Nothing is more frustrating, especially for employees who are in the Millennial Generation, than to feel like you are spinning your wheels. Motivating yourself to get up, get in to the office and do your best work when you know that you aren’t going anywhere is an uphill battle. Older generations often mistake this desire for career advancement opportunities as a symptom of the Participation Trophy generation; they aren’t willing to put in the hard work to advance up the corporate ladder like previous generations did. But this is a fundamental misunderstanding: It isn’t about seeking quick advancement, it’s about learning new skills, being able to participate in new ways and keeping your skills fresh in a world where many organizations are flattening out.
When layers of bureaucracy are removed from an organization lots of good things can happen. You can have more transparency in how the organization works, and if done properly you can gain efficiencies in spades. But there is also an unintended side effect. You are removing many of the opportunities for advancement from younger employees or employees who are further down the ladder. One of the biggest motivators for us younger employees is career development: We have to be able to contribute in new ways and keep our skills fresh, and when you remove rungs from the corporate ladder by flattening the organization, you put us in a situation where it’s easier to find a new job outside the organization to learn new skills. I have several friends who have changed jobs for this very reason: there was no where for them to go where they were.
Business Insider recently pointed out that the recent Global Millennials Survey found that nearly 2/3 of respondents plan to leave their current positions by 2020, and 71% of those who plan to leave within the next two years cite lack of opportunity to develop their leadership skills as the major factor in this decision. But how can you create opportunities for younger employees while at the same time flattening out your organization?
One of the best ways would be to develop a cross-training program. Allow your employees to shadow different departments, or even rotate through different departments. This will let them see different areas of operation from a whole new perspective, and get a better sense of business operations overall. It also has the side benefit of breaking down information silos within your organization and facilitating the free flow of information and data. Who doesn’t want the opportunity to increase employee loyalty and improve your operations through this kind of program?
But what about those of you who are stuck in organizations who are still operating in a hierarchical model and who do not have opportunities to cross train or to advance? If it’s not possible to work out arrangements with your current employer, I would recommend finding outside opportunities to increase your skill set. Have you thought about volunteering for a non-profit organization? I know from personal experience that non-profits are always in need of skilled volunteers, and it can be the perfect solution in this case. You can also take on some career expanding education on your own through programs like Udacity, Lynda or even videos and educational programs available via YouTube like TedED, Crash Course or any of the other numerous channels dedicated to education in certain subjects like technology, business or the like. Added bonus: it may lead you to your next big opportunity!