How leaders can engage future talent

Campbell’s CEO, Ana Dominguez talks about her CEOx1Day with the Globe and Mail, offering advice on engaging Canada’s future leaders.


March 23, 2017

By: Ana Dominiguez

Ana Dominguez, president of Campbell Co. of Canada, is responsible for the strategic business direction and overall leadership of the Canadian subsidiary of Campbell Soup Co.. Born and raised in Colombia, Ana has extensive international and Canadian marketing, innovation and general management experience in the consumer packaged goods industry.

Students who are about to enter the workforce are a tremendous resource for executives. Though they may not have a wealth of experience under their belts, what they do bring to the table is equally valuable: insight.

Attracting millennials as employees and consumers is a challenge for companies that have been operating a certain way for decades, yet remains a big ambition for leadership teams. Being in touch with this energized group is a way to inject new life into seasoned businesses, and offers a rare opportunity to challenge the products, processes and policies that might seem tried and true.

A recent mentorship experience with Odgers Berndtson’s CEO x 1 Day program, a unique initiative that matches top post-secondary students with CEOs for a day of shadowing, served as a strong reminder that millennials are indeed the generation that will turn corporate Canada on its head. Their motivations – completely different from those who now sit in the C-Suite – will eventually reshape what it means to succeed, so executives need to do everything possible to engage and support professional youth.

Appealing to the priorities of their new crop of employees is, quite frankly, in executives’ best interests. Here are three ways they can do that:

Help them balance passion for the sake of progression

I am constantly floored and inspired by the incoming talent pool because they are laser-focused on achieving greatness on so many different fronts. Wildly ambitious, millennials’ life satisfaction comes from several avenues, and gives as much weight to learning, innovating, supporting the community, and maintaining a rich personal life as it does to building a career.

Executives really need to take this to heart because millennials pursue each one of these avenues with equal passion. Though they are gearing up to take on a remarkably heavy load, the resulting value for today’s leaders will be exceptional.

Even though the pace of life has accelerated, the strongest new hires will become proficient at exercising patience. Time and experience are still crucial in building the skills and capabilities required for a bright future, so the trick for executives will be to show millennials how to balance their passions to drive progress.

Alicia Hayre, my CEO X 1 Day mentee from Western University, genuinely surprised me with her ability to tackle so many projects at once. In addition to being a top student, she has a robust extracurricular schedule and spent her downtime developing a new product. Though she’s able to juggle so many activities, my role was to teach her how to see her passions through enough lifecycles to not only apply the learnings, but to grow from the resulting self-awareness.

Help them carve their own paths

Millennials are challenged with battling an entitled reputation, which is often interpreted as their waiting to see what a company can do for them. Since savvy executives are reshaping their organizations to evolve with their employees, they will need people who can carve their own professional paths.

Today’s leaders are naturally more supportive of employees who have established their own mission statements because it suggests that they can generate the support needed to experience long-term growth. And while self-motivation is vital, the ability to energize others is also important; engaging in the right conversations is central to this.

Nowadays businesses in every industry are competing very hard for attention, and the accelerated pace demands a fast-learning and resilient team. One of the easiest ways for a group to reach their full potential is for everyone to take advantage of the mentorship opportunities that come their way.

Critical to both personal and professional development, mentors – formal and informal – provide a necessary sounding board that can open doors and offer an invaluable perspective to those receiving their guidance. Mentoring almost feels like a selfish act to me because I always learn so much from my mentees and, with a wealth of communication-centric technology at our fingertips, these relationships need not be limited by geography. Some of my most rewarding mentorship experiences have been with young people overseas, so I encourage today’s leaders to explore just how far they can extend their reach.

Prepare them for the challenges that lie ahead

Increasingly flat organizations are making it difficult for senior executives to develop the leadership skills of young professionals. In fact, fewer and fewer will have direct reports from whom they can learn effective management techniques over the course of their careers, and the deterioration of this dynamic means millennials will have to learn to overcome this obstacle as well.

Executives can help young employees shape their careers by showing them that they have a lot to offer others as well – regardless of organizational structure. By appealing to their sense of purpose and shifting their mindsets to motivate and influence others, they can prepare them to achieve leadership success.

If there is one takeaway, it is this: executives should pay very close attention to what inspires the next generation and demonstrate that they are committed to their continued engagement. As a longtime leader, I can attest that we very much look forward to having millennials feed into the evolution of our organization because we recognize that their approach is special. Though our relationship is evolving, we certainly appreciate what they have to offer and, in turn, I feel it is our responsibility to help deliver on their ambitions.

Executives and human-resources experts share their views and advice about leadership and management in the ongoing Leadership Lab series.

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