Optimus Think

Developing Early Career Talent: 5 Strategies for Success


Millennials, who have dominated the workforce for the past decade, are now ceding the stage to the next generation of employees – Generation Z. A robust and effective early career talent development program is essential for companies looking to grow their future leaders from within. As the global economic uncertainty continues to loom, organizations must look at least three to five years into the future to plan for and invest in programs that ensure a steady stream of new, skilled employees to avoid skills gaps in the future.

Attracting early career talent and training them to become future leaders can be costly and time-consuming, but it’s an investment that pays dividends in the long run. After helping numerous organizations design, develop, and implement best in class programs, we have identified 5 strategies for successful early career talent development programs.

1. Create A Clear Roadmap for Your Early Career Development Program

Before designing your early career talent development program, it is important to look at least three years into to the future to think about and forecast what the organization will look like and what it’s resource needs will be. When organizations look to invest in early career programs, they are building the future of the organization in the present moment and envisioning what the future will look like is critical to the process.

Once this vision is in place, the next key step is to define the program’s goals and objectives via a roadmap. This roadmap needs to be clearly communicated to all stakeholders and employees, so that everyone is aligned. Embarking on an early career development program requires senior leadership buy-in, commitment, and support from a budgetary, resourcing, and strategic alignment focus. When building an early career program, keep in mind that you’re playing for the long term; it’s a 3–5-year commitment to build the next generation of high performing employees. The program investment must also align to the organization’s long-term strategy and goals.

2. Provide A Challenging and Collaborative Work Environment

Early career talent, especially Gen Zs, look for companies that offer an exciting and challenging work environment that provides opportunities for personal and professional growth. Create “on the job” learning opportunities that allow them to apply their expertise while also facilitating collaboration with more experienced colleagues across different functions. Effective feedback mechanisms are critical to establishing a healthy and safe work environment and having consistent and supportive feedback is especially important to Gen Zs. Providing access to senior leader mentors, buddies, coaches and networking opportunities with peers will also accelerate their professional development.

3. Tailor Your Early Career Development Program to Your Company and Industry

Developing early career talent for any industry is vital, yet creating a customized program that address your specific industry challenges is even more critical. A tailored program that aligns with the company’s business objectives and takes into account what’s happening in the industry is essential. For example, in the tech industry, with technologies and products evolving so quickly, it’s necessary to offer continued training, so employees can keep up with developments and integrate new learning into their roles. In addition to continued learning, internal organization process, templates, and roles will need to be adjusted to support early career talent within the organization.

4. Leverage Digital Learning to Reach All Learners

Organizations need to embrace new delivery methods to create personalized, flexible, and scalable learning programs. Digital learning tools such as online courses, e-learning courses, and simulations or virtual classrooms provide early career talent with various learning options. These options promote self-paced learning and are highly convenient as they can be accessed on mobile devices, in real time. Digital learning is cost-effective, purposeful, and more eco-friendly than traditional learning options.

5. Encourage Continuous Feedback and Measure Program Success

To ensure success, measure key performance metrics and provide continuous feedback to learners, the program team, and the organizational sponsors. On-going measurement and evaluation is essential in helping early career talent understand how they’re performing, what they’re doing well, and where they need to improve. Regular feedback is equally crucial for the program managers, as it helps them better evaluate the program’s success and identify required changes.

A Final Thought

Attracting, developing, and retaining top talent is essential for organizations’ sustainability and long-term success. By creating and executing a well-designed early career talent development program tailored to industry needs, organizations can give their new, skilled employees the tools to be successful and increase their speed to competence. Encouraging continuous feedback and measuring the program’s success is an essential component of keeping the program relevant and assuring it delivers against desired key performance indicators. Investing in early career talent development delivers a strong return on investment. It attracts top talent looking for organizations with a clear growth trajectory and build’s the organization’s next generation of leaders.

Optimus SBR’s Learning & Development Practice

At Optimus SBR, we know first-hand that building a great team is about attracting, retaining, and engaging top talent. We partner with clients to create scalable, targeted, experiential learning programs that enhance people leadership, employee engagement, team collaboration, and performance results.

If you’re a leader looking to build an Early Career Development Program in your organization, please feel free to connect and learn more about opportunities to partner with us.

Giselle Kovary, Head of Learning & Development Practice

Optimus Think