Many businesses today have expressed frustration with younger workers.
They claim they lack the proper business skills and other professional abilities that will help make them good employees.
However, some employers aren’t content simply to complain about Millennials’ lack of skills but are being active in addressing them.
BOK Financial Corp. (BOKF) with banks in eight states and headquarters in Tulsa, Okla., has had a financial training program in place since the late 1960s. Since that time, almost 275 young people have been through the program that gives those identified as having high potential not only the skills they need in finance but also the soft skills they need to be successful in their career.
Fifteen to 20 new college graduates are admitted to the Accelerated Career Track program that has more than 1,000 applications every year, says Lisa McLarty, vice president and the program’s senior manager. The program lasts 12 to 18 months, and participants are put on three specific finance tracks — commercial, consumer or wealth management — depending on their skills.
But one of the real values of the program may lie in other skills that it offers participants. Participants do spend time learning about wealth management or commercial banking and credit, but they also learn how to give effective presentations and dress professionally.
“We’re really focused on a more well-rounded experience,” McLarty says. “We want to teach those soft skills” such as dining etiquette, writing skills and even how to give back to the community.
Blair Rosenquist is a participant in the program. The recent University of Oklahoma graduate says she was attracted to the program after doing an internship with the bank.
“I really enjoy the soft skills they are teaching us,” she says. “They are giving us time to really develop ourselves as a whole. It’s given me a lot more confidence.”
Based on feedback from participants and from BOK Financial longer-term employees, McLarty has learned that newly minted college graduates need to learn better business writing.
“This generation really needs those skills,” she says. “They are very skilled on computers since they have been using them since they were kids, but there are other things they need help with.”
Research on workers born after 1980, known as Millennials or Generation Y, shows that they greatly desire career development, guidance from mentors and opportunities to expand their skills. That may explain why BOK Financial sees much lower turnover among the group that company officials identified as having high potential, reporting a 7.5% turnover rate in 2012 compared to the national banking and finance average of 16.5%.
Another key to the success of this training program may come from the camaraderie that develops among participants. The bank encourages the group to live together, play together and to support one another in career development.
“I think living together is the one thing that surprised me the most,” Rosenquist says. “It’s just so much fun. It’s great to have friends that you work with and that you want to be around. I think it really helps with retention.”
The bank also considers it important to demonstrate to these employees how their careers should be developing, McLarty says. The company’s culture focuses on community philanthropy, so mentors encourage the young workers to do community events together.
However, company officials also want their young employees to have fun. River-rafting trips, baseball games and even a weekly kickball game have all helped to bond and motivate these workers that they hope will become future leaders.
In addition, McLarty follows the program participants for five years as they begin their careers, continuing to work with them and their managers, who understand they are responsible for employee development.
“We don’t let them (young workers) fall off that cliff,” she says. “They understand the expectations on them, so they are satisfied and challenged. This generation tends to jump ship if not challenged.”
“This program has really helped me more clearly define my career goals,” she says. “I think one of the things that makes it unique is our level of exposure to executives and others within the industry.”
That exposure includes women in banking, Rosenquist says. Few women are in senior banking roles across the USA, and the recent grad says she’s learning about the challenges that face her gender in the industry.
“I’m learning a lot about what is expected and where I need to go in my career if I hope to be a leader,” she says.
Courtesy of USA Today