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Bentley President Gloria Larson joined Bloomberg Radio hosts Pimm Fox and Carol Massar on September 24 to continue an examination of millennials in the workplace. Larson first visited the show this past November to discuss initial findings from Bentley’s preparedness research survey and this latest appearance marked the launch of a monthly series that will examine topics such as higher education curricula, experiential learning, and collaboration between business and higher education.

Massar opened the discussion by noting that there continues to be a disconnect between colleges and businesses when it comes to preparing millennials. Larson cited the Bentley study, indicating that more than 70 percent of business executives believe that college graduates do not have the requisite skills to achieve success in their first job or in their career.

“Business is sending out mixed signals,” Larson complained. “They say that they value the ‘soft skills’ but they actually hire on the basis of a millennial’s hard skills.”

“We think it’s not a question of one or the other,” she added. “It’s a question of both but too many colleges are still providing only the soft skills.”

Zara Kessler, an editor of Bloomberg View, joined the conversation, noting that corporate cultures are changing to the point where Google and others are now hosting “Take your Parents to Work Days.” Even as millennials delay marriage, buying houses, and having children, parents have remained involved in their lives, Kessler noted.

Larson concurred, relating a story about the mother of a Bentley student who accompanied her son on a “Success in the City” Wall Street networking trip. The mother pitched her son to every executive who would listen, Larson said, adding that she was fairly confident that the son would have been the last one hired. The mother, she joked, may have received some offers, however.

Responding to a question from Larson about the reported lack of corporate loyalty by millennials, Kessler called the issue a “self-perpetuating circle.” If companies don’t provide training then millennials don’t feel any loyalty, she said. Companies should offer training, giving Gen Y’ers the grounding to advance, and hope that they stay. She added that millennials are “digital natives” and can use technology to achieve efficiencies.

David Lucey, senior director of talent acquisition for Epsilon, a major marketing services company, echoed Kessler’s comments about the need for companies to provide training. Asked about what inspired Epsilon’s commitment to millennial employees, he replied that, “We realized that millennials are not the future, they’re the present, and we needed to change our culture.”

Larson revealed that a soon-to-be-released study by Bentley found that 79 percent of millennials expect a salary increase every year and asked whether Epsilon found that reflected in its workforce. Lucey noted in response that the Epsilon program encompassed far more than salary and included a 10-week training program, the opportunity to have a mentor, as well as biannual reviews for both performance and salary, with promotion possible after the first year. 

The Epsilon recruitment executive said that only about 10 percent of companies are employing innovative compensation strategies, adding that at one time Epsilon had a retention issue that kicked in about 18 months after initial hiring. “But once we changed our compensation program our retention skyrocketed,” he reported.

With that, Lucey said that millennials often do have a mistrust of corporations because they’ve seen companies treat friends and family members ruthlessly. So it takes time to build loyalty, he added.   

When Kessler asked how innovative programs for millennials are viewed by older employees, Lucey replied that those programs were starting to change the rest of the company. They’re challenging Epsilon to look at its standards and norms on reviews, at the way it conducts training, and at other areas where non-millennials want to get what millennials were getting.

The discussion turned to how well colleges are meeting market needs, with Larson noting that at Bentley recent market-driven majors include Sustainability Science, Professional Sales, Public Policy, and Creative Industries. Lucey said that Epsilon confers with colleges and universities about the company’s needs, most recently, for example, competence in data analytics via a major or otherwise. 

When it comes to millennials’ desire to benefit society, Lucey noted that Epsilon includes a service project as part of their initial training program, adding that companies that can’t demonstrate ways in which they are committed to social service will lose interest from millennials. He also noted that companies that “get it” often can be found in the ranks of technology firms and start-ups.   

Kessler concluded the show with the observation that there is a difference between being a millennial and simply being young. Millennials will grow up, she noted. “We’ll bring some new things to the workplace and we’ll also do some things like older people do now,” she said.

Vic Schlitzer is Director of Brand and Content Marketing at Bentley.