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Chery Gegelman, president of Giana Consulting, tells a story dating back to her first days of trying to make herself at home in a large corporation after working for nonprofits and small businesses. The transition was challenging. She felt very inadequate. But then the CEO of a client firm wrote a note to her regional manager, calling her "a diamond in the rough." Her boss shared the note with her.

"What is interesting to me today," she says, "is that the customer who wrote the note was an incredibly successful and busy CEO. In spite of his schedule, he intentionally chose to invest his time in both me and in the organization I worked for by writing that note."

His investment paid dividends for her and her company. "While he saw potential, my focus was on all of my rough edges." But after the CEO's note arrived, she took it to heart and gained confidence and began to contribute more.

"The reason I share this story is that since then, I've frequently asked executives and hiring managers what their biggest challenge is. At least 90 percent of the time I get the same answer: 'People'." Yes, qualified and caring people are hard to find. But since they obviously don't grow on trees, Gegelman says leaders should realize the importance of investing their time to spot and develop exceptional talent.

She cites several examples of how people contributed more when their environments became more nurturing. Here are two: 

 

  • A woman in a position that doesn't challenge her, but who does superb work when she is transferred to a more challenging position.
  • A bartender shows up late to interview for an entry-level corporate position. Rather than dismiss him out of hand, the interviewer gives the applicant time and discovers a person who turns out to be a highly valued, long term employee.

"Think about those you work with every day," Gegelman writes. "Are they diamonds in the rough that are simply being ignored or overlooked?" Her complete article offers six suggestions for where to look for people who might contribute mightily if they are given the opportunity and nurtured.

Five ways to engage, cultivate Gen X talent

Sylvia Ann Hewlett, president of the Center for Talent Innovation and Sylvia Ann Hewlett Associates, offers five suggestions for engaging and developing Gen X talent.

Gen Xers are those born between 1965 and 1978. Although their demographic, which includes 46 million people, is small compared to 78 million older Boomers and 70 million younger Millennials, they are in or near the prime of their careers and ready and willing to lead.

But they're also very mobile and not real patient. One recent survey says 37% have "one foot out the door" -- looking to leave their current employers within the next three years.

Writing for the Harvard Business Review Blog, Hewlett, author of 11 books, including Winning the War for Talent in Emerging Markets: Why Women are the Solution, suggests five ways to retain and develop Gen Xers:
 

  • Develop corporate chameleons -- don't let them fall into a rut; give them opportunities to learn different jobs.
  • Let them learn -- they value opportunities of all kinds to grow and learn; these are especially important when there aren't immediate promotion opportunities.
  • Bring them out of the shadows -- put them in charge of high visibility projects and provide them with time and access to mentors within or outside the company.
  • Test their wings -- they tend to be self-reliant and like to work independently, so look for opportunities for them to take projects and run with them.
  • Promote partnerships -- to avoid Gen Xers' temptation to demonize Boomers, who often block their way to promotions, look for opportunities to break down the barriers through intergenerational partnerships and teams.

Read the rest of the story at HBR blogs.

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