Now more than ever, people want companies to stand for something.
Askia Ahmad, an IT director at Flint Hills Resources, has noticed that sentiment more and more while meeting with prospective employees and current college students. He witnessed it recently at the Thurgood Marshall College Fund’s Leadership Institute in Washington, D.C., attended by 400 students from 47 historically black colleges and universities across the country. The event, culminating with a recruitment fair featuring several organizations, including Koch companies, is one way business leaders like Ahmad are refocusing beyond traditional recruiting channels to leadership-focused events like TMCF’s summit that help potential employees develop their natural talents.
Millennials, who now comprise the majority of the United States workforce, value working for employers that are making a positive difference in the world over taking just any job.
“They want a good job that’s going to pay them well and will challenge them,” Ahmad said. “They also want to know what you’re doing as a company to drive social change and level the playing field. As we continue to attend these sessions, they're asking more of those questions, so that appears to be top of mind, and then kind of the job comes second.”
[Q&A with Ahmad: What is an intrapreneur? Driving positive change for all from within]
It’s not just millennials who are driving the change; it is a global shift. Nearly two in three consumers around the world buy based on belief, not just whatever catches their eye or is on sale. According to the latest Edelman survey, belief-driven buyers are now the majority in markets from China to Germany to the U.S., across age groups, and income levels.
“We believe in the power of working for a purpose. Our employees love their communities, and we want them to feel just as fulfilled with their roles here,” said Danielle Harmon, who leads college recruiting for Koch Industries. “There is always opportunity at Koch to create value and help more people improve their lives, and that is what drives us to recruit new employees at events like TMCF’s Leadership Institute.”
At the TMCF summit, Ahmad participated in a panel that explored how young leaders can use their entrepreneurial mindsets to improve themselves and their communities. For Koch, a critical component for improving communities is reforming a broken criminal justice system. On that issue, Ahmad said, TMCF students were particularly engaged.
“Most of them have probably already researched Koch and what we stand for,” Ahmad said. “But I think there are actually a lot more students today who are much more conscious—or woke, as they would put it.”
[How Koch’s culture attracts—and keeps—top talent]
Imagining himself as a student seeking to start his career, Ahmad laid out what questions he would have for a recruiter.
“One is, am I allowed to bet on myself and have a great career. Most companies will probably tell you yes to get you in the door, but do they mean it when you’re there more than three to five years?” Ahmad asked. “I would say that in my 13 years here at Koch, this is absolutely that place that if you're willing to bet on yourself and invest in yourself and willing to come, contribute to improving people’s lives, and grow that contribution over time, you will chart a successful career.”
Ahmad knew little about chemical manufacturing when he started his role at INVISTA, for example, but grew his knowledge through real-time experience. When he began his role with Koch Ag and Energy Solutions, Ahmad set out to learn everything he could about agriculture and fertilizer. The same goes for his current journey with Flint Hills Resources to learn all he can about the fuels industry past, present and future. Rather than being bound by one business, he has embraced a focus on developing capabilities that work across industries.
“If you are passionate about innovation, willing to bet on and reinvest in yourself and you can bring competitively-advantage skills to an entrepreneurial work environment” Ahmad added, “Koch's a great place to have a multi-faceted career and fuel your continuous self-transformation.”