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To Attract and Retain Millennials, Organizations Must Appeal to Their Unique Wants and Needs

Millennials grew up with technology. From an early age, they’ve used mobile devices, computers and the internet. As a result, they aren’t afraid to push technology to new limits. This is why when millennials are exposed to the mainframe, they typically embrace it and see its benefits. As baby boomers who spent their careers on mainframes face retirement, the door is opening for millennials to seize job opportunities.

Strategies to Identify and Recruit Talent

Recent hires are the keys to reaching college students. Millennials can act as bridges between their companies and students at their alma maters. When graduates go to their colleges to talk about their jobs, it creates excitement and prompts students to think about mainframe. Christy Schroeder, IBM Z* Skills worldwide offering manager, says new hires also recommend student candidates to their companies. For example, a new IBM employee has already recruited 27 graduates to work at the company.

“It’s powerful sending former students back to their campuses to recruit,” Schroeder says. “They become the biggest advocates for your company and can talk to students about the fascinating projects that they develop for the mainframe platform.”

Building relationships with colleges is an effective recruiting method, she says. Students graduating with degrees in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) often get multiple job offers. Organizations that have a presence on campuses create awareness about their business and make connections with both students and professors.

“What’s going to make the difference is the personal relationships with your company. You have to get involved with a university and let students know who you are and what you do,” Schroeder says. “Give a lecture at a class. Professors love having people from the industry come into their classrooms and talk about their real-world experiences and insights, and the students value these discussions.”

Look Outside Traditional Parameters

Schroeder suggests companies that don’t have an internship program start one, as they provide great value to both the company and the intern. The intern gets to experience the company while learning about the job, and the company gets to assess the intern’s performance.

In addition, companies can get involved with students by participating in universty capstone projects. In these projects, the local industry provides current real problems for students to work on throughout one or two semesters, and the students develop innovative solutions while enhancing their skills and building client insights.

Schroeder points out hiring practices have changed over the last five years. Today, companies realize that successful employees demonstrate a passion for learning, exhibit leadership qualities and are creative. Those factors can be identified by a person’s involvement in open-source projects, participation in organizations like a computer science club and taking on leadership roles.

Organizations have also found qualified employees by looking outside typical engineering and computer science majors, Schroeder says. For example, a new IBM hire had a degree in music.

Long-Term Success

One proven strategy for training new hires is to assign them mentors to foster a supportive environment and help plan a career path. “Be sure that the mentor is someone who’s willing to share his or her experience, is a positive influence and role model, speaks favorably about the company, is patient and helps the new hire along,” Schroeder says.

Day-to-day technical mentors help new employees learn their jobs and enable a knowledge transfer, she notes. Separate career mentors are also helpful. They provide career guidance, company insights and constructive feedback to help obtain career goals.

Another strategy Schroeder recommends is ensuring team members are routinely in the office for face-to-face interactions. Millennials enjoy working together, so organizations must provide a collaborative environment.

Enable millennials to build their professional networks and technical skills by sending them to conferences, mainframe meetings, trade shows and other events, she advises. They can learn valuable information, be exposed to subject matter experts, meet other mainframe recent hires and become more engaged and energized employees.

Finally, when it comes to training, think “hands-on.” Millennials tell Schroeder that hands-on training is the most effective method of learning. “They learn more quickly when they get their hands dirty, make mistakes and then learn from them,” she notes. “Get them on a project right away. Integrate them into the team, include them in meetings, and actively engage them on a project. They’ll welcome the opportunity and appreciate the ownership and impact they will have on the team.”

Retaining New Talent

Want to make a millennial happy in the job? Provide a work-life balance. While millennials work hard and put in the extra hours to get the job done, they also value their free time. Therefore, routinely working 60-hour weeks is a deal breaker for many of them. Provide a flexible work schedule and they will be very happy, Schroeder says.

Feeling secure in the job is also important. During her recent hire panel discussions, Schroeder heard from several millennials who are interested in job security. They’ve seen layoffs in the high-tech industry and witnessed outsourcing of jobs, making stability an important issue. This desire for job security can be beneficial to employers because millennials are thinking long term and will commit to building a career with the company.

To retain new talent, Schroeder says it’s essential to foster a welcoming, supportive and inclusive environment that includes both seasoned mainframers and new hires. One recent IBM hire told Schroeder that, if possible, companies should hire millennials in pairs so the new employees can form bonds while helping each other learn. This forms a team mentality in which the millennials want to support each other while training, socializing and working together.

The Future of Mainframe

The most important message companies can give to millennials is that working on the mainframe platform is relevant, rewarding and impactful. “I see a lot of enthusiasm and passion from recent hires working on the mainframe,” she says. “Millennials can have great careers in mainframe computing. Hire these millennials, they will take your mainframe platforms into the future.”

Schroeder talked to several recent IBM millennial hires, including Luisa Martinez, Ryan Rawlins and Lili Tang, to get their insights into hiring, training and retention.