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Unleashing Millennials – Workplace Motivators to Inspire the Next Generation of Tech Leaders

By February 2, 2015Article

Two key questions that should be top of mind related to young talent are “How do we attract them to our company?” and “How do we unleash their potential?” Recruiting and managing Millennials are critical areas that require an understanding of the unique motivators, preferred leadership style and influences of our youngest generation in the workforce. 

The Millennial generation – those born between 1980-2000 – are today’s youngest working segment, and they also will become the largest, with estimates of 75 percent of the global workforce by 2030. 

The biggest obstacle that stands in the way of attracting and developing top talent for your company lies within your management culture. There is a huge disconnect between managers and Millennials that impacts engagement and loyalty. It stems from a lack of understanding about what truly motivates this generation personally and professionally. They have different expectations and preferences at work than previous generations. 

To evolve your recruiting practices to best capture the attention of Millennials, it is important to understand how today’s graduates define success as a beacon for their motivation. The next step is to understand the skills they bring to the workplace upon graduation so you can prepare your management team to be ready for onboarding and leading them to achieve their full productive potential. 

Barnes & Noble College partnered with Why Millennials Matter to survey students from two-year and four-year colleges across 44 states on the topic of career success. More than 17,000 open-ended responses were submitted by the students citing personal stories about their motivation and the greatest influences on their career goals. Insights from the study have been released in the report, “The College Student Mindset for Career Preparation & Success.” 

The study showed that 92 percent of the 3,000+ students who responded identified “personal fulfillment” as the top indicator of career success, far above financial rewards and public recognition. “Making a difference” trumped money, status and power, showing that they want to see a real connection between their work and their values. Employers today need to prioritize these preferences to succeed in recruiting, engaging and retaining millennial workers. This also must be top of mind for your managers, who can help share the mission of your organization with their younger employees to shed light on how their individual contributions relate to the bigger picture. 

Millennials also demand authenticity and transparency – you need to keep communication lines open and make sure these younger workers understand your company’s purpose, its mission and how their personal contributions can make an impact. 

The College Student Mindset study also discovered that students are falling behind on the college-to-career roadmap; they know what experience and skills they need, but they aren’t taking the steps to get there. There is a clear skills gap between what recruiters want and what new graduates offer. This will have a negative and long-term impact on your company if your management team does not offer immediate coaching and resources to develop those skills on the job. 

Here are three ways your management team can close the skills gap: 

1. Diagnose the opportunity 

Managers of Millennials will need to diagnose where young talent will most need targeted training and development. Focus on building those skills immediately and outline a plan for their development that involves coaching and feedback from you or other internal/external mentors and coaches. 

If your organization does not have the resources to develop these programs or have an in-house training program around professional skills, there are plenty of approaches that are based in self-paced study and experiential learning practices. Tap into your alumni network and explore different formats for educating students on success strategies for building high-demand skills. 

Rutgers University recently hosted a panel featuring alumni as well as their Consumer & New Media marketing manager, Tamara Vostok, who shared her career journey and encouraged students to get focused. Students appreciate the genuine connection with those who paved the way from their alma mater, and it’s another platform for encouraging professional connections that may lead to job opportunities. 

2. Get focused 

Capitalize on their willingness and desire to learn by focusing on the right skills immediately upon hiring. Confidence has a huge impact on an individual’s perception of their own potential and the opportunities they believe are available to them. The students from our survey were concerned that their current skill set would not meet the standards that recruiters and employers are looking for in new hires. But they are extremely open and committed to training and development. Unleash their potential by investing in early leadership development. 

3. Partner earlier 

Millennials are digital natives; so their creativity in using online tools to inspire innovation is an untapped, on-campus opportunity for employers. Partnering with colleges and universities to sponsor projects that showcase their ideas visually and orally will offer experiential training in the skills you value, while providing your company with fresh and innovative ideas. Blending their digital savvy with academic projects and competitions is the new wave of professional development. Encourage students to explain the rationale behind their ideas and to develop the ability to demonstrate good judgment, strategic thinking and problem-solving capabilities. 

Colleges and universities themselves can experiment with school-wide competitions to build on their own traditions and values. Challenging students to work in teams to build and express new ideas to solve campus problems or proposing future community initiatives is beneficial for both the students and the school. 

For example, as an employer of 10,000 Millennial students, Barnes & Noble College is on a mission to support student success inside and outside the classroom. The insights garnered from this study laid the foundation for investing in a number of new internal and external initiatives with their campus partners and within their own recruiting and training efforts. 

When you prioritize young talent within your organization, it will ultimately strengthen the quality of your leadership bench and improve the turnaround time for filling key positions. 

Joan Snyder Kuhl is a millennial career expert with Barnes & Noble College and the founder of Why Millennials Matter. Barnes & Noble College and Why Millennials Matter partnered on a nationwide study to uncover what motivates, influences and matters to students as it relates to their career, garnering more than 3,000 responses from students at two- and four-year colleges and universities across 44 states.






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