Looking to Hire New Graduates? Be Strategic in Skill Development

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek July 29, 2022
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smart phones to upskill

​Developing skills that will enhance career growth is important to college graduates entering the workforce. According to a recent LinkedIn Workforce Confidence Index survey, they are looking for employers that provide opportunities to learn and practice those new skills.

These new entrants to the workforce want leadership training and continuous growth and development, according to Liz Pavese, director of behavioral science at Berlin-based CoachHub.

Those skills can be acquired through on-the-job projects, stretch assignments, formal mentoring, and learning and development programs so they can advance through the organization, she said.

And new grads want to know how to embed the new skills they acquire, how they become more concrete and how to become a part of leadership development, she noted. 

Pavese advised employers to examine the development components of the onboarding experience.

"Aside from the introduction to the job, company and cultural assimilation … what is in place in terms of career conversations and planning?" she asked. "What tools do managers have in their toolbox to have really good one-on-one [conversations] early on" to discover what motivates those new employees?

Employers looking to attract new graduates need to strategically meet their training and development needs, said Suneet Dua, products and technology chief revenue and growth officer at PwC U.S. in San Francisco.

These workers, Dua said, "want an instant impact, an instant reward" and skills that they can use the next day.

"Gen Z is the cohort that's going to make the big difference in this fourth Industrial Revolution," Dua said. "Employers need to start embracing [that] new technology, and upskilling is a real thing. The faster they do that, the better their organization will be."

PwC has taken steps to upskill its employees for the digital age.

"Not everyone has to learn to code, but many people need to understand and manage artificial intelligence, data analytics, autonomous vehicles and other technologies we can't yet predict—those emerging now and those that will be created in the future," wrote Bob Moritz, chairman of the PwC Network, and Carol Stubbings, joint global leader of PwC's people and organization practice, in a PwC report.

About two-thirds of employers (63 percent) invest in skill-based training because it directly addresses skill gaps and is seen as a good return on investment, according to a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in conjunction with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. The findings were based on responses from 1,343 HR professionals who were SHRM members.

Skill development also serves as a retention tool, especially for those employees new to the workforce.

"Internal mobility tools, like internal talent networks and employee development programs, help create a culture of internal hiring by showcasing the opportunities available—and what talent needs to do to achieve growth," according to ICIMS' 2022 report Class of COVID-19.

Marriott International has taken a different approach to upskilling. Its Voyage Global Leadership Development Program is offered to recent university graduates in 50 countries. After successfully completing the 12-month to 18-month training, participants may embark on a career with the company. The aim is to prepare those accepted into the program for an entry-level management role at Marriott International.  

Tips for Upskilling New Graduates

Consider the following upskilling strategies:

Provide training that employees can immediately apply to their jobsLeadership and management training is a top priority for 49 percent of Generation Z, just ahead of soft skills training (48 percent) and mental health training (47 percent), according to a TalentLMS/BambooHR survey of 1,205 people ages 19 to 25.

Respondents had been in the workforce for at least the last six months prior to the survey being conducted between March 25 and April 3.

Avoid training new employees on skills they don't need, such as specific software that does not apply to their jobs.

Conduct a digital skills base line for all employees and jobs. "You have to start looking at where in your business [you] have a lot of inefficiencies," Dua said.

Offer micro-learning to prepare employees to advance in their careers. A digital capstone event—such as a bootcamp—where skills can be applied 24 or 48 hours later is one method for instilling micro-learning, according to Dua.

Offer training via smartphones. More than 6 in 10 respondents (62 percent) prefer this mode of learning, according to the TalentLMS/BambooHR online survey. Respondents had been on the job for at least six months.

Make training immersive. Almost an equal amount of respondents (59 percent) think they would learn better and faster with this style of training.

Offer training in shorter sessions. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) said they they would retain more if training was offered in shorter sessions; 56 percent said videos would make training more engaging.

Prioritize learning. PwC gives all employees three learning days per year.

"Our people work a lot, and … the last thing they're going to work on is reskilling" on top of the regular workday, Dua said. "[We tell them], 'You need to take three days as part of your benefits package for training—as a group, as part of a cohort, individually. … No one will bother you during this time.' "

Include training on skills that help new graduates navigate change. Resiliency and emotional awareness—learning how to respond to co-workers and the public in different situations—are popping up at the top of customer conversations about skill development, Pavese said. Introduce communication and collaboration skills, and teach new graduates how to become influencers and build the relationships that create their networks.

Pair new hires with a work buddy. A seasoned mentor can help a new employee develop networks and offer guidance on how the organization operates.

The early days at an organization are critical moments, Pavese said, and can be overwhelming.

"That's where you start to build some of the networks and get integrated into the culture."

Additionally, a professional coach can provide a safe confidential space for work-related conversations, she said.

"Upskilling is a real thing," Dua said. "The faster [employers] do that, the better their organization will be."  

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