The Generation Y secondment: broaden their work experience

Motivate generation yGeneration Y employees are sometimes thought of as job-hopping technology addicts who are lazy and socially impaired.

Perhaps that’s a little harsh, but it’s also well known that Gen Y prefers experiences: ‘memory moments’. In fact according to a recent JWT Intelligence report, more than 70% would rather spend money on an experience than on a material item. So yes, they may be creatures of the digital age but they also love the real world, they live life to the full and collect experiences.

In which case, why not use that ‘collection of experiences’ mentality to your advantage to help recruit and retain your Gen Y employees by offering them summer work experience via a secondment?


Why offer a secondment?

A secondment is increasingly recognised as valuable for both employee and organisational development, and there are a number of benefits for both employers and employees.

Experiential learning is key to developing Generation Y employees effectively. By promoting learning through working, employers are more attractive to Gen Y and as a result improve their recruitment and retention of younger workers. It’s also more cost-effective as employees are productive in their work while learning. They also provide business with the chance to develop their employees’ skills base.

For Gen Y employees, experiential learning supports their training, taps into their aspirations to dream bigger and make a real contribution and generates goodwill to your organisation. They want to progress their careers quickly but they also want their new role represents an upward step on their career path.


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As business management structures become ever flatter, traditional opportunities for promotion are becoming increasing limited.

Social Media GenerationThankfully Generation Y don’t want to follow traditional career paths, instead they view their career as a journey where opportunities are assessed and taken, or rejected, as they appear along the way. That’s why your ability to offer challenging work as part of an effective career development path is key.

However sideways career moves don’t usually appeal to Generation Y employees. You need to position the secondment as a developmental opportunity and use it as part of your talent management programme: an opportunity to learn new broader-based skills that they can use in any future role, such as communication, leadership, professional judgement, commercial acumen and strategic insight.


How can you ensure an effective secondment?

Secondment opportunities need to be properly planned and your employees need to be supported throughout the duration in order to ensure its success. So here are some tips to help make your secondment programme a success:


  • Ensure that the organisation has an effective secondment procedure that is well publicised to all staff, for example, in the staff handbook or on the intranet.
  • Don’t just consider internal secondments, talk to your clients and suppliers about secondment opportunities between organisations.
  • Encourage employees to actively seek secondments themselves within your organisation that will widen their experience of the business.
  • Identify specific outcomes such as skills that will be developed through the secondment.
  • Advertise secondment positions effectively to the widest possible employee audience, just like a job opportunity.
  • Have policies in place to deal with dissatisfied staff who are not selected for secondment.
  • Provide a tailored induction for secondees.
  • Throughout the secondment ensure there is a contact person to facilitate communication between the original and secondment team or organisation.
  • Encourage feedback and evaluation from secondees on their return.


John Sylvester

John is responsible for the motivation division of p&mm ltd and a Director on the board of the IPM. Specialising in developing, implementing and directing many large scale staff motivation, recognition and employee communications programmes.
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