What CEOs need to know about their young employees.

Today’s early talent are tomorrow’s leaders. These 18–25 year-olds, whether they’re graduates, school leavers or apprentices, are the future of business. But what kind of future is it going to be? And what kind of leaders will businesses need if they’re going to make the most of it? These questions have never been harder to answer. But CEOs and their executive teams need to deal with them now, because change is happening faster and the future is unfolding more unpredictably than ever.

This has a direct impact on the people you’re bringing into your business now, and it affects how you lead them, keep them engaged and turn them into tomorrow’s leaders.

Different leaders for a different world

Everyone knows the world is changing. But now businesses have to handle different kinds of change happening simultaneously, pulling them in various directions and threatening to catch them off balance.

The command-and-control leadership that went unquestioned for generations is suddenly looking flat-footed. It’s down to a ‘perfect storm’ of trends influencing what businesses do — and how they do it.

They’ll need new partners and ways of working. They’ll need a clear idea of what they stand for as values move up the agenda for customers and employees. They’ll need to tune in more closely to those same people as they assert their individuality and become more demanding and less loyal.

To ride this uncertainty and change, businesses will have to change tack fast, experiment and be more far-sighted. They’ll have to come up with new offerings, blend different technologies and work in new ways and new places. All at high speed.

So rigid hierarchies and decision-making processes won’t cut it any more. Businesses will have to devolve power lower down the ladder. And that means a different kind of leadership. In short, where an ego used to help, it now gets in the way. Tomorrow’s leader doesn’t bark orders and lay down the law. They’re quietly encouraging. They use their emotional intelligence to create an environment for others to thrive. They’re keenly aware of how their part of the organisation fits in to the bigger picture — and how it could work with others in new ways. And they create loyalty by giving teams a sense of purpose.

Match the learning to the person

However hard businesses try, losing millennials early is still a consistent bugbear. While it might not always be the prime motivator, money is still important. Today’s early talent face a higher cost of living than their predecessors, and they’re saddled with student debt too. So higher pay elsewhere can be a head-turner. But higher pay is precisely what a lot of companies can’t offer easily these days. What they can offer is development. Millennials value experiences that will equip them for bigger things. So emphasise the importance of moving around the business as a way to deepen skills and competence.

Help today’s leaders to help tomorrow’s leaders

As they get further into their careers, your early talent will look to their managers more and more to shape their progression. Leaders are uniquely placed to affect their people’s motivation, one way or the other. The perfect leader for the fast-emerging new world of business has a lot of boxes to tick: self-aware, ego-less, collaborative, culturally sensitive, and capable of inspiring the troops with a compelling vision of the shared objective.

Engaging tomorrow’s leaders

The world is changing faster than ever for business. That change means an unpredictable future. But you need to prepare for it by keeping your early talent engaged, and making sure they get the right leadership. This means finding out what makes your early talent tick, tuning into their individual needs and helping your current leaders develop tomorrow’s leaders. Make engagement part of managers’ own targets, so it’s seen as central to the role, not something to get around to when there’s time.

Korn Ferry Hay Group's Best Practice Guide to Early Talent Formula