KORU starts bridging the skills gap with Millennials

Tessara Smith,  PayScale

College graduation is often celebrated by parents as a major milestone for their children. They can finally breathe a sigh of relief in anticipation of their highly capable offspring fleeing the nest; joining the workforce, and becoming financially independent individuals. As much as many University students would like to believe this too, for most the fairytale ended sometime between settling on a major and realizing they only had one year left of school. The current state of the job market for college graduates could be described as anything but promising. Instead of rejoicing in the countdown to obtaining their degrees, students are viewing their future graduation dates as their own personal doomsdays. The fact of the matter is a solid portion of the class of 2015 will end up having to move back in with their parents and work a minimum wage job. Why is this? Today’s college graduates are competent individuals with a plethora of technology skills as well as in-depth knowledge of social media. One would assume this would make them excellent candidates for entry-level positions in the job market. Apparently, employers don’t seem to agree with this, and companies have a trending tendency to shy away from hiring new employees from the millennial generation.

There is a major disconnect when it comes to what employers are seeking from entry level job applicants and what Universities are actually teaching  their students. Where some may be excelling in the classroom, this does not necessarily mean they are a solid candidate for real-world employment. Many college graduates are working hard through four years of school only to come out the other side with no clue as to how to enter into the work force. There is a major skills gap occurring in the market when it comes to lower level positions and candidates who are prepared to fill them. An astounding 50 to 55% of college graduates are unemployed or underemployed. This number is frightening for students and only adds to the depressing nature of employment prospects for young job seekers. One company, Koru, is seeking to actively counter this statistic by putting college graduates through “career boot camp”.

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During this four-week program, recent college graduates and current seniors partner with high growth companies and help discover solutions to relevant problems their business is facing. It is a win-win situation, students gain invaluable real-world work experience and in return businesses receive insightful opinions from sharp-minded individuals and a preview of potential entry-level hires. For some companies, participating in the program can save them time and money normally spent recruiting young employees. Rather than scroll through thousands of LinkedIn profiles, recruiters can pull their new hires directly from Koru’s collection of talented college graduates. Though still fairly new, the program has proved successful; approximately 63% of Koru participants are able to land a job just from participating in the program alone. This new and innovative company was founded by Kristen Hamilton and Josh Jarrett, and has raised $4.5 million thus far in startup funding.

Just recently, PayScale had the privilege of working with four teams of upperclassmen and recent graduates from Koru’s program who set out to help us to answer a question for our company:

How can PayScale customers have more open and productive compensation and performance conversations with Millennial generation employees? 

The program was successful since we both learned a lot about Millennials in the workforce and have already made four full-time hires and one intern out of the program.

Here are the key findings from the four teams:

The Culture Kit
The first team, Mt. Olympus, developed a Culture Kit to help us teach our customers to better relate to their millennial generation employees. During their process, the team issued one hundred surveys, had twenty conversations, and came up with three meaningful insights. First off, they discovered that employee satisfaction among Millennials is heavily correlated with their relationship with their boss. A better relationship with their supervisor typically meant that an employee was more satisfied with their career. Second of all, they discovered that employees were more satisfied at their jobs when there were activities outside of employment offered by the company. For some Millennials this meant activities such as paintball and for others this meant business lunches. Finally, they were able to construct an appropriate timeline for millennial employee onboarding, managerial reviews, and performance reviews. Their suggested offering, the PayScale Culture Kit, was composed of compelling data, a professional timetable, and relationship building strategies. This design prototype was intended for our customers to more effectively manage and retain their millennial employees. 

Flexibility and Education for All
The second team, Mt. Baker, developed a similar strategy for which they coined the name FEFA (Flexibility and Education For All). During their research the team conducted twenty-four street interviews, seventeen online surveys, and six in-depth interviews. The team discovered that most Millennials reported work flexibility and on the job training were their two highest priorities. From these results the team designed an employee engagement survey which asks participants to rank their satisfaction with their work flexibility and the importance of more education is a way to advance their careers on a scale of one to five. In theory, by utilizing this survey, our customers’ HR professionals would be able to determine appropriate work benefits for their Millennials. 

External Validation
The third team, Mt. Rainier, used the customer discovery strategy and found that the number one contributor to Millennials’ employee satisfaction is external validation. That is, they need a lot of recognition for their work. The team developed a peer evaluation prototype that was meant to be supplemental to current strategies to add more external validation. Hypothetically, if the evaluations were positive, then the results would validate hard-working employees and encourage them to continue their hard work. However, if the evaluations were negative, then these results would hopefully motivate employees to work harder or suggest that they work with the company to find a position that better suits them. This prototype would allow our customers’ managers to gain a more thorough understanding of inter-employee dynamics. A seemingly excellent strategy, but the team found that most Millennials were very uncomfortable evaluating their fellow peers, even when the survey was anonymous. As a result, their answer to our question is still a work in progress. The main discovery they made was that Millennials’ need more recognition and external validation then their fellow co-workers from other generations.

Path, Impact and Environment
The fourth team, Team Mt. Adams, identified three common traits among the millennial generation and came up with the PIE assessment (Path, Impact, and Environment). The first component they identified, Path, describes the millennial focus on career advancement and ability to achieve career goals. The second element, Impact, relates to the Millennials desire to have some sort of direct influence within their work environment. The last element, Environment, refers to Millennials’ focus on the overall workplace environment. The team’s assessment consists of ten time sensitive questions which ask employees to choose between two factors, picking the one that is more important to them when it comes to their employee satisfaction. The end result is a pie chart which depicts which components of PIE matter most to the employee.  Ultimately the test is meant to serve as a conversation between employer and employee. By having a clear picture of the work factors that matter most to their employees, our customers’ HR professionals could potentially more effective conversations with millennials.

Every group had something unique to offer our company in terms of ideas for PayScale to help our customers engage better with their millennial employees. Overall, the general consensus among the teams was that the millennial generation is not simply seeking a paycheck, they want jobs that matter. Not only that, but they are looking for mentors who can provide them with immediate and meaningful feedback. Another interesting side note that these graduates mentioned was that communication via social media is considered to be much more acceptable for employees from the millennial generation. This can be a major plus for managers who don’t have a lot of extra time to speak one on one with employees to give individualized performance reviews. PayScale was grateful for the feedback we received to our questions and enjoyed the experience of working with Koru. If you are a student, University representative, or a company interested in this program, click here to learn more.

Team Mt. Olympus: Ben Doty, Bryan Lehrer, Andy Martin, and Qing Min;
Team Mt. Baker Rebecca Raible, Brady Hennegan, Bryan Rivard, and Steeve Simbert;
Team Mt. Ranier:  Robert Charpie, Natasha Lewis, Sasha Mendez, and Ari Ronai-Durning;
Team Mt. Adams: Brandon Cohen, Martin Prentice, Curtis Edmonds, and Chloe Revery.

Learn more about managing Millennials in your workforce from this new whitepaper from PayScale: Compensation Challenges for a Multi-Generational Workforce

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