Mid-year is, generally, that time of year when fresh graduates enter the job market, and organisations make adjustments to accommodate them. They usually hunger for experience, and their potential just seeks opportunity to be kindled and used.
Some may suggest that these new hires need no special attention because the initial pang for that first job experience pushes them in to accepting any offer. Within a few years, however, chances are that some of them may be on the move, looking for greener pastures. Indeed, this is not uncommon. However, that first job experience could harness that zeal, giving them the opportunity to identify with the industry that best fits their capabilities. Companies get the opportunity to identify talents and often recruit from this resource pool. Some of the recruits brave the coals of the corporate grill as they learn the ropes of industry, and later rise to become corporate assets.
Yet, others hop from job to job with no career plan and in total oblivion of what specific ‘challenge’ they are searching for. Perhaps, hiring companies are partly responsible for the disillusionment of such ‘undecided’ graduates because they failed to engage them enough to expose their talents and help ‘polish’ them too.
How may companies and fresh graduates mutually benefit from the conglomeration of corporate structures, work, ethics, zeal, energy, creativity and supple minds? Only companies interested in adding value and ensuring their corporate longevity will be enthusiastic about taking risks to engage new graduates. Such companies will create an environment where new graduate employees can make significant contribution to corporate development and feel positively challenged and valued. Among several other procedures, such companies may consider the following tips when hiring new graduates:
When recruiting new graduates, companies must endeavour to pay attention to their personal interests. Then, it should be possible to identify those interested in building a career within the company and not just those who are looking for a J.O.B. The career-oriented ones are the ones who will stay focused and will be eager to learn the rudiments of the business and so will stay at it the longest. There are some who may be unsure of exactly what they would like to do, but a discerning recruiter can use the candidate’s own history of taking initiatives, leading others and producing results to identify potential. Such candidates can be ‘polished’ on rotation and training programs to help them become ‘best fits’ for the roles they would be playing in the organisation. The company needs to align their interests with that of candidates for recruitment if they seek to develop security and loyalty among young recruits. Remember: passion fuels innovation and productivity, which drives excellence, and excellence yields results. It is critical, therefore, to identify those who, at least, show an interest and better still a passion for what the company does.
Alignment With Corporate Vision
New graduate hires need to be properly integrated into the company – orientation programmes should make it possible for them to see the big picture, and where and how they fit in. This gives them a sense of worth and security – they see themselves not as mere paper-pushers, or insignificant contributors, but they are able to identify where they fit in the company’s value chain and they recognise the impact of their work. New employees must be properly introduced to the entire staff of the organisation. Some organisations just show them to their desks and give them task lists. A better alternative, after they have been introduced to the entire organisation is to let them know of the company’s history and its strategic agenda for the present and future.
It is also important to give them a functional (practical and useful) job description rather than talk them through their responsibilities. The best time for new graduates to distinguish between practical and theory is when they are assigned to tasks closely related to what they have studied. At this stage of their lives, they are vulnerable but are also in a better position to adapt and be creative. They susceptible to learning a great deal and it is usually the best time for companies to mould them to fit into corporate vision and style. New graduates are also most likely to develop good work habits if they are started off properly. Once they recognise their role in the corporate value chain, they adopt winning strategies and are zealous for achievement and recognition. When they are only asked to run errands because they are the ‘new kids on the block’, new recruits will quickly settle in to mediocrity and become just like everyone else. Mentoring is critical for them at this time and they must be placed in positions that demand a demonstration of leadership, problem-solving and innovation skills. It can be a time to allow them some room to show what they can do, and in order to avoid conflicts with ‘veteran’ employees, it is even better to put them on special/separate projects.
It is crucial to identify your “stars” and harness their talent – put them on a career plan which takes their interests and further professional development plans into consideration. Where they are outstanding performers who have the potential to rise into responsible leadership, include them in succession planning, and begin to groom them. The company must be flexible and willing to help them to develop – help them to take advantage of professional development programmes and workshops, et cetera; assign them mentors within the organization who can groom them and help them to grow along with the company.
Leaving employees in their “comfort zones” for a short while, before they are involved in other functions is helpful because they are able to show confidence and exhibit their skills, and the company can draw on their strengths and place them in areas where they can excel and add value to strategy and operations. Performance reviews can be very useful tools, not as they have been used traditionally in a negative, punitive way, but can be used to identify strengths and weaknesses and to capitalise on growth and development opportunities that will be beneficial to the company. It is also important to use such reviews to hear from them, and use their own feedback to grow them.
Essentially, a company that seeks to identify and manage great talent will have to be deliberate in its efforts, and must make sure that new graduate hires are not outsiders looking in, but are part of the grand vision. With the right kind of orientation and incorporation into the organisation, they can become stalwarts in the success of the company.
By Dr. Esi E. Ansah
CEO, Axis Human Capital Ltd.
Published by: BusinessWorld Magazine, June 2009.