Published on 2012/07/09

How iLearn! How iWork! – From Grads to Great Employees

New hires have approximately three months to integrate themselves successfully into a new workplace and there are a few steps employers could take to ensure the on-boarding process is better. Photo by Todd Morris.

It’s no secret the labor pool skills gap is increasing and the shortfall of college grads continues unabated. McKinsey’s Global Institute projects a global shortfall of 38 to 40 million college grads compared to demand by 2020. If you ask any manager, trainer, or HR professional what makes for a successful professional employee they will most likely tell you the same thing; grads who are successful know by the end of their first 90 days how to think critically, communicate effectively, solve problems, work on a team, speak before an audience, respect authority and have strong customer service skills.

On the other hand, they would probably say that young new hires that are not successful have a lot in common. By the end of their first 90-days they still require a lot of mentoring and guidance. They don’t manage time at all, ask a lot of questions, may not work well with others, or are clueless to opportunities existing in the midst of challenges.

We all know we don’t live in a perfect world. We also know those entry level jobs where new hires learned the ropes became excess cost and were trimmed during the recession and/or replaced with technology. Hiring managers would, of course, prefer to select the former kind of future employee from the latter so that only good fits showed up to our companies. However, we all now know this is rarely the case. How do we get these new grads up to speed and productive?

This discussion has been “water cooler” conversation and book fodder for some time as the talent pool shrinks on a global scale. Many enterprises have invested heavily in both HR and HR technology prior to the recession trying to get a handle on these challenges. Few have success stories of any magnitude. The PR one reads is great, but factually supported results are rare or unclear.

The long climb up the ladder, starting with learning the ropes as a new hire, is no longer available in most companies. As a college grad you are expected to be productive in three months. This usually doesn’t necessarily match with the college grads. Many will have done their due diligence on your company and come to recruiting fairs loaded with specific questions. If you want production in 90 days, what are you offering to support them to achieve that objective? More importantly what career paths are available and will the grads bring their own smart devices (BYOD), expecting you to connect it to your organization’s network on day one?

Get used to it, because after most industries have stolen top tier talent from each other and no trades remain, the playing field is leveled. If you don’t have a statistician who knows how to apply “money ball” in assessing new hires, you better have a career path program along with a rewards and retention program to keep pace.

Once on-boarding is completed you will assign a mentor making sure the mentor has had proper training in mentoring to add value and not conflict. You may need a coach as well for those struggling to fit in. All this may seem strange and questioned by those from the old command and control structure days. Yes, it’s a new world, but it could be worse and will if you shrug it off as a passing phase. To do so would be gambling with the sustainability of your organization. Remember, it is always more cost effective to help willing employees who struggle to succeed than to endure the costs of unnecessary turnover.

Five tips proven tips for new college grad hires engagement during the first 90 days:

  1. Spend the time necessary and use assessment tools to find out what make your new college grad tick. What’s their ambition, if any, and how does your firm play into that desire.
  2. Make sure that a mentor is assigned to the new hire, but make sure the mentor has had proper training and will be a good fit to help develop the “green horn”.
  3. Get an evaluation of the new hires strength and short comings as related to his/her skills to contribute to profitability. Find courses or content to help add to the upside, not just to those shortcomings.
  4. Communicate, communicate, communicate. The incoming generationals want feedback on everything. They spend hours on Facebook or Twitter in conversations; they are constantly communicating. They want inclusion early in their employment.
  5. Prepare for a mixed bag of cultures, social attitudes or geo-political views that aren’t mainstream or fit with yours. That’s how they were raised and educated. With maturity and real world mentoring, most will reshape their earlier concepts and thinking. Yes, it is a new world of more people variables, but they become your most important asset if properly informed, coached and included in the collaborative team process.

For “old school” line manager it will be the hardest adjust you will ever make to be more accepting and tolerate of the on-coming tidal wave of change required to move your new hires from Grads to Great employees.

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