2018 Graduates: How to onboard and retain them

With graduations taking place across the country, thousands of newly accredited students are stepping out into the world of work. We all know the fight for talent in tech and engineering is a tough one, with the percentage of hard to fill STEM roles at 43% in the UK alone (UK Commission for Employment and Skills).

Attracting the best of this talent pool is important, but retaining it is key- so how can we do this? Successful onboarding schemes have been proven to increase work rates, and 69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company for at least three years if they experience great onboarding (O.C.Tanner). 90% of employees decide whether they’ll stay with a company during their first six months of work, making the process a critical to retention (Root inc).

Is your onboarding scheme tailored to tech and engineering talent? Is it reflective of the needs of our latest graduate generation? Cracking the code to create a perfect onboarding process could drastically improve your retention, productivity and recruitment ROI- so we’ve come up with some ideas to strengthen your graduate onboarding procedure.

Your culture counts

59% of grads said they’d rather work for an organisation with a positive atmosphere and a lower salary than the reverse (Accenture). In a study conducted on 79,000 tech workers, 30% stated that they are unable to be themselves or participate as full members of their teams at work (Fortune); demonstrating that company cultures within the tech industry need improving. So how do you embed new starters into your culture from day one?

Employee integration doesn’t have to be restricted to the office; you could consider beginning the process before the new employee joins. Whether it’s inviting them into the office for the day, taking them for a coffee or asking them out for Friday drinks, the sooner you integrate them into the company, the smoother they’ll transition to becoming a fully working member of the team. Once they start, the first days, weeks and months are key to making a good cultural impression. Have you thought of the following ideas?

  • Invite them on a first day/ first week lunch
  • Host a company or team social
  • Invite them to join different social events- if you have any social clubs or sports teams, make sure they are encouraged to join!
  • Ensure you set up meetings for them with all key departments across the business, as well as key stakeholders
  • Allow them time on their first day for them to circulate the office and meet each of their new colleagues to learn about what they do
  • Host team/whole company drinks to welcome the new starter

Working flexibly

Flexible working is a big topic on the agenda for both businesses and employees, with 76% of millennials willing to take a pay cut for a company that offers flexible office hours (CNBC) and 60% of tech employees choosing flexible working over a pay rise (PALife). “Flexible work time and the ability to be a virtual employee are so prevalent in today’s workforce that they are becoming an expectation. The ability to work a flexible schedule can be a great way to retain professionals” says Travis Furlow.

With telecommuting being the most wanted benefit tech professionals are looking for (Dice.com), it’s clear the benefit is in high demand. If flexible working is something you offer employees from the offset, be clear on the process by informing the new employee how to request flexible work, when it’s applicable, how to set up remote IT and how to communicate with managers whilst working out of the office. If working flexibly is a future prospect for staff to work towards, communication is key. Be clear on what the new starter needs to do or demonstrate to achieve the flexible working benefit, and in what time scale they’ll be able to achieve it.

Technology is king

93% of millennials stated the importance of providing staff with up to date technology and how outdated equipment would put them off of joining a company (Forbes). Of course, in the engineering or technology field, equipment plays a highly important role, so what do you need to do to make sure you’re providing grads with the tools they need to perform to the best of their abilities?

  • Prior to the start date, some companies now ask their new employees what technology they prefer to work with, or any equipment they require
  • Provide training on all systems and training- the sooner the better!
  • If there is a problem with technology or equipment, ensure your new starters know how to deal with the situation effectively

Mentoring matters

Millennials planning to stay with their employer for more than five years are 68% more likely to have a mentor than not, which shows the impact that mentoring can have on employee engagement, retention and ROI (Forbes). By 2025, three quarters of the workforce will be millennials, making the mentoring of new graduates all the more important (Deloitte).

When tech and engineering students graduate, they finish university with a whole host of knowledge and technical skill. However, after many years in education and a lack of full time work experience, new grads can fall behind when it comes to soft skills such as communication, strategic thinking and time-management. Assigning your new employee with a mentor is a great way of giving them guidance and helping to build the required skillset. As well as professional assistance, a mentor can act as a supportive figure ensuring the new employee is happy at the company and engaged in their work.

Give them freedom

Promoting autonomy in the workplace is a great way of giving employees ownership over their work and building trust between them and the employer. According to Donston-Miller, the newest generation of graduates were involved in a lot of independent activities growing up, which has led them to desire more autonomy and freedom in the workplace. When a new graduate joins a business, giving them the opportunity to work independently shows trust and gives them a real sense of responsibility.

A great way of giving the newly employed graduate a chance to exercise their knowledge is by giving them an individual project to work on. No matter how big or small, the project will serve as an engaging challenge to channel their energy towards and make a positive impact on the business. Ensuring new employees feel that they are a trusted and valued from the start is crucial for their productivity, happiness and success within the company.

Focus on professional development

87% of millennials stated that professional development is an important factor to them (ClearCompany), and 69% of tech professionals said they’d leave their current job to advance their skills (PierPoint). Your onboarding process is the perfect place to set the tone for personal and professional development in your company, so be sure to show clear career progression routes, how to get there and what’s needed to achieve success. Do you incorporate the below into your onboarding scheme?

  • Arrange for new employees to meet with the Training and Development Manager (or individual responsible for their development) in the month of their arrival – highlight the career development routes available
  • With their Manager or Training/ Development Manager, create an individual development scheme or growth plan
  • Create timely training and development targets
  • Discuss individual development budgets and the different training options available within that budget
  • Give new employees the opportunity to attend external events such as conferences and meetups
  • Provide opportunities to shadow seniors or managers

Show them you care

The newest generation of graduates care about making a difference to the world, with 90% stating that they want to channel their skills towards a greater cause (FastCompany) and 45% of engineering grads stating that they want to be in a role that makes a positive contribution to the world (universum).

If your company supports wider causes, don’t be modest; make sure to promote the positive impact you’ve had on the community and get your new hires involved. Some ideas to promote your commitments:

  • If you a have CSR committee, ensure the head of committee is introduced to new employees and talks to them about the different levels at which they can get involved
  • If you don’t have a CSR scheme, promote that you’re keen to financially support your individual employee’s fundraising efforts and let them know the process to ask for this
  • Support individual employee efforts through your company social media
  • Encourage new ideas from employees and support fundraising ideas or activities

If you’re investing in your recruitment process to hire the best graduates – don’t fall at the onboarding hurdle! Done right, onboarding has the potential to make a huge impact on your new employees; engaging new starters early on, building trust, increasing satisfaction and massively impacting your retention rate. Better onboarding results in better outcomes.

Engineering, Information Technology

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