How To Help College Grads Succeed in Your Organization

By Jay Forte

We’re mid-way through the summer. Some companies may be looking at their summer interns wondering who will get the job offer. Some companies may be counting down the days to get rid of the useless interns they brought in. Where do you stand?

Many workplaces are disappointed with their college graduate hires, asking themselves how, after receiving [name of degree], they can lack the knowledge to perform some of the most critical functions in the workplace. It is as if they are from another place and time, unaware of how to work with others, think critically, own their performance and show up on time. 

Sure, they have some of the required technical skills, but their passion and interest for their work and their ability to work with others seems to be limited.

You are disappointed with them. They are disappointed with you.

So how can we stop this cycle of disappointment? It first starts with self-awareness – for you, the manager.

Here are three tips to keep your college grads engaged with your business.

1. Hire for fit. Most organizations still hire based on skill and experience, and since very few college grads have the requisite experience, skill becomes the hiring focus. But an employee’s ability to succeed in the workplace, to feel happy, confident and competent, has more to do with talents and interests than skills.

A wisely crafted performance profile that identifies the talents, skills, experience and interests required to be successful in each job can help you better source and more wisely interview candidates who are a better fit. Though it might take some time up front, think of the benefits later when you’re interviewing only qualified candidates and, hopefully, only doing it once as the focus on finding the right fit for the job may mean you’re not dealing with unnecessary turnover.

Remember: the better the fit, the more likely engagement and performance will improve.

2. Increase your connection time.Though internships have certainly enabled college grads to experience working in a professional environment, doing it full time is different. This means you will need to increase the time you spend with them, ensuring you’re providing guidance and support to develop them into a long-term employee. Offer consistent feedback in real-time and establish clear performance expectations. This will allow your college grad to better navigate their new environment with greater success. And the more successful they feel, the more engaged they become.

3. Be ready to teach them soft skills. Most employers I work with say that Millennial employees are conspicuously deficient in many of the core soft skills needed to be successful in the workplace. If not handled appropriately, they can quickly feel ineffective and, therefore, lose engagement.

According to Millennial specialist Bruce Tulgan in his book, Bridging the Soft Skills Gap, Millennials are missing skills in three areas: professionalism (self-evaluation, attitude, work habits, people skills), critical thinking (problem solving, decision making and proactive learning) and followership (respect for authority, service mindset, teamwork and performance accountability). They didn’t learn these skills in school, at home or in college, which means they need to learn them in your workplace. As they improve these, they raise their understanding of how to be in a professional workplace, get things done, work with others and advance their careers. Consider how your employee education and development plan can include soft skill training; there are great soft skill lessons in Tulgan’s book.

Your college grad employee comes to you well prepared in some areas and needing support in others. Get a great return on your investment in college grads by hiring wisely, managing them more personally and developing their soft skills. This helps them choose their jobs wisely, know what is expected and learn to be effective, efficient and extraordinary in the workplace. And as this improves, so does their level of engagement, performance and loyalty.

Important Questions from a Coach

1. What is one thing you and your hiring team can do today to be more effective to hire for fit?
2. How will hiring for fit benefit you and your organization in the short term? Long term?
3. What are three benefits to hiring college grads (i.e. new to the workforce)?

Originally appeared on LinkedIn, September 26, 2016.


Consider reading Generational Stereotypes Have No Place Here

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