For even the most seasoned worker, an onboarding program is essential in helping that employee assimilate into corporate culture, better understand his or her role and increase productivity, but it’s especially important for new graduates just learning the rules – both written and unwritten – of corporate America, says Elise Freedman, director of talent management at Towers Watson.
“Because new grads are entering the work force for the first time with a real job, it’s important to set expectations about performance, culture and values,” Freedman says. “Onboarding gives employers the chance to set the stage right, get those new grads excited and help them understand the resources available to them.”
To capture the attention of new graduates, employers increasingly are turning to technological platforms during the onboarding process, Freedman says. While the baby boomer generation still expects the typical onboarding orientation filled with paperwork, new graduates want quicker access to data with faster turnarounds.
“We’re starting to see more employers create iPad apps, networks and blogs with information about their companies for new employees,” Freedman says. “These days, new grads want to go on the Internet, find what they need in two seconds and be done.”
For new graduates, employers also should take the time to explain why participating in certain benefits is so important, Freedman says. Unlike seasoned workers, new graduates likely have never given serious thought to their retirement plans, and most new graduates haven't been faced with health care plan decisions.
“It’s about explaining some of the concepts new grads might not know a lot about, and it’s about giving them a good foundation right from the start,” Freedman says. “Usually new grads aren’t too concerned with retirement because it’s 40-some years away. You have to explain why it’s important to start now. Then, there’s health care. A lot of companies are moving toward consumer-driven health plans, and there are so many types of health coverage that they need the education about the differences between the plans and what it means for them.”
While new graduates have a reputation for constantly switching jobs, Freedman believes this is because not enough employers provide proper training and development opportunities during the onboarding process. In today’s competitive landscape, new graduates want to contribute immediately. If a new graduate starts with a company but does not feel the right opportunity is there, he or she is likely to look elsewhere.
“To improve retention, you want to give new grads the right expectations and access to training and development from the beginning,” Freedman says. “Hopefully, they’ll stay at least for enough years that you got your return on investment. You hired them, you trained them, and you want them to add value back to your company.”