Fulfilling the growth and development needs of your employees involves so much more than just deciding which training courses you can afford to send them on. Especially if your goal is to motivate and ultimately retain your talented employees.

To harness ‘The Power of Y’, it is also crucial to look not only WHAT you are doing, but HOW. In our experience, Gen Ys need multi-faceted learning. The PowerPoint-laden, lecture style training sessions that were the norm are likely to elicit no more than yawns from participants. We’re starting to see forward-thinking organisations invest in new and exciting ways to get through to their employees, cleverly using social networking sites such as Facebook and Yammer, blogs, wikis and Podcasts.

For what NOT to do as a part of your organisation’s approach to employee growth and development, read on for an account – unfortunately, not completely fictional!

My Your Learning and Development Plan

At the start of the year – well, more like April by the time we get around to it -we are forced to fill in some HR forms. What ‘Top 5’ things are we going to achieve this year in our roles to stretch ourselves, what learning and development objectives are we going to set ourselves and how will we get there?

My first problem with this is that there is no discussion with my manager. I’m expected to fill in the templates and send them back to him to send into HR. That’s not too big a problem, I’m a big girl and I can complete this simple task. But my Top 5 has to be aligned to his. And he hasn’t done his yet. In addition, the Top 5 can’t be things I’m already doing as a part of my job, they are more like ‘special projects’ that are outside of my job description. Umm, I’m already working at capacity and sometimes taking the laptop home to ‘catch up’ on a few things outside of normal working hours. When did you expect me to do these extra projects?

As for my L&D plan, well that’s a bit of a joke given the miniscule training budget allocated to our team. And there is already the view that the ‘younger’ employees shouldn’t get to go on expensive training courses, seeing as we are likely to leave the company within a few months or a year (tops). So why bother investing in us?

The L&D objectives I’m interested in setting are for personal growth as well as professional. I want to be a better public speaker, so I wouldn’t mind taking a presentation skills course. I want to learn how to negotiate successfully, so I can deal with other areas of the company without feeling intimidated. Instead, I’m told I should do an Excel course, so I can run better reports. And I should add a line about completing mandatory training courses such as Trade Practices Act and Compliance, because it’s an easy ‘tick’ off the list.

I’ve lost any respect I ever had in this process. To me it’s a bunch of forms to fill in and update every 6 months or so. Clearly they want me to be a better worker, not a better employee and certainly not a better ME.

Take me away from my busy job and send me on unnecessary training

Yes, please make it compulsory for me to attend 5 days straight of Marketing training along with the rest of the Marketing department, all at the one time. That’s fine, we can push the ‘pause’ button on all of our work, tell our suppliers we are un-contactable and just forget about the looming deadlines that we’ve been working towards.

I love sitting in a room from 9am to 5pm with only a small break for lunch in which to run back to my desk, shove a sandwich in my mouth and check on my emails and voicemails to see what fire-fighting needs to be done in the 40 minutes I have.

It’s great that you have some self-professed Marketing guru prattle on about how we should do our jobs, occasionally stopping to ask the room what we think, or make us get up and do ‘competitive team activities’. Plus, I love hearing him rehash the same case studies and stories that I heard once upon a time in first year Uni.

This is a great use of my time; I am learning lots and can’t wait to apply it all to my role when the week is done. If I can remember any of what has been said to me. Why am I here again?

Throw me in the deep end, with no handover and no knowledge retention support

I’ve changed jobs three times in the last two years.

The first time was due to a resignation. My predecessor gave 4 weeks’ notice, but I got 2 days of handover once HR decided I was going to replace him. I tried asking as many questions as I could, but you can only fit so much in your head. The result: he left and I started the job practically from scratch. It took me 3 months to get up and running and another six months to actually start adding value to the job.

The second time was brilliant – my predecessor left me a binder with notes she’d prepared on how to do things, what to do, when to do them, who to deal with. Made my life a lot easier. We had two weeks of handover before she moved onto her new role, and was only a floor down from me if I needed any help.

The third time has been a nightmare. I’ve just taken on a role that was previously done by one person but has been split into two (I think they were about to break down from work related stress). While the role is an existing one, it has changed somewhat with my coming on board. There’s been no explanation of this to our internal customers, who are all screaming blue murder because they’re not getting what they used to get in the timeframe they used to get it in.

But my biggest bugbear in all three handovers has been our IT system. Damned if I can find a file that was created by a predecessor last year, let alone the most recent current version of the file they were working on last. Everyone here has files on their C:/ drive, or if it’s on the network drive it’s under a locked directory. No one saves their files the same way, and as a result I’m either literally starting a role from scratch each time, or I’m bugging someone to send me files off their system. The worst part is, when I have thought to ask for my predecessor’s old files and tried to copy them to my own drive, I’ve been told I’ve exceeded my limit and to delete files asap!!! It’s any wonder we get any work done around here.

Leave mentoring to fate, or for a spot to clear up in the manager’s calendar

I asked HR last month whether we have a company mentoring program, and was told that there isn’t an ‘official’ one, but that I could approach a manager and ask them to mentor me if I wanted to.

I wanted someone who had experience in the areas that I was interested in and who had done the roles that I hope to do one day. I chose to approach the Sales and Marketing Manager.

He wasn’t at his desk when I walked past in the morning. Or at lunchtime. Or on my way back from a meeting. His PA was sympathetic. She’d tell him I was looking for him, but he was in and out of meetings all day and was difficult to catch.

I send him an email explaining that I’d like him to be my mentor, in the hopes that he will see it on his Blackberry or when he finally had a chance to sit at his desk. When there is no response after 3 days, I tell his PA what I’m trying to do and she tells me she will book an appointment with him so that I can ask him in person. That sounds good to me.

She sets up a meeting for us in the canteen – we can do our first coffee and chat …in three weeks’ time. I don’t mind too much, it will give me time to prepare: I’m excited and already thinking up questions to ask.

I sit in the canteen waiting and feeling rather awkward on my lonesome. After 20 minutes I guess that he’s been held up in another meeting, so I drag myself back to my desk and keep chipping away at the list of things I have to do before the day is over. I do get an apology, and a reschedule, but the same thing happens two more times. I give up on the whole mentoring thing. It’s too hard.

Is it wrong for your employees to want the best growth and development opportunities? It shouldn’t be. After all, a satisfied employee is more likely to pay back your organisation with their hard work, dedication and (above all) their enthusiasm. But if you don’t want these things, feel free to replicate the above.