Investing in development helps grow strong leaders

This article was originally published on September 14, 2016 in The Hamilton Spectator.

Young professionals are already taking over.

By 2025, those born during the 1980s and 1990s will represent 75 per cent of the workforce, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In Canada, they have become the largest cohort of workers since 2015.

They are the ones shaping our city’s economy today and in decades to come.

Yet, employers face a challenge in retaining young professionals in their organizations. In a study released earlier this year surveying almost 7,700 millennials representing 29 countries, consulting firm Deloitte found that two out of three millennials expect to leave their current organization by 2020. This loyalty challenge threatens the sustainability of any organization, as millenials become the largest segment of the workforce.

How do employers win over the next generation of leaders? Meaningful professional and leadership development is one solution – an important consideration as 63 per cent of the millennials surveyed believe their leadership skills are not fully developed. Excluding salary, opportunities to progress and be leaders were cited as strong reasons to work for an organization.

Professional development and training can be delivered in various forms: courses, online programs, mentorship and conferences. Locally, the annual HIVEX young professional conference hosted by Hamilton HIVE is an avenue for emerging leaders and young professionals to network, exchange resources, learn from one another and build new skills. This year’s conference, with the theme Engage, will feature 16 workshops, a considerable leap from the six held last year. They will cover a range of topics: nonprofit and philanthropy, cross-industry mentoring, personal branding, pitching business ideas, communication and leadership dynamics, strategic volunteering and community development and more. More details at

Why is a gathering of this kind important for young professionals in Hamilton? It is the forum for young leaders to learn, grow and work together.

Through HIVEX, young professionals are exposed to new topics and ideas that will help them grow as leaders. They can expand their network by meeting industry experts and making new connections. HIVEX is a conference created and coordinated by and for young professionals with their needs in mind.

As employers compete in the race for top talent, it is worth noting that the needs and wants of the millennial generation are not drastically different than previous generations. “Job-hopping,” for instance, has become the norm for all Canadians not just millennials, reports Workopolis.

Similarly, the desire for work-life balance is becoming universal, says Oxford Economics in a 2014 study of more than 5,500 executives in 27 countries. At the end of the day, employees want fairness and opportunity to lead and grow professionally. Above all, this means building a people-focused organization based on trust, purpose and integrity.

Investing in young professionals is the key to the city’s future. Supporting their ambitions and professional development today will not only increase their loyalty, but empower them to become stronger leaders tomorrow.