fresh, technology savvy, outside perspective. 

6. Flatten your organization. Silos are good for cost-leadership. Everyone wants to control costs. But if you are bringing in young, technology-savvy workers to spur innovation and transformation, recognize that the silos are working against meaningful change. Flatten your organizational structure wherever possible to spur innovation and to increase employee engagement.

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