What Millennials Want in a Company (and Why CSR Is a Crucial Part of It)


Buddy Hobart is in the business of talent. More specifically, he and his colleagues at Solutions 21 focus on developing the leadership skills of Millennials and Gen Z. And they’ve been having huge success. In 2020, the firm—headquartered in Pittsburgh, with offices in several other cities—was part of the “Inc. 5000,” Inc. magazine’s guide to the fastest-growing privately held companies in the U.S.

Here, Hobart, a charter member of the Satell Institute’s new Pittsburgh chapter, talks about the mindset of Millennials, his personal thoughts on Corporate Social Responsibility, and why he’s so bullish on the Satell Institute’s presence in Western Pennsylvania.

At Solutions 21 we specialize in…we’ve really focused on this idea of leadership development. I’ve written a few books on how you attract and retain the next generation of talent, and so we were pioneers in that. We wrote the first book in 2008, and we were very positive toward this next generation of talent. At the time, all the books were very negative, beating up on “these kids.” But we were advocates for them. When the pandemic hit, a lot of the issues companies started dealing with—the great resignation, not being able to find the right talent, not being able to keep the right talent—completely aligned with what we do. Our leadership development programs have always focused on the attraction and retention of talent. So we’re looking a little prophetic at the moment.

The most important thing to understand about Millennials is…they aren’t looking at life the same way previous generations did. And that was: Work life. Personal life. Family life. Previous generations compartmentalized them. But the new generations just look at…life. There isn’t a work life and a home life. And so if I choose to work for you, I’m choosing to spend 8-10 hours of my life with you. That’s how we ended up taking that positive approach. My generation was in many ways transferring some of the unhealthy things that we learned onto this next generation—and getting mad at them for not being unhealthy as well. We were jealous because they chose to be happy.

Developing the next generation of leaders is essential because…by the end of this decade, the entire Baby Boom generation will have turned 65. The window is closing on what was the largest generation in the history of humanity. So how are we proactively developing this next generation?

When it comes to next-generation talent, CSR…is a big driver in attraction and retention. They’re asking, what are we doing? Are we part of something bigger?

But…if you’re disingenuous about CSR, if you’re doing the right thing for the wrong reason, it will backfire. This newest generation of talent is not gullible. They clearly know whether your heart is in this, whether you’re doing the right thing for the right reason, whether you’re having an impact. So I challenge our clients – be careful to make sure you walk the walk, just don’t sign a check.

When I think about CSR personally…I just think it’s another way of saying, to whom much is given, much is expected. If you’ve been given a modicum of success, then it’s probably a good thing to give back. We’ve always tried to be supportive in our communities, but I’m getting to a certain season in my life, and our business is at a certain season, I just think we need to be more intentional with that. We need to do it with more of a plan and more of a direction. That’s part of what drew me to Satell.

The appeal of the Satell Institute is…there are so few things in life that are “win-win,” and there are even fewer things that are “can’t lose.” I think the Satell Institute is “can’t lose.” If you’re already involved in supporting nonprofits, then all Satell is really asking you to do is make a longer-term commitment. I’ve learned the impact of that—because now that nonprofit can plan in a better way. You’re really only asking for me to do what I’ve always done, just to be smarter and more intentional about it.

Another important way the Satell Institute helps foundations and nonprofits…is by encouraging collaboration. Western Pennsylvania has many needs, and in many ways our disparate organizations are serving the same populations. But they’re not collaborating because they’re heads-down and mission-focused. It’s not a failure. There’s just no forum to do it, there’s no methodology to it. And so the foundations are really looking for more of this collaboration that I think the Satell Institute is going to foster very organically.

When it comes to Pittsburgh and the Satell Institute…I’m very optimistic. The charitable giving in Pittsburgh has been around for so long, and it’s part of our fabric. Just getting people to think about this a little bit differently—not change anything. Satell is not in competition with any of these long-held foundations. They’re another tool for these long-held foundations. I think once that becomes apparent, given Western Pennsylvania’s nature, Satell will fit in terrifically well.

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