Trope has it that business leaders hesitate to hire millennials because they are concerned about just how prepared today's recent grads are for the workplace.

Here's something that might surprise you: Millennials agree.

Not Ready for the Real World

That's one of many findings from Bentley University's PreparedU Project, launched to examine and discuss issues facing millennials in the labor force. The survey of more than 3,100 respondents--including business leaders, corporate recruiters, college students, recent grads, higher education officials, and business leaders, among other groups--was conducted during the fall. The results were released last night.

Among all survey respondents, 58 percent said millennials grade out as a "C" or below in terms of being prepared for their first job. Recent college grads were actually more likely to say so, as 61 percent expressed that sentiment.

Meanwhile, 37 percent of recent grads rated their own personal preparation level as a C or below, and 35 percent of business leaders and recruiters said even millennials they had hired rated as such.

The survey is chock full of interesting data points. For instance, while recent grads and business leaders might be in agreement about millennial preparedness, they differ some in defining what it means to be prepared

But Still Miles Apart on Some Issues

Business leaders and recruiters were almost three times as likely as high school and college students to say work ethic and personality traits were the most important elements of workforce preparation. And this segues into a particularly eyebrow-raising (if not surprising) finding: 89 percent of millennials say they have a strong work ethic, while 74 percent of non-millennial respondents think younger workers lack the work ethic of previous generations.

The study also indicates that millennials and their first employers are, to some extent, resigned to each other. More than half of business leaders say they aren't all that compelled to invest in millennial training, as they expect them to leave within a few years anyway. Meanwhile, only 55 percent of millenials say they are loyal to their companies--compared to 69 percent for other generations. But they don't keep a double standard: 51 percent of millennials say they don't expect their company to be loyal to them.

Still, business leaders say they generally like millennials, and 74 percent of non-millennial survey respondents agreed that today's newest additions to the workforce bring values and skills that benefit an organization.

Bentley suggests colleges and businesses should be doing more to prepare students for their careers. Businesses might consider partnering with local colleges in developing workplace- and career-based curriculums, and work more closely with schools' career development offices. Meanwhile, colleges might think about supplementing their educations with more hands-on training. And students should look to leverage opportunities outside the classroom.

Those recommendations aren't all that groundbreaking, and they require widescale buy-in both horizontally and vertivally--from multiple members of multiple constituencies. But they do add fuel to an important economic and cultural conversation.

Published on: Jan 29, 2014