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For many companies, it’s become common practice to take a chance by bringing recent college graduates on board and developing them from inexperienced, entry-level employees to strong team members.
Related: 6 Strategies to Hire the Best New Graduates
That’s exactly what Matt Bentley, owner and founder of CanIRank, an SEO software company in San Francisco, decided to do when he hired several recent college graduates. “We paired new hires with mentors — experienced staff members they could rely on as they became comfortable in their positions,” Bentley told me via email.
What Bentley said he didn’t expect were the positive changes he saw in employees who had been at the company for years. “Pairing people up also motivated our more experienced staff members to be more creative, which resulted in increased performance throughout our entire firm,” he said.
An update? Many of those once inexperienced college graduates have become CanIRank’s top performers.
CanIRank’s successful hiring experience might be something for your company to consider. Unfortunately, though, employers aren’t always sure how to effectively bring college graduates on board in a way that benefits both the new hires and the company as a whole.
Here’s what employers need to start doing to onboard new grads like pros:
1. Set expectations.
For most college graduates, your job offer will be their first experience with a full-time job in the field they studied. This doesn’t mean they’re ill-prepared to jump into the workforce, but they do need a better understanding of what company leaders expect from them.
When Anna Crowe, founder and CEO of Crowe PR, a public relations firm in San Diego, hired a new graduate, she knew that introducing that young woman to the company’s work standards and culture would be a challenge.
Related: Considering Hiring a New College Grad for Your Startup or Small Business? Use These 5 Tests to Find Superstar Employees.
So, Crowe told me, she got to work planning a more concrete way to onboard new hires and remind current employees of Crowe PR’s mission, values and culture. “We implemented ‘The Gold Crowe Standard,’ which is essentially our toolkit for what ‘right’ looks like and what our brand/company represents,” the CEO told me. “Each month, we host a Gold Crowe Standards session involving the whole company.”
Once everyone is gathered, she said, she and another rotating team member put together a PowerPoint deck on best practices for specific key functions. The categories covered range from research to reporting, to media relations and more.
“I’ve heard great feedback from our new employees, particularly the recent graduates, on this method, as it gives them a formal, but collaborative approach to the company,” Crowe said.
So, do the same thing: Set a standard for your team members, new and experienced alike, to ensure that everyone understands the “why” behind what they do. This can be done with a platform like Click Boarding, which allows entrepreneurs to create onboarding customized to their companies.
Tip: By approaching onboarding using personalization, employers can better teach college graduates about the organization during their first crucial days as employees.
2. Continue their learning.
Workforce transitions are always difficult to make. However, moving from college life into professional employment is an even bigger cultural shock, full of anxiety and uncertainty.
“Students are accustomed to receiving assignments with clear deliverables and checklists of success criteria. They’re also accustomed to receiving immediate feedback in the form of a grade,” Leigh Steere, co-founder of Managing People Better, LLC in Boulder, Colo., explained to me via email.
Unfortunately, job responsibilities and descriptions — especially within startups — aren’t always this clear. That’s why Steere believes employers need to set realistic expectations, followed up with teaching.
“Classes and/or one-on-one coaching can help a new hire understand the elements of their job. Practice in a roleplay or simulation environment and offer real-time feedback,” Steere offered. “This way, when they are left on their own, they have some amount of confidence about the mechanics of the job and the output you expect.”
Tip: Lessen confusion and make the transition earlier by assigning a lead contact for all educational needs. New college graduates will appreciate the consistency and support as they grow both professionally and personally with learning opportunities.
3. Give individualized attention.
Just as no two employee experiences are the same, neither should the onboarding process be.
Having recently hired 32 employees directly out of college, Brad Stulz, human resources coordinator at Totally Promotional in Coldwater, Ohio, knows the importance of individualizing the onboarding experience. By offering new hires individual meetings with the CEO at the start of onboarding, Stulz and his team are able to personalize each new hire’s experience.
“We schedule a time for them to meet with our CEO to discuss expectations and how they will fit into the overall goals the company has set,” Stulz said via email.
To heighten the effectiveness of these meetings, the Totally Promotional team members added a more rigorous training regime to their onboarding process. That regime seems to have paid off: The first college graduate to move through the program is now excelling.
Explained Stulz: “By providing additional training, setting goals and following up with weekly status updates, the now-excelling new hire assimilated well into the company culture in less than 90 days.”
Tip: If setting up meetings between new hires and your company CEO isn’t always possible, sit down with company leaders to decide who would be best to meet initially with each grad. While employees will feel important and “heard,” the company itself will be better prepared to help each person reach goals through specific training and mentoring.
4. Measure results
Change is a necessary component of success. Without measuring data and altering company practices around the results, a company will have trouble growing.
Christine DiDonato, president of Career Revolution, Inc., a career-development company in San Diego, said she believes formal processes help employers measure data and understand what college graduates need from them. And, as former head of talent management for Sony, DiDonato is no stranger to the benefits of measured experiences.
Related: Five Reasons To Give Fresh Grads A Chance At Your Enterprise
“When onboarding recent college graduates at Sony, we created programs, such as social events, formal training and even a buddy system, which were organized and managed over a six-month period,” DiDonato told me. “We even measured the experience of our new hires at 30, 90 and 150 days to gauge if we were meeting their needs.”
Tip: Talk to team members about what they found most important, challenging and even frustrating during the onboarding process. Use their answers to guide what metrics you’ll subsequently use to measure recent grads’ satisfaction and assess how they’re perceiving company goals, expectations and culture.