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How can employers support new graduate employees?

By Sian Duffin

October 1 2020 - Taking on graduate employees is a fantastic thing to do; they often bring a vitality and enthusiasm to what may be their first real experience of the world of work. But, obviously, they aren't as ready as experienced employees. So how can employers support them to make a success of the opportunity that they have been given?

  1. Model the behaviours you want to see. Many graduates may not have experienced the world of work or have limited experience beyond casual or temporary work. Knowing how to interact, how to speak, how to write or even how to dress may be a mystery to them. Make these conversations explicit and demonstrate by giving practical advice and answers, such as how to greet someone in an email and how to sign off. Managing the emotional aspects of work may also need support; if something makes them upset or angry, advise them on how to deal with that in the workplace. Be approachable and treat questions and mistakes as the learning opportunities that they are. Be accountable as well and demonstrate apologising and taking ownership if things go wrong: they'll need these skills for ever. Make it okay to fail and then to pick yourself back up and try again.
  2. Buddy them up. Often having someone who works closely with them, but who isn't their manager, can be really useful. Everyone needs a sounding board, but they may struggle with the confidence to ask for help. Make sure their buddy checks in regularly and asks them questions about what they are finding hard. Ensure that they look for a real answer from the new graduate, as often they'll try to guess what the other person wants to hear. Be careful who you select as a buddy; you want someone who will be both gentle and give 'tough love' when the new hire needs it, while having the confidence to be open with them about their own mistakes.
  3. Praise. So often this is forgotten. Address the mistakes and issues, but intentionally look for opportunities to praise the new graduate. They've come from a feedback-oriented culture where everything is measured but be sure to praise the effort as well as the outcome. Sometimes there is more to praise in how hard someone has tried, than in the person who got to the answer first. Praise motivation, resilience, going the extra mile and thinking outside of the box. Reward questions, research and original ideas with positivity; even if it isn't quite what you are looking for, you can shape that as you are going along.
  4. Constructive criticism. It can be difficult for graduates to know how to take criticism. They recognise in theory that it is an important part of learning, but there is a level of perfectionism present in many graduates that means they perceive criticism as a threat which evokes a fear response. Help them to know how to respond to criticism, how to take the learning from it but how to separate the feedback from the negative emotional reaction.

Taking these things into account and working to support graduate employees is an investment in time and money, but by taking steps such as those outlined here, you can help a new hire find their feet and become a success, both now and far into the future. Graduate employees are learning how to be future leaders from you, so the experience you give them will go not only into shaping their performance, but also those of the future!

About the author

Sian Duffin is Student Support Manager at Arden University.



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