Entry-level roles — and the people who occupy them — are vital to an organization’s success and serve as the perfect training ground and built-in talent pool for future leaders. What entry-level talent lack in experience, they make up for in ambition, grit, digital savviness, fresh perspectives, diverse experiences and so much more. Investing in an entry-level talent strategy could be the difference between your company’s innovating and adapting as the world and the consumers living in it change — and its falling behind and losing touch with the consumers your brand needs.
Despite these benefits, in the last few years, we’ve seen employers put up experience and skill barriers to entry-level positions that make it too difficult for job-seekers to connect to opportunities, creating an environment where people either misrepresent themselves on their resume or don’t apply for the job at all. The result is more students who spend the first few years out of school either in jobs without launching potential or without a job altogether. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reports that the unemployment rate for recent college graduates surpassed the unemployment rate for all workers in September 2019 for the first time in 30 years. Couple that number with the 43% of college graduates who are underemployed (in positions that don’t require their college degree) in their first job, and you’ll discover an underused talent pool begging for the opportunity to bring value to an organization.
In their focus on “hard” job skills, employers often overlook important soft skills, such as abstract and critical thinking, communication skills, and the ability to adapt and learn. Not only can these soft skills make up for some of the hard skills an applicant lacks, but they can also bring the grit and determination needed to learn and acquire the other skills required of the position. As many learning and development (L&D) professionals can attest, it’s difficult — maybe impossible in some cases — to teach the soft skills an employee needs to be an effective team member in a company with diverse people, personalities and challenges and competing priorities and goals. The solution? Hire the right people with the right personalities to succeed and then provide the training and ongoing development they’ll need to be effective.
When you have the right people in the right positions, you can better leverage your talent for the future, and you’ll be better equipped to handle the business challenges to come. Here’s how.
Many employers are tempted to focus on hard skills and job experience during the interview process, but they only tell one side of a candidate’s story, and with entry-level talent, that story is often a pretty quick read. Seek out traits like intellectual curiosity and an interest in learning. Don’t be quick to dismiss experiences the candidate had in school, either.
Create questions that give candidates the opportunity to share more of their resume, uncovering experiences related to setting goals, dealing with adversity and persevering. Look for candidates who share experiences that lead you to believe that they could overcome challenges and push through obstacles, while learning and adapting along the way. Also be on the lookout for people who value learning and have a desire to grow.
Remember that new entry-level employees haven’t spent much time, if any, in the traditional business workforce. There are some basic skills they likely will not have at first. Even something as simple as setting up a meeting might be completely new ground. Giving them the psychological safety to ask questions and learn will shorten their onboarding and training process and create the foundation for a culture of trust, learning and collaboration.
Be upfront about goals and expectations right out of the gate, and let employees know how you’ll support them in reaching their goals and how to engage you and others within the company when they need additional support.
A Commitment to Upskilling and Professional Development
Now that your entry-level new hires understand your goals and expectations for them, take the time to understand their career goals as well. Create opportunities for them to connect their professional growth to their duties and the company’s goals and mission. This alignment will help them see how their work and growth directly affect the success of the organization.
Professional development is one of the most mutually beneficial benefits you can provide employees. You’ll simultaneously create a better, well-equipped workforce and a better, well-equipped talent pool. Your current workforce will become your leaders of tomorrow, and you’ll increase productivity and employee retention at the same time. It’s a win-win.