Last week we discussed how to get more millennials into industries they’re not traditionally interested in, which led me to a few follow-up questions. What about pushing employees to work for industries they don’t traditionally associate with their expertise? For example, if a high-potential recent graduate has a degree in finance, he or she may be pouched and actively interviewing with top players in the banking world, but what about other industries? Every company needs finance gurus — how can you make a finance all-star come work for your mining company and spearhead that division in the future?
Lockheed Martin recognized this problem and created a program to recruit non-engineers to its aerospace company. I interviewed Kathy Kerchner, chief financial officer and vice president of Enterprise Business Services for Lockheed Martin, to find out more about the program. Below are edited experts.
Often aerospace and defense contractors do not automatically spring to mind as the ideal place to build a finance career. What have you done to draw top Gen Y talent for finance positions when they might be looking at more traditional companies first?
It’s true. Business students sometimes walk right by the Lockheed Martin booth at career fairs, as they mainly associate our corporation with engineering. This is one of the reasons Lockheed Martin has a Finance Leadership Development Program (FLDP), which works closely with our Global University Talent Acquisition organization, to ensure that we’re partnered with other functions — engineering, operations, IT — as we recruit at schools across the country.
The Finance Leadership Development Program is our flagship early-career development program. Its focus is on selecting the best-and-brightest young talent and equipping them with the tools and experiences to become outstanding future leaders. These tools and experiences include MBA reimbursement, leadership conferences, a technical development curriculum, roundtable mentoring and job shadowing, rotations in three finance disciplines, and frequent exposure to executive leadership. The FLDP is a three-year program where all participants must gain annual renewal to proceed in the program. The renewal process ensures participants are meeting program requirements and provides an opportunity for leaders to offer feedback on participants’ strengths and areas for development. At the conclusion of the program, graduation events are held across the enterprise. Lockheed Martin’s executive leaders attend these events to congratulate graduates and offer advice on future success.
FLDP graduates are highly sought-after across the business. Over the past five to six years, we’ve seen the number of entry-level leadership roles filled by FLDP graduates increase by 20 percent. FLDP graduates continue to fill our leadership ranks and demonstrate a high level of performance. Additionally, FLDP graduates often mentor program participates, further strengthening the Lockheed Martin finance talent pipeline.
What tips do you have for other companies and industries that are trying to recruit Gen Y talent in industries Gen Y might not be targeting?
My recommendation is two-fold. First, it’s important to understand and make sure you offer what Gen Y talent is looking for in an employer. This group is typically characterized as valuing technology, work-life balance and autonomy. Candidates also want a clear picture of the types of job opportunities available as well as options regarding career path.
Secondly, it’s important to understand the needs of the corporation. Lockheed Martin conducts research to understand the types of graduates our corporation needs to recruit and where we can find them. We look at historical recruiting data — by college — which tells us which hires stay with the company the longest, who performs the best and who will best meet our leadership needs.
From your experience, what’s Gen Y looking for when it comes to development?
Gen Y is looking for ongoing learning opportunities, corporate responsibility and visibility, as well as work-life balance.
Gen Y’s have the ability to learn as fast, if not faster, than any generation before them given their proficiency with technology. They are like sponges, quickly absorbing information and knowledge to constantly improve and remain relevant. Because of that, we enlist our FLDPs and FLDP graduates in special projects that stretch and develop them, which also drives value for our business. Whether it’s designing SharePoint sites that improve our ability to communicate, or creating models that help us understand how many people we should bring into the FLDP every year, FLDPs are the ones who own the program and continue to advance it.
They also crave responsibility and visibility within the workplace. Because of that, the FLDP has designed a number of presentation and executive exposure-related requirements into its curriculum. An example of this is our Technical Development Curriculum (TDC) III — Business Case course. This training allows FLDPs to analyze and evaluate a business decision, create a recommendation, and then present that recommendation to executive leadership. Another example is our TDC II — Full Spectrum Leadership (FSL) course. In this training, participants dialogue with executives about experiences the leader has gone through during their career, and then they present on which FSL imperatives the FLDPs intend to improve upon.
We’ve clearly seen that when early career professionals become personally invested within the business, they deliver better results. This group is focused on developing their personal brands and want opportunities and resources available to do so. They actively look for managers who are interested in their overall professional development and who will challenge them. This is one of the reasons we’ve put such an increased focus on vice president sponsorship and in-line director mentoring for our early career professionals and top performing FLDP graduates.
Finally, we realize that work-life balance is very important to this generation. We promote flexible work schedules and virtual work opportunities which tend to create a more satisfying work experience and better results from our team.
How is this different from generations before them?
The thing that stands out to me is this generation’s insatiable craving for challenge through the use of technology — i.e., immediate gratification on their terms.
Gen Y’s want to understand what’s next in their careers and aren’t afraid to use technology to look elsewhere for jobs. They’re comfortable with the thought that a career can involve many stops along the way. Whereas Gen X’s traditionally put a high emphasis on achievement for power and respect, Gen Y’s tend to want to achieve for recognition, challenge and compensation. By no means do I view this as a lack of loyalty. To the contrary, I view it as a savvier business generation.
When all is said and done, I truly believe companies that adapt to meet the dual needs of both Gen Y’s and the corporation, while clearly communicating robust career development opportunities, will be the most successful in attracting the best-and-brightest talent.