Once new grads take off their cap and gown, they’re often faced with a swift reality check in the form of entering the workforce.
For the class of 2023, who were freshman when the COVID pandemic started, the transition into a changing work world may be especially jarring: 43% of graduates say their new jobs will be their first time in a corporate setting, and 37% are concerned they don’t have enough in-person work experience, according to a survey from Monster.
But employers can ease this transition for new grads with an effective onboarding process. Not only can this help grads get up to speed quickly, the right program will ensure they’ll stick with their employer for the long-haul, says Rohshann Pilla, president at Aquent Talent, a global employment agency.
“Onboarding processes are easy to overlook, but they’re such an important step in the overall employee experience,” she says. “It’s really the first introduction and touch point that a new employee has to your organization. The onboarding experience should be a representation of what it’s like to be an employee and a great jumping off point for a long career.”
For new grads, having an opportunity to connect and network in a professional setting is a top priority. Aquent found that 77% of young employees are concerned about the impact remote work will have on their career progression, and are interested in mentorship opportunities early on. Employers can establish these relationships by onboarding new employees in groups rather than individually, creating community from day one.
“Creating a cohort with other new hires at the same stage of the company journey, and then setting up touch points with other employees in the organization through informal mentorships really makes all the difference,” Pilla says. “Even after the onboarding is complete, they have built relationships with people who can be trusted resources for them throughout their entire career at the company, too. It’s really about building that first foundation during onboarding that fosters those long term relationships.”
While traditional onboarding may once have meant a quick meeting with an HR leader and a welcome lunch, today’s processes require a much greater time commitment, Pilla says. At Aquent, new employees go through training together, and attend group talks and activities. Additionally, employees check in throughout the process to make sure they’re feeling supported.
“Onboarding is no longer something where you have a couple of trainings, do the onboarding paperwork and you’re off and ready to go,” Pilla says. “The onboarding period now can sometimes take months, and it’s really important to follow the employees’ journey with touchpoints and pulse surveys.”
Once the onboarding period ends, employers can supplement those connections with employee resource groups, virtual meetups and continued mentorship opportunities, Pilla says. Checking in with employees who have recently been onboarded can help employers hone the process further and fill in any gaps.
“Ask them how they felt the experience was, ask them if there were any gaps in the support that could have been offered to help improve their overall experience,” she says. “Continue making sure that you’re having intentional connections and they’re finding community at the company.”
Pilla says that while employers play a pivotal role in getting new employees set up for success, new grads should also be proactive about using their skills and strengths to build new relationships and get the most out of their new role.
“Even though you might not be sitting next to your colleagues in an office and have the opportunity to have the traditional watercooler talk with people, making space and time to build relationships virtually is really important,” she says. “Be comfortable asking questions, asking for clarification, and asking for support.”