The keys to unlocking tomorrow's workforce

July 14, 2017 | GET MORE : Ethics

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A U.S. Bank summer intern writes how growing up in an interconnected world has shaped his generation's priorities at work.

The first members of the post-millennial generation are shuffling into the workforce with a keen sense of what they want from their companies: transparency in conduct and social responsibility in practice. 

We've grown up in an interconnected world, with diverse thoughts and ideas demanding our attention. As a result, we empathize with people beyond our borders, cultures and creeds.  

It comes as no shock, then, that we prioritize ethics when choosing where to work. "There's a talent war going on," and "our company's commitment to the community helps recruit top talent," said Reba Dominski, chief social responsibility officer for U.S. Bank. 

Indeed, 80 percent of the millennial generation before us believes companies have an obligation to help people or take action to improve issues that may not affect their everyday business, according to a 2017 study by Cone Communications. 

Helping alone isn’t enough, though. Young professionals, like my fellow U.S. Bank interns, yearn to find purpose in their work – a real effect on the lives of those they serve. We want this purpose to underpin what we do as professionals. 

So we look for companies that do so – and do so overtly. 

"When I started looking for an internship, one of the first things I considered was how a company was perceived in their community," Chris Casey, an intern on U.S. Bank's innovation team, said at a volunteer event (pictured above) during which the bank's 150 summer interns built furniture for low-income families. 

But while young professionals recognize the importance of community commitment and ethical conduct, we're skeptics and self-admittedly hard to please. We won't believe it until you show us, and that's precisely why transparency is so important to us. The Cone study found that 91 percent of respondents said it's okay if a company isn't perfect as long as it's honest about its efforts.

"Transparency is a good kind of pressure," Dominski said. "We're not going to set a goal without the intent to achieve it."

Thanks to the ever-present nature of social media, young people are fully conscious of what's happening in the world. That's why it's unsettling for us to have any doubt or suspicion about the dealings of the companies for which we work. 

Now settled in to our new roles at U.S. Bank, we've started to see – perhaps skeptically at first – the commitment the bank's made to consumers and employees. Its core values – especially, "We do the right thing" – and mission statement grow legs each day, striding into the foreground with a demand for attention, helping complement the work – helping us understand our work's purpose. Why we do it. 

That, more than anything, is what we young professionals need: transparency until trust is entrenched. And as the third, fourth, fifth weeks of our summer program settle into the past, we see the commitment of U.S. Bank to its communities. We see 73,000 cogs neatly locking in to crank our collective gears of commitment. We see the shared, genuine dedication U.S. Bank fosters within its bankers. 

Dominski said it best: "If you’re a banker, you're in the business of community development."

Alex Wittenberg is a marketing intern at U.S. Bank and a senior student-athlete at the University of Minnesota.