Onboarding Millennials…A Whole New Outlook

I’ve been doing some work lately on onboarding programs for new employees, and it is very much driven by the changing expectations for the workplace that are held by the Millennial Generation. Lynn Shleeter writes in a blog post for Human Resources IQ, “Intentionally connecting new hires or interns to the company as soon as possible is a crucial activity. Helping them understand the company’s culture and brand through a structured onboarding program is an integral process.” But the big question is what does this mean?
Well, it’s not just about training any longer…that is – as one might say – so old school. As Shleeter writes, “Gone are the administrative days when new hires and interns received a badge, benefits package and cursory company overview and landed at their workstations before lunchtime. The terms of engagement have shifted for companies that want to attract and retain younger workers.” The trend now – and the term “trend” should be taken with the spirit in which it is intended, as this is not just about being trendy but is in fact about a whole shift in philosophy – this is not just all about training but is in fact about integration and acculturation into the organization.

Lisa Orrell, blogger for JobDig and also on the Intern Advocate blogroll, writes that mentoring is a critical component of onboarding, and I fully agree. “These young adults want to know you will provide them with plenty of guidance and mentoring! If you don’t have a mentor program in-place, create one and emphasize it during the interview process. I recently conducted a seminar with a well-known company about recruiting and retaining Millennials, and they had been suffering from a high turnover of Millennials. When I spoke to the Millennials who had left, all of them mentioned the company hadn’t provided enough mentoring and training programs.” Mentorship programs aren’t just those with a supervisor but are actually in addition to the guidance provided by an official supervisor; these provide young employees with coaching from a variety of seasoned colleagues, something for which they consistently request.
I would add that another benefit of a structured on-boarding program is that it provides concrete validation of the organization in the mind of the Millennial employee. Remember, much of their upbringing has been characterized by organized activities that were created for them, delivered to them, and presided over by adult authority. So if you think that has not been internalized into their psychology, you should reconsider.
Most important of all, in my humble opinion, is that onboarding a new Millennial employee is mostly about making them feel A) that they are valued, and B) that the work itself is VALUABLE. Ron Alsop writes in The Trophy Kids Grow Up that “in addition to more frequent and detailed performance assessments, Millennials want companies to nurture their career development.” But perhaps it is said best by a Millennial blogger in My name is Kristin and I am a Millennial job-hopper, “As for the job-hopping, I gave the companies I worked at a chance, for one year, to try and understand them and make sure we were a match for each other. Then I looked at my life in five, ten years. Could I see myself making a true difference there? … So why the hate? I’m not going to stay someplace where I’m unhappy. It isn’t good for me or my coworkers.”

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