Do You Understand the Class of 2014?

Even though you may feel your company can satisfy much of what young potential hires are looking for, knowing what millennials want will affect whether or not you show up on their radar.

Times are changing. While millennial unemployment numbers are still up, graduates are becoming choosier about the jobs they apply for and accept, and hiring managers are scrambling to attract the best talent from the pool. So how do you get the best tech-savvy, challenge-seeking college graduates to come work for you? You need to know what they’re looking for.

And what is it they want? When employee success platform Achievers and student guidance platform ConnectEDU surveyed more than 15,000 graduating college students for their white paper “Class of 2014: Your Next Generation of Top Talent,”things like career advancement, salary and training or mentorship topped the list of priorities when deciding where to work. I interviewed Razor Suleman, founder of Achievers, to find out what this year’s graduating class is looking for and what you need to do to make sure you hire and develop the best young talent.

Razor SulemanWhat are the top motivators for this year’s graduates?

Suleman: The workplace continues to evolve in many ways — the technology used, the methods of communication, even the physical environment, but one of the biggest changes we’re starting to see is a different profile of employee with the rapid influx of millennials into the workplace — most recently with the class of 2014.

Why should we be in tune with the dynamics of this new generation? Not only are the millennials quickly taking over the workplace and will make up half of the working population by 2018, but just as rapidly the baby boomer generation is leaving the workforce. This will cause the U.S. economy alone to suffer a shortfall of 6 million workers this year. The outcome will be a talent war where by 2015, 60 percent of new jobs will require skills held by only 20 percent of the population. Attracting and retaining this new workforce will be of paramount importance.

In this year’s class of 2014 report, millennials ranked career advancement and salary at the top of their list for the fifth consecutive year when it comes to factors that influence where they decide to work. This trend affirms that graduates continue to look for companies where they can be motivated to make an impact and be valued and appreciated for their contributions. Strong communication and leadership within an organization are factors that the class of 2014 indicated will positively impact their engagement in the workplace — motivating them to be more productive. In order to keep this generation inspired and retained, organizations need to ensure they have the tools for managers to communicate and align the team with the culture and vision of the company.

Finally, the class of 2014 is very certain of what they want when it comes to being rewarded for performance. So why not provide them with an option? For five consecutive years, graduates have indicated that they want a choice in how they are rewarded, selecting travel and experience rewards as the most motivating.

How is this different, if it all, from previous years or from other generations when they graduated from college?

Suleman:Only 68 percent of top employers retain recent graduate hires for three or more years. If organizations want to retain, motivate and engage top class of 2014 talent, they need to listen to the needs of this new group of employees.

In this year’s survey, 72 percent of respondents indicated that they are optimistic about their job prospects upon graduation. While millennials have a record of being optimistic about finding work — as displayed in our previous survey results— this year, the percentage climbed 7.5 percent from last year. This aligns with the recovering economy and the number of available jobs on the rise. While this bodes well for the class of 2014, employers and HR professionals should look seriously at these figures; the imminent war for talent will increase the level of competition to acquire this new talent.

Also new this year, we saw that millenials ranked training and mentorship in the top three things that will influence where they decide to work. These responses indicate that the class of 2014 understands the importance that training and mentorship have for their career success. They’re looking to the leadership at your organization for coaching on how to become qualified for their next role, not just their current position.

The challenge today for employers and HR professionals is to understand how to provide the best training and mentorship to millennials, while effectively balancing communication and engagement to effectively retain the top talent of today and tomorrow.

How can companies best manage and motivate the incoming workforce so they’ll thrive on the job and impact the bottom line?

Suleman: The class of 2014 is eager to engage with their new company, drive immediate results and advance in their careers. It’s up to the employer to understand and meet the needs of this generation and provide coaching, transparency and recognition in a timely manner at every opportunity. It has been proven that an engaged workforce yields higher retention rates, increased customer satisfaction and higher profitability, and it is promising for companies that properly address the arrival of this new generation to see sustained business success.

Tips to manage and motivate:

1. Align employees with your company’s values and discuss them often to bring communication, leadership and culture to the forefront.

2. Provide your managers with training so they are equipped to effectively coach the class of 2014 to meet both personal goals and corporate objectives.

3. Create transparency by making information available to all employees, particularly managers, so that they can give the meaningful feedback millennials crave.

4. Hold managers accountable for metrics that mark the success of their respective team members.