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5 tips for onboarding grads

Updated: Oct 7, 2021

Every year organizations take on graduates fresh out of university. Graduates are attractive hires as they are ‘less costly’, highly motivated, have fresh ideas, and are very adaptable. But too often the non-monetary benefits are diluted or negated if the organization is unable to offer the support needed for them to transition from graduate into a working role. Without a transition plan for onboarding graduates they soon become swallowed into the existing herd and either follow along or leave.

These are my 5 tips for onboarding graduates distilled from my experience in coaching graduates:

1. Prepare your organization for their arrival - it’s always nice to feel truly welcomed!

You know when graduates are starting, so prepare the team or department a few days before so that each person knows the graduate’s name. The team should each make a point of introducing themselves - whether in person or virtually using email, or instant messaging. Quick intros: for example, “Hey Karabo, nice to have you on the team! I am Neshica...I am business analyst by day and coach at heart.” It’s welcoming when people know your name and make the effort to integrate. This is even more crucial now when organizations are onboarding virtually and there is a work from home model.

2. Make them aware of available support structures – Is there a buddy system, a wellness program, a mentorship program, or coaching? And if these aren’t currently being offered then I would highly recommend that they be considered even on an informal basis. Transitioning from being a student to an employee is one of the biggest transitions to make and, if done right it can set the individual and organization up for success. Organizations provide coaching for people moving into management and executive positions, so why not offer this when they start too! Think of the potential that can be unlocked if organizations provided graduates a similar level of support upfront.

3. Feedforward - Feedforward is the reverse exercise of feedback. It's the process of replacing positive or negative feedback with future-oriented solutions. In simple terms, it means focusing on the future instead of the past. Plan to provide more frequent formal or informal feedforward sessions in the first 3 months. It is much easier to course correct at the start if that is what is needed. Additionally, showing acknowledgement of employee efforts early on maintains momentum.

4. Give them something to own or be responsible for – This is a great way for graduates to use their motivation and fresh ideas and to prove themselves. It fosters a sense of trust and provides management with insight into the individual strengths and areas for development.

5. Actively seek their feedback on the process – Organizations are great at giving feedback but don’t often seek it. Ask for graduate comments on what has worked and not worked. If these comments are received early on, then changes can be made alternatively, it will help continually improve the onboarding approach for future hires.

We all remember our first jobs, and, in many ways, it shapes how we progress through or out of careers. Organizations can yield high ROIs by crafting an onboarding experience for graduates that encourages growth. And even if the graduates don’t stay for a significant period, you will have a brand ambassador for life.

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