For many graduates, the transition from college or university to the world of work is a daunting one. The atmosphere or culture is likely be different from anything they have experienced before. They may have worries and concerns about what to wear, how they will integrate with other employees and how they will cope with the pressures of working flat out to meet deadlines and manage heavy workloads.
The good news is these are issues that businesses themselves are increasingly aware of. Today more and more organisations not only understand the challenges involved, they have also set up high-quality induction programmes designed to make the process of transitioning as seamless as possible for graduate trainees.
In line with this, we are seeing more businesses focused on creating an environment that values and nurtures new recruits from the start. In the past, businesses have often loaded new starters with the most menial tasks or repetitive jobs from the word go and asked them to graft away on these week in and week out.
There was often little emphasis on team integration and new staff were frequently left to fend for themselves on everything from finding their way round the building to setting up their new PC. Initial training was invariably perfunctory rather than being tailored to the needs of the specific employee and linked closely to the goals and objectives of the business.
Building a More Inclusive Approach
Today, new starters need to feel included as a key part of the business from the word go. Every organisation needs to be aware of this shift in thinking and process. After all, today, with an ever-expanding range of forward-looking employers to choose from, employees that feel they are not being given the respect they deserve, will simply leave.
From the business’s perspective, that focus on integrating new starters should not stop at the end of the onboarding and induction process. It needs to extend beyond that to take in the whole of that employee’s ‘journey’ with the company. Businesses today are increasingly understanding and accepting the new reality that today’s new starters don’t just want to work for a salary, they need a clear purpose. They want to know what the company’s strategic plan is; how they can contribute to that plan through the work they are doing or the ideas they can offer, and what that will mean for them in terms of career opportunities.
Today, businesses are increasingly respecting that new viewpoint and reflecting that from the start by moving to flatter management structures and much clearer KPIs – but also by adopting a more open approach to employee engagement.
An important element of that is how businesses manage their internal communications and employee meetings to accommodate new starters. The key here is allowing all staff ‘a level playing field’. It should not matter where they are located; whether they are new to the business or have been there a long time. They should be able to contribute without feeling that there will be repercussions, or that anyone will judge them – and they should be encouraged to feel that their contribution absolutely counts.
After all, great ideas often come from people with little experience in a specific industry, who can therefore bring a fresh perspective. We see it a lot with start-ups and in the phenomenon of the intrapreneur, where new employees brought into a business can bring innovative entrepreneurial ideas to the table to forward the strategic objectives of the business.
This focus on including employees should extend beyond informal or small-scale internal get-togethers into the large set-piece quarterly kick-off, group town hall, or all-hands meetings. Facilitated by the latest technology, businesses can ensure that everyone within the company can interact no matter their location, or level of experience. New staff can be made to feel part of the team by voting anonymously in real-time on information presented at such meetings. It is a great way of the business demonstrating to them that their opinion counts as much as anyone else’s.
The kind of technology deployed is also crucial here. The graduates of today are part of ‘the smartphone generation’. They expect instantaneous connectivity. They are used to interacting via mobile apps and Q&A forums from an early age and frequently use these kinds of tools in college or university. Many universities today have their own official app, for example, which provides links to a wide range of useful information. Students appreciate this kind of approach. When they graduate, therefore, they are more likely to seek out organisations that demonstrate a keen use of technology in the workplace.
All this is key – but ultimately what is most important is that businesses provide an environment in which graduates feel comfortable and valued. After all, it is important not just to acquire new talent but also to retain it over time.
Businesses stand to benefit hugely from adopting such an approach. That’s because graduates will do their best work when they feel comfortable and part of the team. And organisations that do all they can to make them feel valued and included will therefore not only reduce staff turnover but ultimately also achieve better business results.