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Workforce Trends and Drivers (with Daniel Pullin)

August 30th, 2021

Listen to the Bigger Than Business Podcast’s interview with Daniel Pullin on your favorite podcast providers!

How can companies struggling with an employment landscape that is “opportunity long and talent short” attract future team members for the long haul? How can nurturing an emotional connection for your existing team to your company’s values position your company to attain the best, right-fit employees? What are the differences between Millennials and Generation Z, coming out of colleges today, and how can understanding those differences give you an edge in your talent management strategy?

Listen as our guest shares with us how developing an intellectual and emotional connection to our organizations will help attract and retain employees at all stages of their careers, and how valuing your existing team in ways that turn them into ambassadors willing to help recruit the employees you need will build a better future for all.

Daniel Pullin is dean of Texas Christian University’s Neeley School of Business, and former dean of the Michael F. Price College of Business at the University of Oklahoma. Prior to his career in higher education, Daniel worked at McKinsey & Company, a global consulting firm, Hicks Muse Tate & Furst, a leading private equity fund, and served as a vice president for Home Interiors & Gifts. Daniel, a licensed attorney, has served on multiple boards and coalitions, and has won teaching awards several years in a row. Daniel earned undergraduate degrees in accounting and finance from the University of Oklahoma, an MBA from Harvard Business School, and a juris doctorate from the University of Oklahoma. He and his wife, Tamara, have two sons and live in Fort Worth, Texas.

John V. Roach Dean of the TCU Neeley School of Business

How to Attract the Workforce of Tomorrow

By Jeff Holler

For employers, the macro-economic workforce trends are not particularly good right now.

2019 had the lowest birth rate in the last 35 years. Millions of baby boomers are retiring. Other people are opting out of the workforce to pursue non-traditional means of making a living, a trend only magnified by Covid and lockdowns.

According to Daniel Pullin, Dean of Texas Christian University’s Neeley School of Business, productivity gains alone won’t solve our workforce problems.

“Technology can increase productivity, but it seems like every time we have another technological breakthrough, it opens up a whole other cadre of jobs and we just need more people to work.”

The key for companies to be competitive, Pullin believes, is to understand the new generations they are recruiting and build a culture that not only attracts them, but brings out their best.

Together we look at the generations that are succeeding the baby boomers:
• Gen X (age 40-55)
• Millennials (25-40)
• Gen Z (under 25)

While Gen X is swayed primarily by salary, healthcare benefits, 401k, family leave and other tangibles, to appeal to Millennials, Daniel believes that promoting a team-based environment and the opportunity to work arm-in-arm with others is very important.

“Although they grew up with computers and are very tech savvy, they also grew up at a time that was pretty traumatic. The war on drugs, the AIDS crisis, the Columbine shooting and the rise of a 24/7 news cycle of sensational TV all gave the appearance of a very dangerous world. That also gave rise to their ‘helicopter’ parents who were always trying to protect them.”

While some may think of Millennials as ‘fragile,’ what those experiences created is actually an affinity for collaboration and to be more team-oriented than other generations.

“They want to be with people they can trust, that can help protect them intellectually and emotionally. They certainly are purpose-driven, maybe even more so than Gen X, but they are optimistic, they’re collaborative, and to some extent, are digital pioneers.

“They are the first group that grew up with smart phones, and they’re generally financially content because money isn’t the key driver. They want to be secure, but they’re not necessarily going to choose A over B solely because of money.”

While Millennials seek a comforting and supportive environment of teamwork, the 8-25 crowd is more interested in the makeup of their teams. They have a strong work ethic, and tolerate having their ideas challenged.

However, they also are a product of the events that preceded them and so they can be more risk averse.

“They’ve experienced the security measures now in place in schools and the aftermath of 9/11 at a young age. They also saw their parents’ net worth drop on average 45% during the Great Recession, so they have a very strong work ethic. Money does matter, and they feel like they need to have a margin of safety to be able to withstand some of the challenges they saw their parents go through.”

So, what makes Gen Z stand out?

“They really care about diversity, equity and inclusion. It’s not lip service, it’s not a trend or a flavor of the day or some political response, they are really invested in it. If you think about their life, they saw the first Black president of the United States, they saw the legalization of gay marriage, they saw the Me-Too movement.”

From an ethnic and racial perspective, 48% of Gen Z are non-white. It is truly a generation that values the power of people from diverse backgrounds to bring diverse ideas to the table.

“If you want to recruit Gen Z, make sure you don’t just have some check-box diversity strategy, but that you’re really building your culture around inclusive excellence. You have to see that as a distinct competitive advantage, to have people from different perspectives challenging each other to get to the best answer on this product or this service, or this capital allocation decision or market strategy, because it is a strength. Indeed, it is also connective tissue to this generation.”

Helping Workers Prepare for Their Future
According to Pullin, one thing that all employees seem to value is “an employer who is deliberate about creating ongoing market-relevant professional development opportunities.”

He encourages employers to remember that “they’re either going to seek those out somewhere else, or you can start to think about their career path, even if it’s not just straight North and South, like a traditional career ladder. How do we prepare them to continue to be lifelong learners, such that they have enough interest in belief and trust in your company that they’re going to hang in there for the long haul?”

The Next Job is the Most Relevant
Under Pullin’s direction, that perspective is currently driving the success of the Neeley School of Business.

“Today’s young leaders know that just because they got a job doing these three things today, that there’s no guarantee that 10 and 20 and 50 years from now, that those same three skills are going to be relevant. We teach resiliency and career agility, to invest in yourself so that you have currency at all chapters of your career.”

Although the Neeley School boasts a job placement rate of 98%, Pullin reflects that “we’re not really successful unless we give them the skills to get the next job. That’s the job where they have the broadest impact. Maybe they are now a CEO or the one designing which products and services get sold. It’s where they are responsible for the greatest number of employees, and the families that those employees support, because that’s what contributes to flourishing communities.”

More Tips for Employers
If these perspectives interest you, be sure to listen in to the rest of the interview to learn:
•The power of cross-functional and cross-generational teams: integrating young people into your business so that existing generations can share their experience while absorbing the energy of the next generation.
•How to create new talent acquisition and retention strategies, such as building relationships with educational institutions.
•Why employers should broaden their online presence beyond LinkedIn and Facebook.
•How to tell your story and connect with today’s job prospects, including Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and more.