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leadership lab

Vivek Kawley is head of human resources in Canada for Tata Consultancy Services.

Today's university graduates the world over have very different timelines in mind when it comes to their careers. Where once employees waited patiently for career progression – on average three to five years – a new generation of working professionals are demanding advancement at accelerated speeds.

Is disappointment inevitable or is there a way for employers to keep millennials engaged and thrive in the process?

At Tata Consultancy Services, it all starts with recruitment. We have found university students are far more receptive to messages delivered by their peers. As a result, we often engage with them through recent hires that share their worldview.

These ambassadors act as role models to prospective recruits and provide them with a candid glimpse of what to expect. They share their experiences, both positive and problematic, in open forums that encourage dialogue. Those conversations take place before the interview stage so that candidates already know a great deal about the company, the position, the technology, and where they could see themselves in the future.

In my experience, millennials actually know exactly where they would like to go and seek out employers that can help them get there. Instead of admonishing this large group of prospective employees and talent for having unrealistic expectations, the C-suite must recognize and adapt to this new reality.

Today's grads are looking for advancement every 12 to 18 months. While there are obvious merits to longer-term goals, they need to be broken down into shorter-term accomplishments that align with their individual expectations.

While this recent shift in expectations does present real challenges for more established companies, those that are able to channel the eagerness and ambition of this new generation will be better for it. New grads complement the efforts of the experienced hires, which are crucial to an established company's success. Their fresh perspective and enthusiasm can have a catalytic effect on the team as a whole. But they need to be integrated carefully to ensure the change is a welcome one.

TCS has hired hundreds of young Canadians from universities across the country, and in 2016 alone, we welcomed 121 new campus hires. Their nimbleness and appetite for new experiences can be a real asset to any organization, especially one situated in the fast-evolving technology sphere.

Offering new hires ongoing learning opportunities ensures they are ready for the rapid progression they desire. At TCS, talent development plays a crucial role in aligning the skill set of the TCS work force with industry changes. We embrace what we call "Anywhere, Any Time Learning."

Courses on automation, big data and AI can be accessed online and through mobile devices, while videos, e-books, live chats, in-person training sessions and virtual labs offer all employees the opportunity to sharpen their skills and stay ahead of technology trends. Programs can range from nano-courses completed during a single bus ride to more comprehensive training programs that lead to new certifications.

And the learning experiences aren't purely academic. New assignments and responsibilities give employees the opportunity to glean new skills and expand their expertise. It also provides them with a more holistic understanding of the business – an essential prerequisite for our future leaders.

Even experienced professionals benefit from many of the same initiatives that keep university graduates engaged. Giving them access to the tools they need to keep up with industry changes – be it through learning programs or on-the-job exposure – ensures they have the opportunity to build on their invaluable industry and institutional knowledge.

The changes necessitated by a generation too often labelled "entitled" can actually inspire an organizational transformation – one that gives a company the edge it needs in an era of hyper-competitiveness, rapid evolution and a blurring of industry lines across so many sectors.

'You have to have a strategy or else you don’t know where you are going, and then of course you have to be able to make it happen, call that leadership'

Special to Globe and Mail Update