Young HR Pros Must Be in the Game

Don’t relegate talented Millennials to the sidelines.

By Henry G. Jackson Nov 27, 2016
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The next generation of HR leaders are working in our organizations today. Are we giving them enough opportunities to be key players?

Henry G. Jackson

In the December/January issue of HR Magazine, we highlight “30 Under 30: A Who’s Who to the Future of HR.” You’ll meet 30 impressive young professionals who are leading their organizations confidently into the future. Their inspiring stories illustrate how our profession is attracting the best and brightest, as well as the need to cultivate new talent in HR. Human resources is changing rapidly—as fast as business—and young professionals will need to lead our organizations through this transformation.

Our under-30 HR leaders have a gift for energizing and mobilizing people to achieve. They instinctively get out front and bring others along, helping them visualize where they want to go, rather than merely reacting to business changes. They are also willing to set ambitious targets for themselves and their organizations. They believe in their ability to impact business results in a big way.

This next generation is bringing a technological and global focus to our work at a critical time. When an organization’s success pivots on its people, connecting groups and individuals is essential, and many young HR professionals have an instinct for this. Several of those in our “who’s who” have introduced social media into the world of talent management with great success. Others have pushed their organizations to integrate and expand HR systems to support global workforces. 

When motivated and empowered, young HR professionals can be counted on to embrace change—probably their most indispensable trait at a time when transformation is overtaking almost every aspect of HR. To them, “status quo” is synonymous with failure. They will look for innovative ways to get things done more efficiently, at a higher quality and with better engagement of those doing the work.

Much has been written about this generation’s altruism and desire to bring a strong social conscience to our work. Many of our “30 Under 30” honorees prove this to be true, balancing their full-time, evolving HR responsibilities with community service. Several also speak of a commitment to “servant leadership”—a philosophy of sharing power, putting the needs of others first and helping people perform at the highest level possible. What an example this sets for the entire organization!

If you are actively developing young HR talent, congratulations: You are coaching from a winning playbook. If you don’t want to lose them to a more progressive company, give them what they need—a chance to create and lead new projects. 

And remember that they want recognition for their work, so give it to them, along with plenty of feedback. Offer them autonomy and trust, as well as the time and space to give back to the profession and the world.

Mentoring young people has a surprising payoff—we can learn from them while we teach them. Take advantage of the opportunity. Put extraordinary young HR talent into the game now.

Henry G. Jackson is the president and CEO of SHRM.

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