What Companies Are Looking for In Younger Workers

May 17, 2016 – As Millennials continue to populate workplaces around the country, hiring and then developing this latest generational talent demographic has not been a straightforward process for hiring managers at many companies around the nation.

What Millennials seem to value over pay, it seems, is experience — but according to a number of recent studies they’re unwilling, generally-speaking, to sacrifice their personal lives for professional growth. Obtaining experience in one job, as opposed to many, has been a key challenge.

‘Learning Agility’

Now, a brand new study from the Futurestep division of Korn Ferry shows that learning agility — defined as the ability to learn from experiences and apply those learnings to new roles — was considered by 43 percent of hiring manager respondents as the top attribute they seek in freshly-minted college graduates. Problem is: learning agility virtually tied (30 percent) with business acumen (31 percent) as the largest skills gap among Millennials.

“The pace of today’s global, always connected business environment is frenetic,” said Vivienne Dykstra, Futurestep business development director EMEA and global SME for its graduate practice. “Organizations need employees who can keep up, change and innovate as circumstances evolve. The best hiring and development initiatives have a focus on learning agility.”


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When asked what is the most pressing diversity goal for Millennial recruiting efforts, the vast majority of survey respondents (71 percent) said “diversity of thought.”

“Diversity of thought is a key goal of all diversity initiatives and is most effectively achieved by recruiting people who have a wide range of backgrounds and experiences,” said Ms. Dykstra.

When considering other specific diversity priorities, respondents ranked, in order: gender, ethnicity, veteran status and sexual orientation.

Referrals Matter

The study also found that 26 percent of executives polled said that a personal referral provides the most incentive to make initial contact with a Millennial candidate. That was closely followed by social media (Facebook and Linkedin) which came in at 25 percent.

According to a survey by Future Workplace and Beyond71 percent of HR professionals say employee referrals are the best resource for finding candidates. The ‘Active Job Seeker Dilemma’ survey found that job seekers who are ‘passive’ with a wide network of referrals have the advantage over job seekers who are ‘active.’

“A strong application coupled with quality referrals will provide job seekers with an advantage in the hiring process,” said Dan Schawbel, partner and research director at Future Workplace. “You should constantly be exploring new ways to nurture and expand your referral network, and it may be easier than you think.” He said anyone can keep a network active by attending industry conferences, inviting former colleagues out for lunch or making new connections on social platforms. “A few simple actions may help you land your dream job,” he added.

Other reports also show social media sites gaining in popularity as hiring tools. Approximately 3.3 million job applications were submitted using social media profiles to pre-populate online submission forms, according to the latest iCIMS ‘Job Seekers Get Social‘ report, which analyzes the role of social networks such as LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook in the job application process. Of the 3.3 million applications that were submitted via a social profile, 61 percent used LinkedIn, 22 percent used Google+ and 17 percent used Facebook.

The Futurestep report found that after deciding that a Millennial candidate is not the right fit for a prospective position, less than a third of respondents (29 percent) say their company has a “keep warm” strategy for future opportunities, and less than one quarter (22 percent) add recruits to their long-term applicant tracking system.

“Not keeping track of applicants is a huge missed opportunity,” said Ms. Dykstra. “A younger worker may not yet be ready for a particular role, but keeping an ongoing dialogue open for when the ideal position is available will ensure that a candidate will choose your organization over a competitor.”

Here Come the Millennials

Properly tracked or not, expect a large and growing number of Millennials to continue streaming into the workforce in coming months.

Sixty seven percent of employers say they plan to hire recent college graduates this spring, a rise from last year and the strongest Millennial hiring outlook since 2007, according to a new survey from CareerBuilder. The study found that more than a third (37 percent) of employers plan to offer recent college graduates higher pay than last year, with 27 percent reporting that they will pay a starting salary of $50,000 or more.

“In addition to an improving economy, we are beginning to see a rising number of retirements, which is creating more room for advancement and creating opportunities for entry-level candidates,” said Rosemary Haefner, CHRO for CareerBuilder. “But just because there are vacancies doesn’t mean college students are always ready to fill them.”

While incoming young prospects appear eager to enter the workplace according the CareerBulder report, some employers are concerned that new college grads may not be ready for the real world. Nearly a quarter of respondents, 24 percent, do not feel academic institutions are adequately preparing students for roles needed within their organizations, an increase from 21 percent last year.

CareerBuilder also asked where academic institutions fall short. These employers cited the following concerns: 47 percent say too much emphasis is put on book learning instead of real-world learning; 39 percent said they need workers with a blend of technical skills and skills gained from the liberal arts; 25 percent thought entry level roles within their organization are more complex today; 13 percent said technology is changing too quickly for an academic environment to keep up; and 11 percent said not enough students are graduating with the degrees aimed at company needs.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media

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