Leading engineering and infrastructure company Aurecon recently ran two global staff surveys, targeting 870 recent millennial hires (or "Limelighters").

The survey highlighted the skills ambitious millennials believed were crucial if they were to grow and flourish in the booming building, infrastructure and property workforce of the future.

Overall, 73 per cent of respondents said when they graduated they felt prepared, or more than prepared, with the skills and capabilities needed for the workforce.

But this confidence dropped once they entered the workforce, with 39 per cent stating they were less than prepared, or not prepared at all for their first role.


And only 37 per cent of respondents felt their university education had prepared them for the day-to-day realities of work.

"The workforce of the future will see us shift from being problem-solvers to problem-finders," says Liam Hayes, chief people officer at Aurecon.

He says the survey illustrates a need for universities and workplaces to work together for greater employability outcomes.

"Our aim isn't to focus on the potential shortcomings of universities but rather to help millennials explore how they can have a real impact in a future ready organisation."

And it's not always about hard skills. He believes soft skills are increasingly important.

"Fine-tuning your communication skills, especially in a team environment, is a key ingredient in helping you become a more valuable employee."

He cites a project where the company interviewed clients to understand the skills and capabilities that were valued by organisations.

"Eight attributes were identified as key to delivering an outstanding service, and they're not technical. These are: resourceful, co-creative, engaging, unconventional thinker, sense maker, inquisitive, commercial, and fearless."


Hayes doesn't think the survey results mean millennials are over confident in their abilities.

"No, not at all. Naturally, many millennials leave university confident to enter the workforce, but understandably follow a steep learning curve once they enter it."

Unsurprisingly the generation works best in a culture which encourages and celebrates diversity of thought.

Hayes says it is how you think in the workplace, not what you think, which makes you a diverse thinker.

"Nurturing diversity of thought can further advance innovation and continue to enhance creative problem solving."

The survey also found knowledge about the application of digital technologies is a vital skill, but more work needs to be done around integrating it into the education framework.

Overall, 48 per cent of Limelighters surveyed felt "less than prepared" in terms of their digital skills to enter their profession after university.

But one thing millennials do well is work in teams, he says: "69 per cent prefer to work in teams."

Hayes believes it's key that leaders create teams and networks in which a diverse group of people feel they belong and are valued; and that they be open to new and different perspectives, and challenge accepted practices.

This isn't about materialistic values — millennials genuinely want to make our world a better place.

"The writing has been on the wall for some time that if we want to nurture and get the best out of diverse teams, we need inclusive leaders who know how to lead them. Millennials want leaders who are able to inspire people and uncover their strengths. They look for inspiration and for environments where they are valued, understood, and allowed to meaningfully contribute."

And their career expectations aren't markedly different from other generations in the workplace.

"Our research shows millennials have a deep desire to make an impact and leave a legacy in whatever they do.

"This isn't about materialistic values, they genuinely want to make our world a better place for all and feel that they have the power to do so."