Nurturing Energy and Enthusiasm

This is their time. College graduates infused with confidence and enthusiasm for joining the workforce and inspired by stirring commencement speeches exhorting them to make a difference. Are you prepared to channel their energy and academic achievement into helping your organization? How can you embrace and nurture this group of new hires, enabling them to make a big difference in your organization?

New challenges for a new generation

It had been a few years since I attended a college graduation, but this spring I heard a university president charge 1,034 graduates to lead, serve and be engaged citizens. He likened this milestone to the thinking of the Danish philosopher and theologian Kierkegaard and encouraged them to discover and live their unique identities. He highlighted the importance of personal choice and commitment and that professional accomplishments are not about salary and stock options, titles, stature, power or authority, but rather living a meaningful professional life.

I was struck by how different the president’s moving words were compared with those I heard at my own graduation. They reflected a distinct evolution in values over the past 30 some years. I was tasked to go into the world, use my education, work hard and be dedicated. Our parents encouraged us to make career decisions based on the ability to support ourselves. There were no references to being passionate and altruistic about our work.

This evolution reflects a change in expectations and how post-boomers view work. Previous generations kept their work life separate from their personal life. Today, personal and professional lives intertwine and employees expect a different experience at work.

I visited with a number of graduates following the ceremony, and it was quite clear that they embrace these new challenges and opportunities that lie ahead with unbridled optimism. They have aspirations to contribute and dare to make a difference.**

Leveraging these new precious assets

New graduates are leaving school charged up. These new precious assets need to be welcomed. Make it easy for them to create connections that embrace and nurture them. Give them space to grow. In turn, they will contribute positively to your organization by keeping your organization forward thinking and healthy.

It’s important to understand that they think differently. How you take them in will be different than how you have on-boarded others.

Here a few thoughts about helping recent college grads overcome the challenges they face when entering your organization:

  • Understanding the company: How it works, the different business units, how their work fits into the big picture.

Having just come from an academic environment, these newest additions to your workforce are responsive to guidance/education. Help them “settle in” to their responsibilities and department so they feel like they have a firm footing. A plan to help them branch out and learn more about their business units and others in the company.

Creating multiple touch points to provide initial and ongoing support through their transition period helps new recruits create relationships that integrate them more quickly and more deeply engage them. Touch points can include: managers who carve out time to work with their newest team members; colleagues who have successfully transitioned from college to the workforce and are given the opportunity to mentor these new grads; and formal training sessions that help reinforce and embed key information.

  • How to present their ideas

These young enthusiasts will no doubt have some fresh ideas. Guide them in how to think their ideas through and critically assess them. Mentor them in how to own and shepherd their ideas. Help them determine how to create meaningful conversation for presenting their ideas. And most important, recognize their ideation efforts to encourage more creative ideas. What gets recognized gets repeated.

Try to avoid responses that may dampen future expression of new ideas: “not a good idea,” “tried it before; didn’t work,” “no one here will listen,” and the ever rampant “yes but.”

  • Clear the way, keep them close

Provide tools, support and expectations; then get out of their way. I’m not advocating desertion by any means. It’s all about creating  a balance between autonomy and collaboration. Frequently scheduled feedback will help new recruits “learn the ropes” and help them grow.

** Like any population, the graduate community is not homogeneous. In contrast to the main focus of this article, there are graduates who may respond better to different and/or additional techniques designed to help them be their best. These are the graduates who:

  • think getting and keeping a job will be easy
  • think they do not have to start at the beginning
  • are not prepared for the demands and regiment of work life

Need help preparing to welcome and nurture GenY college graduates into your workforce? We are problem solvers and innovators when it comes to ideas to welcome and integrate your new team members. We’ll help you implement down-to-earth strategies that are aligned with your company objectives, brand, message and voice. Call us. 

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