Managing Talent: From University to the workplace

In universities across the country this month will reverberate to the sounds of a new influx of students enjoying the fun and frivolity of Fresher’s Week. For the next three years most of them will take the journey towards adulthood – littered along the way with late nights, bad food and unhealthy habits – before emerging from the university chrysalis as rounded individuals.

On the flipside, this September sees a fresh batch of university graduates beginning their careers. It can be an anxious time for some, as the reality of the workplace kicks in. While a university education is estimated to add £100,000 to a graduate’s earning power over a lifetime, student debt levels are estimated to be in the region of £45 – 50,000 for the latest crop of graduates. No pressure there then.

Creating a smooth transition into the workplace
The goal of any employer with a significant graduate intake is to get their new recruits integrated into the company as quickly as possible. Fit for the purpose, having gone through a comprehensive selection process, knocking these new graduate recruits into shape is crucial for the health of any business -today’s rookies are potentially tomorrow’s company directors after all.

It’s more than just training graduates to do the immediate tasks at hand however. It is about moulding individuals that reflect the company’s ethos and represent one of its faces to the outside world.

Social skills v social media
The Millennial generation have grown up with digital technology and the internet. Withdraw their smart phones and you will see them wither in much the same way as the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz withered when doused with water by Dorothy (oh how innocent that all seems now…).

Yes, smart phones are amazing. Yes they keep us informed and in touch. Yes they have revolutionised how we do business. Yet they have also irrevocably changed the way that we socialise. Younger generations are growing up and going out with their friends, only to sit in a pizza joint messaging their friends who aren’t there, to tell them what they’re doing and who they’re with.

The consequence is a new state of disconnected independence and an erosion of social skills. It’s something I see far too frequently with university leavers on graduate training programmes. Social media has changed the way the younger generation communicates, which is understandable, but to be a team player in a corporate workplace these social skills often need tweaking.

Fulfilling the HR wish list
Better communication and improving team skills come high up the HR wish list when discussing the shortcomings of graduates entering the workplace, and the finger is inevitably pointed at the effect of social media.

Social skills, such as actually looking at people we are speaking to and closing off all screens when someone is speaking to us are de rigueur, for those of us who left university at a time when there was no instant messaging (imagine such a bleak life – how we have survived as a species for millennia without Whatsapp is a constant mystery). It is these skills which are as off the wall to some as turning up to work in a ruff – the differential between being memorable and being unremarkable.

Fortunately, we humans are a very adaptable species. We pick up many bad habits, but we can also pick up good habits relatively quickly too. Therefore, with a little nurturing, focussing on essential social and communication skills and showing graduates what is expected in a business environment, it’s not too late to knock these new recruits into more sociable shape. After all, 2,000 Facebook friends and an Instagram following in Guam won’t be of much use if you get stuck in a lift with a visiting CEO and her team, unless of course, she comes from Guam…

Luan de Burgh

September 2016

Luan de Burgh is a speaker, writer and founder of The de Burgh Group – a specialist business communication training provider dedicated to helping people perform at their highest potential.

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