Sometimes being realistic about the way of the world is the best strategy.
You might choose to motivate your grads by showing them how far they can grow within your company. Stay for seven years, become a Director, we see you as a future leader. That sort of thing. This is all well and good, but for the vast majority of them, it will not be their fate.
Yes, they want to have the most amazing career possible, but increasingly more of them understand that the breakthrough opportunities will come by moving roles rather than incremental home-grown progress. As a recruiter of graduates and emerging talent into some amazing businesses, it pains me to say this, but many of them will be elsewhere in seven years’ time.
How, therefore, do you make the most of motivating these unquestionably brilliant minds while you have them? Well, they will probably be with you for a good 3-4 years at least, so for me, the key is to show them just how much they can achieve when they are with you. You can’t chain them to their desks with some sort of psychological “you’ll be a Director someday” contract, but you can say “hey, you’re talented, here is your playing field, go out there and smash it today.”
Grads are ambitious, they want to grow, and if you give them those opportunities, regardless of where their futures might lie, they will go out there and deliver for you as well as for themselves.
If you are open with them about valuing their contribution now rather than investing in them for some far-off future, your relationship will likely be closer and when they leave they will feel proud of what they have achieved rather than guilty about what they haven’t yet achieved. Boomerang employees are a growing force in the market currently, so who knows, they may come back to you a couple of steps along the career ladder.
There is a lot of talk about workplace culture in the market at the moment. My personal view is that the workplace cultures are the richest where people bring their true selves to work rather than comply with some unwritten (but ever present) code, hence why it is so important to recruit based on shared values and cultural fit. In the increasingly fluid new world of work, more people will start to talk about their future development plans outside of their current employers. If someone is true to themselves and say that they want to join a start-up in five years’ time, their employer can put them on the sorts of projects that will contribute to their goal. The employer will get an utterly engaged employee, and they will likely get stellar results.
Sometimes, to be a great employer, it isn’t always about you. You’re paying them to do a great job at this present moment and they are over-delivering, so why bear a grudge if they don’t seem themselves staying with you forever? I’d suggest not to take it personally, just do whatever you can to squeeze the best possible performance out of everyone with you at the moment. If you do that, they will probably stay for that little longer anyway.
Being an awesome employer means investing in your people’s future, not just your own future.