New hires bring talent, energy, different perspectives and a welcomed diversity of opinion and background to our business. But getting the best from them as quickly as possible is a challenge. It can take months, sometimes years, before they realise their full potential and make the sort of contribution we hired them to make.
We gathered a group of HR, L&D and other business leaders and managers who have a direct stake in trying to make this process quicker and easier and asked them a few essential questions. What are the key issues around onboarding the new hires? What particular challenges does this generation present? What do we need to do differently to help them embed in our organisations?
To get the discussion going, we explored the ‘expectation gap’ between what the new hire expects from both a career and an employer and what we as employers expect from our new recruits. In some ways, this gap has always existed, and the journey between the respective worlds of education and work is rarely a smooth one.
However, while some of what today’s new hire expects is comparable to what was expected twenty or thirty years ago - for example, an engaging, challenging role with real variety - changes in the wider society, including social media as well as educational practice and policy, and how higher education is funded, have fuelled a set of expectations that are largely unfamiliar to their parent’s generation:
- A real focus on personal development and, more specifically, visible and constant measures of success - a desire to have continual feedback and reinforcement on how they are doing.
- A social workplace where the boundaries between work and recreation are blurred and overlap and where less deferential attitudes are shown and more informal relationships are enjoyed.
- That the personal investment they have made in their education is respected and valued – a lot of money has been spent on getting through universities and many are in huge debt. New hires expect this to be recognised and matched by the employer’s investment in them.
So what do employers need to do differently?
There was agreement that the approach we outlined in our Insights paper struck the right note by emphasising at the outset the key goal: acculturating new hires to forge a satisfying and sustainable sense of professional identity rather than simply equipping them to take up a professional role in a business.
Concentrating solely on the role, its purpose and the various ways in which an individual will be assessed can unwittingly encourage a transactional relationship between the new hire and their employer. On the other hand, the benefits of a fully activated personal sense of professional identity are well established: fully formed professionals give greater levels of discretionary effort, are more likely to police egregious behaviours in the workplace and generally show more loyalty to the organisation.
Perhaps we should learn from older vocations such as medicine where a great deal of time and effort is spent forging a professional identity so that new recruits come ‘to think, act, and feel like a physician’? To do so, businesses need to understand the nature of professional identity itself, how professional identities are formed, and the process of socialisation through which a professional identity is learnt and exercised.
This requires a careful and planned combination of experiential learning, role modelling, mentoring and guided reflection. And, of course, a crucial factor in this developmental journey is the environment that the new hires encounter within the organisation, as well as ensuring that managers have the skills, knowledge and time to lead them into their profession.
Our discussions also broadened to the current topic around the Apprentice Levy, which provides an opportunity to perhaps develop more comprehensive programmes and help bridge the expectation gap more quickly.
In conclusion, our research and experience tells us that investing in a more focussed approach can lead to significant ROI and, more importantly, create the professionals who will make up the future of our businesses.
To find out more about this approach and how to support your new hires contact email@example.com. For more information on the Apprentice Levy, click here.
Andy Perkins, Global Director of Kaplan Leadership and Professional Development, has been on both sides of the table – client and supplier and has spent the last 10 years working with large global corporations designing and delivering large leadership and management development programmes.
You can contact Andy directly at firstname.lastname@example.org