BOK Financial develops key soft skills in younger workers toÂ encourage retention and career growth.
By Stacy Tiger
Like older workers, younger employees greatly valueÂ many of the traditional aspects of a high-performingÂ workplace: competitive compensation and benefits,Â a friendly atmosphere, and the chance to growÂ and develop. But with their unique circumstances,Â background, and relative lack of experience, youngÂ employees possess different skill sets and tend toÂ approach workplaces with different perspectivesÂ compared to their older peers.
According to Bridge, 90 percent of millennials want toÂ grow their careers with their current companies, butÂ research by Ajilon suggests that they are also the mostÂ likely to leave their employer if offered better benefitsÂ and a clearer career trajectory elsewhere. Consequently,Â companies should invest in employee growth andÂ development, and lay out an upward career path toÂ encourage a high rate of retention. In this competitiveÂ economy with low unemployment, top organizationsÂ must realize that they should take steps to keep the bestÂ talent, because recruiting new employees often costsÂ more than developing current talent.
BOK Financial, one of the nationâs largest regionalÂ financial institutions, addresses this development andÂ skills issue through its âAccelerated Career Trackâ (ACT)Â program. Through a competitive application process, ACTÂ offers opportunities to both newly hired employees justÂ out of college as well as mid-career employees lookingÂ to make a change. Participants attend the 18-monthÂ program which includes both technical classroom trainingÂ and rotational business line components. ACT is builtÂ around eight core competencies identified by BOKÂ Financial, such as creating a strategic vision and purpose,Â building relationships, and developing self and others.
ACT staff members have gathered a number of insightsÂ about younger employees and shape the training aroundÂ them. Four have had a large impact.
- Strategic and critical thinking skills prove more difficultÂ for younger employees because many lack experiencesÂ from which to draw parallels. Sometimes, a lack of criticalÂ thinking is apparent when younger employees simply âdoÂ as toldâ without striving to understand how the task fitsÂ into the larger vision of the organization. Similarly, theÂ âwhyâ and the purpose behind a project or task is oftenÂ missed by these young workers. The ACT program worksÂ to develop all of these skills by focusing on creating aÂ strategic vision and purpose for each participant.
- Younger employees exhibit more bravery than theirÂ more experienced counterparts. These employees proposeÂ new ideas and suggestions to colleagues, even if theyÂ are not their direct supervisors. This boldness can be aÂ valued trait that occasionally requires refining. For thisÂ reason, the ACT program includes a lesson on valuing andÂ leveraging inclusion.
- A clearly delineated career path remains somethingÂ younger employees value differently than tenuredÂ workers. They have high aspirations for futureÂ managerial roles and seek clarity on the potential of theirÂ career trajectory. These employees are more open withÂ managers and seek out transparent conversations onÂ future roles theyâd like to take on, even if itâs outside theÂ managerial purview. For this reason, the ACT programÂ includes a module that teaches these employees the bestÂ approaches toward career and self-development and theÂ most advantageous ways to discuss these issues whileÂ remaining respectful of peers and senior colleagues.
- Collaboration in the workforce is something youngerÂ employees donât have a lot of experience with. BeingÂ an individual contributor and not thinking about theÂ organization as a whole or the value of collaborationÂ across the footprint can be simple and enticing. ACTÂ participants learn to capitalize on the expertise of otherÂ team members. Having self-awareness of individualÂ strengths and knowing how to build relationships withÂ collaboration in mind are paramount in making theÂ teamâand subsequent resultsâstronger in the long run.
Differences in how various age groups approachÂ work remains top-of-mind for many companies as theÂ workforce transitions and younger employees assumeÂ more leadership roles. These challenges presentÂ opportunities for managers. Management shouldÂ offer valuable resources for learning soft skills to helpÂ employees achieve success more efficiently, smooth theÂ interactions between employees and managers, andÂ position the company for future success.
Stacy Tiger is senior vice president and director of talent andÂ organizational development for BOK Financial.