Onboarding and Engaging Young Graduates

Much has been written about how the millennial generation respond differently to the workplace as compared to previous generations, and the impact this has on organisations. The challenge is how to respond to these differences so that the leaders of tomorrow are adequately prepared while productivity is ensured.

Research shows that successful onboarding influences employee retention, engagement and productivity and ultimately revenue growth. Intentional onboarding and engagement strategies can enable young graduates to:

  • Understand the expectations, strategic direction and culture of the company
  • Develop the required soft skills which a degree does not necessarily produce
  • Express their own skills, abilities and ideas
  • Understand how they can make a meaningful contribution to the company

When an onboarding plan is developed, the following 5 Cs could be considered as the underlying building blocks, which take the typical characteristics of a young graduate into consideration:

1. Communicate the company’s vision, mission and values to create meaning

It evident in Gallup research that in order instil purpose, millennials need to be intentionally connected to the big picture of the company. Examples of how this can be done are:

  • Create opportunities where young graduates can interact, and share their ideas with the executive/senior leadership
  • Team leaders should enable employees to see how their contribution drives the company’s success and links to the bigger picture. Even day to day tasks need to be linked to the bigger picture.

2. Critical Thinking and Creative Problem Solving Skills

Critical thinking skills pave the way for strategic thinking by asking the right questions that take the whole system into consideration and not merely symptomatic problems. These skills can be reinforced by:

  • Discussing re-occurring problems in teams using critical thinking tools, to encourage young graduates to ask the right questions and to find collective answers
  • Incentivising ideas/solutions that are implemented
  • Providing reasons (backed up with facts and openness for discussion) for decisions instead of “yes is yes” and “no is no”. This will enable young graduates to learn how to base decisions (where applicable) on substantiated facts rather than untested assumptions.

3. Collaborate

Collaboration and teamwork cultivates trust and openness, and being part of a team communicates that their contribution is valued. Examples of opportunities for collaboration include:

  • Include young graduates in think tanks and projects or special task groups that will challenge them
  • Create a platform where employees can impact decisions and be acknowledged for their contribution

4. Culture adoption

Culture adoption does not start when a young graduate joins the company, but should be determined during the interview. Interview questions should therefore be focused so as to know by their answers whether the candidate is a ‘culture fit’. Ways in which young graduates can be supported in culture adoption include:

  • During the induction session discuss the culture openly, the factors that may hinder entering in and the boundaries that are created through procedures and rules
  • Setting up a ‘buddy system’ where ‘young champions’ are assigned to young graduates

5. Clear and constructive feedback

Millennials look for for straightforwardness and openness. This can be cultivated by:

  • Giving regular, brief feedback and “cutting to the chase”
  • Accompanying feedback with substantiated reasons
  • Giving feedback that facilitates learning and reflection, to ensure that it is developmental and allows no room for discouragement
  • Team leaders sharing important information in a timely manner, discussing the implications of it and making time to listen to the team’s response.

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