Managing Recent Grads

college graduationFor many new managers, the hardest task is managing employees who have never worked before. This is because, in addition to ensuring work is being done effectively, deadlines and quotas are being met, and the standard workplace drama is being kept under control, there must now also be time spent teaching these new employees everything. They need to learn how to do their job while also learning how to function in the workplace. And they often still have a college mindset, meaning they may not take things as seriously as you do. They can be, in a word, a nightmare.

But, successful managers are able to groom recent graduates into the best members of the team. Recent grads are usually hungry to perform, eager to impress, and are a blank slate, meaning they don’t have bad habits, yet. You can mold them into the employee you want, without them fighting against your style (what’s to fight – you’re all they know). So while the hand-holding phase of onboarding a recent grad can be time-consuming and frustrating, the end result can be worth every second to a good manager, because they get a highly motivated, highly productive employee who doesn’t know how to cut corners and doesn’t desire to take your job or leave the company (yet).

Unfortunately, there is still that difficult hand-holding phase to get through. And navigating it can be difficult, especially for inexperienced managers. But the first step is accepting that there will be some hiccups in the process, especially if there will be multiple recent grads on your team, and remembering that we’ve all been there at one point or another. Next, you want to evaluate your team to determine where these new hires will fit in, and try to account for some of the early pitfalls they will run into to prepare them and overcome them before they happen.

Next, you want to think about mentoring. By setting up a formal mentoring program within your department, you ensure there is always a go-to person for the recent grad. It also helps the new hire to get to know some of the more experienced team members to prevent isolation. For the mentor, it will build their skillset by forcing them to teach their skills and could be a valuable tool as they look to build their own career. I had a recent grad who spent the past several years managing a string of photo booths recently in Sterling Heights Michigan, who was very teachable who didn’t require much mentoring.

You also want to consider what is important to the new employees. For many millennials, their priorities are different than in previous generations. Development is the cornerstone of what they want, and they will do what is needed to promote. They also do not have the same loyalty as in generations past to either companies or managers. So it is important to create development plans for these employees early and to have a process in place to review them. Even if a promotion is two years away, a recent grad is likely to want to know they are working toward it. Otherwise, all the handholding and developing will have been for nothing, because thy will jump to a competitor.

Finally, you want to remain approachable. The new hires will have a number of questions, some which will seem bizarre at times, but if you make sure you have an open door, and an open ear, then you will be sure these employees are comfortable and are getting the right information.

Recent grads can be a great addition to any team at any company if properly managed. There will be some time spent grooming these employees, and they may be demanding on your time, but the payoff will be well worth every ounce of effort if the right mentoring is done.