A Look at Producing Next-Generation Talent for Your Team: UTD's Cassini Nazir

UTD's Cassini Nazir on Best Practices for Reaching Millennial Designers

In a presentation to the XD Leadership Alliance, The University of Texas at Dallas' Cassini Nazir shared effective methods for teaching and reaching the millennial generation of designers. He also reviewed crucial trends for companies that need designers, and strategic ways that industry and community members can collaborate with UTD.

Cassini serves as Clinical Associate Professor in the School of Arts, Technology and Emerging Communication program at UTD; Director of Design and Research at UTD's ArtSciLab; founding member of the Dallas Design Council; and XD Leadership Alliance Board Member.

Watch the video

See photos from the event 


Highlights of Cassini’s presentation follow:

Consumers are really not just looking for quality products; as you well know, they want quality experiences.

Millennials make up about 40% of the workplace. As baby boomers are making their way out and retiring, that number is continuing to grow. What we're seeing is that millennials are altering the very fabric of culture; of workplace; of how we read; of how we write; of how we relate to one another; of how we think of entertainment, homes, retail, auto, and even higher education.

What we're seeing is that a lot of the changes that have happened in your workplaces – the expectations that you're facing from your employees – are driven by that millennial group.

Institutions that we're used to, that we have some belonging and connection to, they easily traverse and go in and out of. They're unattached. While they're largely untethered, they're highly connected. They grew up in the age where digital had sort of matured to a point where they could interact with it; it was much cheaper.

The effect that that's had is that they have a unique global perspective that previous generations really haven't had. They've been able to see news and connect with individuals in a way that's been unprecedented, that's affected in who they are. They are also very unconstrained.

One thing that a lot of people put on them, and it's actually largely true, they're optimistic. They believe that life can be better and that they can affect that change.

Unlike previous generations, they're not at a job for a paycheck. They don't clock out at 5. They don't leave it behind. They're really seeking purpose. Compensation is not the primary driver here. Work fuels their purpose and they really are seeking, from the jobs they come into, to have a sense of purpose from them.

They are generally unattached, but they are seeking engagement. What that means for the economy as a whole in the U.S.: the economy's lost productivity. You can see that it's as much as $470 billion in terms of lost productivity because they're just not simply engaged. Only 30% say that they are engaged in the workplace, and that means that behaviorally and emotionally they feel connected. That means 70% don't feel that way. 60% say that they're looking for another job or they're open to finding another job.

In fact, 21% of millennials have changed jobs within the last year. That's three times as much as the next category, the baby boomers.

They feel indifferent about their jobs, but they report that they're not given compelling reasons to stay at their jobs. Part of that relates back to purpose and how we conceive of what a job is.

What that means is that millennials are very likely to switch positions, but that also is a great opportunity for recruitment. If you understand that they're looking for purpose, you can identify and connect with them.

They're looking to go from job satisfaction to job development. They actually care more than you think.

Opportunities to learn and grow, having a quality manager, and having quality management are really critical to keeping millennials. These are critical to getting them in, but these are critical to keeping them there.

Overall compensation is not as high as you might expect it to be. They really are looking to learn and grow.

Here are a few takeaways: How does your culture reflect these expectations? What paths and opportunities does your company have for growth and development within this space? Mentoring, workshops like this, opportunities for them to feel engaged and be engaged.

“They’re not looking for a boss; they’re looking for a coach … they’re looking for engaging, developing and possibly retaining them. The rising expectation is that managers do more than just manage, that they coach.”
— UTD's Cassini Nazir

61% of millennials report that they have regular meetings with their managers. That's the opportunity for them to establish and feel like they're learning and growing, and set priorities for growth. When they meet, only less than 20%, one in five, basically say that they get meaningful feedback. Then, they are terrified to ask for it.

If you're thinking of the traditional employee-manager relationship, that's not what this generation is looking for. Millennials really are looking for more conversations, and informal. Only 30% say they feel comfortable discussing life outside of work, but if they feel like they are connected at their environment, they want to stay. This is really a way to retain employees. With managers that focus on their strengths, [millennials] feel engaged.

What they're looking for is help along the way and encouragement as they're making their way through.

Millennials see their job as their life … more than ever, they're asking these two questions: Does this organization value my strengths, does it value my contributions? And does it give me the chance to do what I do best?

From paycheck to purpose, from satisfaction to development, from that Dilbert boss to a coach, from annual reviews to ongoing conversations, from weaknesses to strengths, from job to life. For those of you that hire designers, a lot of this is actually made evident in a report that was given by Nielsen Norman Group back in 2013-2014 that says, "Among UX professionals, these are the qualities and characteristics that enable success."

It is a challenge for companies … you can see the potential that they offer, but it presents a tremendous amount of challenges because of the intergenerational culture dynamic. But, it's something that a company can intentionally work on.

You've read the highlights, now watch the video for all the useful resources from Cassini


About XD Leadership Alliance

The mission of the XD Leadership Alliance is to recognize and connect industry thought leaders in the fields of design, technology, research, product and marketing. As customer experience continues to be the top driver of digital transformation for organizations, experience-driven (XD) businesses are leading the way in increasing market share and delivering greater ROI. The new ideas and collaborative efforts of the XD Leadership Alliance are aimed at keeping Dallas at the forefront of this vital economic initiative.

For more information and to get involved, visit the XD Leadership Alliance now at experiencedriven.com.