At Vista College, “We Create Opportunities” for our students. Whether you are new to the workforce or transitioning into a new career, learning to work across generations is vital to maximize these opportunities. As millennials become the largest generation in the workforce, understanding their unique skills and traits is important to all generations. Listen to Jim Tolbert, CEO of Vista College, discuss what makes millennials unique in the workplace and the key roles that they can naturally fill in organizations.. Listen to the audio clip below or read through the transcript.
So there’s a couple of things that I really want to get into. And I think just to start, what I would like to know is, is that, over your course of growing, building yourself, over the time that you’ve put in in order to even build Vista College today, you’ve seen a change in dynamic in the workplace. You’ve watched it. You know what it was like when you were in it, and you’re also now able to see it from the landscape because I’m sure employers are coming to you all the time sharing what their needs are. As you mentioned, the highest demand that you’re seeing is in health care. So my question is, when we talk about the millennials entering the work space and when we talk about how that looked, and more specifically, the older millennial as I would call it, the 25 to 35 year old, how has what you’ve seen in your observation– how has the impact of the millennial coming into the work space changed workplace dynamics in your opinion?
Great question, Chris. And I think there’s at least three areas that, as we work more and more with millennials, we are seeing them having a profound impact on the way we do business. The first is their comfort with technology. So much of what we do today, as with any company frankly, is technology driven, whether it be web-based, whether it be cloud-based, whatever, what have you. And the millennials today have absolutely grown up with this technology. They have an incredible comfort for it. And while you can teach a baby boomer like me the technology, it’s not as ingrained, I think, as it is with our younger employees. So I think they play an absolutely critical role in integrating technology into our business.
“…the last thing that I would give credit to millennials for helping us, as a company, succeed, is a great desire, among younger people, to have more than just a paycheck as a reason to come to work. They are really looking for their employer and their career to give a little bit deeper meaning.” – Jim Tolbert, CEO of Vista College
The second thing that I think the millennials have done a great job of is helping folks think about work-life balance. And particularly given the career fields that I started off in, the work-life balance was 90% work and 10% life, if that [laughter]. But today’s younger people are saying, “Listen, there’s more to life than the grind you guys went through.” And we want to kind of spread that culture. So there’s a number of changes we’ve made within our company to help attract talented people who have that inclination.
And then, probably the last thing that I would give credit to millennials for helping us, as a company, succeed, is a great desire, among younger people, to have more than just a paycheck as a reason to come to work. They are really looking for their employer and their career to give a little bit deeper meaning. Simon Sinek is famous for his famous TED Talk, where he talks about the why of a company. But I think that was one of the more impactful TED Talks I’ve seen, and we took it to heart as a company. And the senior executive team and I went off-site. We said, “Listen, we owe it to our employees to articulate clearly why they come to work every day.” And frankly, I think we came up with a fairly powerful statement. And our why is, we create opportunities. We create opportunities for our students. We create opportunities for the employers that hire our students, and we create opportunities for people who work at Vista College. So you’ll see on our business cards, on the walls at our campuses, on T-shirts, we create opportunities. And I really do credit the millennials for pushing us to go through the exercise of articulating that.
That’s awesome, and I think one of the things that becomes very apparent, no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, is that within the career of someone, the demands change, kind of what you need, as you mentioned, right? It’s not just about the paycheck [laughter]. And so there’s more of even a social responsibility that millennials are bringing to the table when you start talking about the changes in the workforce. and the ecosystem, and even just coming to work every day. But one of the things that I’ve been looking at and I would love to get your perspective on is kind of the gaps, the struggles that you may see. And in your space, I’m sure that you see it from an educational standpoint, maybe even from just a personal level. So share with our audience a little bit about what you see, as the owner of Vista College, are some of the gaps that baby boomers may have. Let’s just start there. Maybe if they’re retooling, they’re reinventing their career, what kind of gaps do you see them having that you guys try to fill when they come to you at Vista College?
Well one is this skill set aspect of it, being able to think about their career in the long term, being able to sort of think strategically about, “Where do I want to be?” and, “How am I gonna get there?” and really having that long-term perspective. I am going to risk, Chris, sort of being a cranky old man with my next comment. I think the other thing that the millennials have had is sort of this every-kid-gets-a-trophy upbringing. And in some ways, I think that’s good. You grow up in junior soccer, and every kid gets a trophy for participation. But then there’s sort of this expectation of, “Hold it, I showed up at work every day. Where’s my trophy?” And it’s like, “You know what guys? It’s a little bit more competitive than that in the real world.” And unfortunately, to be blunt and stark, there are winners and losers in the workplace, and not every employee gets the trophy. The people that want to invest the time and the effort to get ahead and do a good job will get rewarded, and those who choose not to make that investment will get treated otherwise. And I think that is one of the struggles we have or the disconnects as you mentioned in the two generation.
So with that particular struggle, how do we close the gap? In your opinion, how do we get to a place where– because something caused it. I always kind of think of cause-and-effect, right? Anytime I see something that becomes a consistent issue, I realize, well, there’s a cause for this issue. So what do you think probably caused that? But then, more importantly, how do you think we close that gap?
Well part of it is just time, and experience, and age, and maturity. I think as people kind of get 10 or more years into their career, they either are where they want to be, or they’re not. And they’re going to sort of step back and go, “Okay. Why aren’t I further along in the company? Why aren’t I have a more senior executive role?” And hopefully, along the way, a mentor, or a supervisor, or whomever will be able to say to them, “Hey, here’s what you’re going to need to do to get ahead in this company. And it’s doable, and it’s possible. But it’s also not going to be handed to you, and you’re going to have to make sacrifices along the way.” You asked me causes. Again, I’m not a sociologist. I’m not even an economist [laughter], but if I had to sort of hypothesize what they are, one is this every-kid-gets-a-trophy mentality. I really do think that has had a huge impact on this next generation. But the other thing, too, is I think our country has been blessed with pretty full employment for the last 20 or more years. Obviously, with a couple exceptions in 2008 and whatnot. But overall, we’ve had a very robust economy. There has been full employment in a lot of geographies in this country, and people have been able to have been choosy. People have been able to job-hop every two years. “Well, this isn’t working out. I’ll go try something different.” And I think, to a certain extent that background has given people this attitude of, “It’s all about me.” As opposed to, “Here’s what I need to do to invest.”
Absolutely. And you touch on something that I think a lot of people [laughter], I don’t know if maybe they’re afraid to say, “I feel like my hair’s on fire.” But here on High Level Wisdom, I like to try to talk about the things that seem to be difficult in the workplace. And I think what you’re speaking to is kind of the thing that keeps an HR exec up at night. Because one of the things that we really want to be an advocate for, we want to shine a light on, and that we’re looking for this podcast to do is to help bridge the knowledge gap. And by that I mean, I think it’s very important for our audience to understand, no matter whether you’re sitting in HR going through the hiring and the losing of someone who’s retiring, or whether you’re an emerging leader – you’re in that 25 to 35 range and you’re looking to get to a new place – or whether you’re a baby-boomer looking to retool, I think this next portion of conversation is important. Because I think what keeps HR folks up at night is the fact that, “Susan’s getting ready to retire, and she just raised her hand. And she says she’s leaving in six months [laughter].” And all of a sudden, you’ve got this mad dash to be able to drain as much information as that person has before they walk out the door.