Monday, November 03, 2014

[180] MTSU ‘Millennials’ conference explores Midstate’s future workforce

Jones College of Business hosts sold-out event at Embassy Suites

Hosted by the Jennings A. Jones Chair of Excellence in Private Enterprise as well as the Jennings A. Jones College of Business, the sold-out conference — titled “2020 Millennial Game Plan: Maximizing Millennial Entrepreneurship and Innovation” — was held at Embassy Suites Murfreesboro and drew a variety of business leaders — primarily Gen X’ers and Boomers — from the public and private sectors.

“Nashville’s Millennial growth rate is among the nation’s highest. Consequently, it is vital that business leaders understand the special characteristics of Millennials, how they are shaping companies, and how they are driving entrepreneurship and innovation,” said David Urban, dean of the Jones College of Business.

The conference title harkens to the fact that by 2020, the so-called ‘Millennial’ generation — young adults raised in a digital age and motivated by a different set of values from generations past — will make up 40 percent of the workforce.

MTSU held the half-day conference to help these older business and community leaders explore what the influx of Millennials means to the regional and national economy and how to maximize the entry of this new generation of workers into the job market.

Urban added that the conference’s “deep dive into what makes Millennials tick” also offered practical action steps for companies “wanting to build the type of culture that will allow them to attract, retain, and get the most out of their Millennial employees.”

Featured speakers included Matt Thornhill and John Martin of Virginia-based marketing research company GenerationsMatter and John Boyens of The Boyens Group, a Nashville-based sales, management and training firm.

Martin facilitated the wrap-up panel that included Beth Duffield, vice president of workforce development for the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce; Michael Burrows, owner of a local H3O Aquatics franchise and an MTSU alumnus; Dr. William McDowell, Wright Travel Chair in Entrepreneurship in the Jones College; and Brittany Macklin, an MTSU entrepreneurship major from Madison, Tennessee.

Among suggestions by the panel: employers should look to install “creative spaces” within the workplace where Millennials can unwind while collaborating with co-workers; employers should offer to pay for extended education opportunities for Millennials looking to advance in their careers; managers should make it a priority to match Millennials with mentors so that there is a mutual exchange of knowledge.

Martin noted that among the dozen U.S. cities his company has researched, Nashville had the highest score — called a net promoter score — related to how positively Millennials felt about their city and how much they referred their hometown to others as a great place to live.

“This market has a unique attribute of everybody being so hyperfriendly and supportive,” Martin said. “This whole conference was about entrepreneurship and innovation. If you think about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, one of them is having a supportive environment, having people that will help you and pitch in. I think ‘friendly’ is the word for all of that.”

Among the younger faces amongst attendees were MTSU seniors Lance Lee of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and Glen Johnson of Nashville. The two Millennials attended the conference in part to get some extra class credit but left with a better feeling about how some negative stereotypes about Millennials — selfish, entitled — are being reevaluated by older generations.

“There are still a lot of us out there that are ambitious and willing to make something of ourselves,” said Lee, a finance major.

Added fellow finance major Johnson: “There’s definitely an awareness (of) Millennials. Any relationship is a two-way street, and it’s good to see all the other generations … how they’ve lived their lives and their trends, and how we can meet across the board and communicate with them.”

Kim Sokoya, associate dean of Graduate and Executive Education in the Jones College, said the conference will benefit MTSU faculty and staff attendees both administratively and academically when it comes to interacting with Millennials.

“It helps us to understand how we can change some of the things we do so that we can meet their expectations,” Sokoya said. “At the same time it will help us to deliver more effectively the knowledge that we need to share with our students. … The reality is that the Millennials are coming.”

Urban said the college will continue to host such events in the future. For more information about the MTSU Jones College of Business, go to

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