Sticking with the theme of change from Mick Morrissey’s article, I thought I’d share with you the highlights of several university admission tours my family took last week as my daughter approaches her college years. It’s quite interesting to see what higher ed institutions are emphasizing and prioritizing these days, and to contemplate the resulting values and mindsets that are being instilled in their students (i.e., the vast majority of your future employees). It got me thinking about the wide-ranging implications for the AE industry and whether AE firms will be able to successfully adapt their organizations to their future employees.
Anyway, here are seven things I experienced on the tours and their implications for the AE industry:
1. Discussions of diversity—early and often.
Each tour started with a presentation front-end loaded with diversity statistics, including how many students you will meet on campus from different states and different countries, etc. But the discussion of diversity didn’t stop there. Learning diversity, for example, was also underscored. Students who may have utilized Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) or 504s throughout their K-12 education were assured access to specialized learning and tutoring centers that would cater to their specific needs, giving them the opportunity to maximize their academic development. Gender diversity is also embraced, as college campuses feature various groups that help students feel more acclimated and involved. Most important to note is that diversity wasn’t being promoted as a differentiator; rather it’s seen to be more of a table stake—a box that these universities continually make sure is checked.
Increasingly, new employees won’t see diverse AE firms as upholding special values. They will only see a lack of values in the ones that don’t have it. Diversity, equity, inclusion, and more are being baked into everyday life for students, and that’s the mindset that’s increasingly coming into your workforce.
2. The choice is yours.
No, this is not about choosing between working from home and the office. Instead, it’s about providing students with the opportunity to choose from a wider range of electives and mixing and matching majors and minors in just about any configuration. Even the engineering schools are loosening their curriculum-driven grip. A tour guide from one of the universities we visited is a senior mechanical engineering student (sorry folks, she’s getting a job offer this week) who told us while the engineering program is a bit more “strict” compared to other programs in terms of available electives, it’s still a relatively wide-open range.
The new workforce will take on more and more responsibility for what they will continue to learn. Command-and-control AE firms won’t be able to attract and retain the best of the bunch. Firms that promote responsible autonomy (trusting and expecting that professionals will use their autonomy responsibly) will land and keep the smartest, hardest-working employees.
3. Health—physical and mental—is a big deal.
Whether it was tours of the various gyms, walk-throughs of the dining halls (featuring every kind of food you could think of), or visits to the various health facilities, student physical and mental health is a top priority. It’s a holistic approach that focuses on the whole person. For example:
- There are all kinds of physical fitness programs available—most of which would probably land me in the hospital.
- Those with special dietary needs are encouraged to speak with the head of food services, and their needs will easily be accommodated.
- Resident assistants and other resources are available around the clock for students who are homesick or dealing with a roommate issue.
Today, it’s not just about academics and graduation. These universities are taking the entire student into account.
Just like it’s not just about academics and graduation at universities, it’s not just about getting work out the door at AE firms. Progressive companies will continue to evolve their organizations in ways that consider the entire person, personally and professionally.
4. Nobody’s too big, and nobody’s too small.
At one of the universities we visited, the new president is more likely to be found on campus conversing with students than in his office tied up in endless meetings. He’s trying to create a community that closely connects faculty with students, and he’s leading by example.
Ivory towers are not only going out of style, they’ll soon be extinct in high-performing AE firms. Leaders in mission-driven firms accept that they are just one of many who have a job to do, and they understand that respect for others is fundamental to success.
5. Teaching and mentoring happens as much, if not more, outside the classroom than it does inside.
A low professor-to-student ratio was highlighted in each of the schools we visited, as was professor availability. Students are encouraged to build strong relationships with the faculty and get the most out of their learning experience.
The new workforce will expect to continue those beneficial relationships in their professional careers, and if they don’t find them at your firm, they’ll go elsewhere.
6. Welcome centers do what they are supposed to do—welcome
Universities have entire buildings dedicated to welcoming prospective and new students. Admissions departments feature recent graduates who roll out the welcome wagon for one and all, and they do a pretty darn good job at it. Within a couple of hours, you get a very good idea of what the entire university experience entails, from academics to student life to school spirit and overall vibe. The entire smorgasbord is put on display in a well-thought-out way.
What does your welcome wagon look like? Do you have one? What are your orientation and onboarding programs like? Just know that the new workforce will already have experienced both by the time they walk through your door (real or virtual) for the first time. How well you integrate them into your organization will have a big impact on whether they see their employment with your company as a long-term commitment or a steppingstone.
7. Your future employees are going to cost a lot, and they already know it.
Sorry to end the list on a down note, but one of our tour guides told me that one of their junior year students has already received a job offer with a starting salary in the six figures (see Mick Morrissey’s starting salary at his first job in the previous article).
I’ll simply borrow Clubber Lang’s one-word line from Rocky III when he was asked to predict the outcome of his rematch with Rocky—“Pain.”
Will your firm be ready for the new workforce? They’ll be at your door in no time—even faster than it took my daughter to go from learning how to walk to looking at colleges (and that went by in a flash).
Every day, Morrissey Goodale helps AE firms prepare for a new workforce. For more information, call Mark Goodale at 508.254.3914 or email to [email protected].