Teaching Away First-Job Fever

Millennials continue to filter into their first jobs, but not all are succeeding. Here’s how learning leaders can help.

Gen Y jumping ship? It might not be a case of short attention span, but rather ill preparedness to fit into work life.

A 2014 survey by Express Employment Professionals showed that about 77 percent new graduates will leave their first job in the first year. Nigel Dessau, creator of the “3 Minute Mentor” website that offers short career guidance videos, talked with Chief Learning Officer about how learning leaders can facilitate learning and improve first-time employees’ performance.

Many jobs from the boomer generation are disappearing. How does that affect millennials’ first job performance?

For many of us, our first jobs were weekend and holiday jobs. That meant low paying roles that required little or no academic skills. … Many companies do little induction training and expect employees to be ready to go on day one. A highly educated employee can be ‘lost’ at their first real job.

What can learning leaders do to fix this issue?

A ‘sink or swim’ attitude will not work. Time is needed to integrate, mentor and help employees become successful in the work environment. Very basic skills can be lacking when it comes to working across the generations. Skills like writing business emails, giving business presentations and running meetings may need to be taught and learned.

Nigel Dessau, “3 Minute Mentor”
Nigel Dessau, “3 Minute Mentor”

It also takes some work with people who may be managing these new employees. Millennials look for different things in their work environment. For example, in a survey by MTV, 70 percent of millennials believe they should have ‘me time’ at work. That means they want to check Facebook — even if it’s not about work. This may be a challenge for some leaders.

How does Gen Y’s technology usage affect what skills CLOs have to teach them?

Few employees come into work anymore without basic skills around digital communication. The problem for many millennials is how they have used these communications tools in their life and how they now need to use them at work. They are very different. When social media becomes business communication, the context and content changes.

Most obviously is the use of humor and emotion in your communications. You can probably send an emoji to your mom but you should probably not send one to your CEO. Also, when you text with friends you have a shared history and background. That gives humor and feeling context. That context is missing at work and is always open to misinterpretation.

For organizations, the challenge is learning to except and adapt to this form of communication and technology or lose the good people they have hired.

The answer can be education but the best results come from mentoring and coaching. Rather than employees being ‘dressed-down’ for more communications, managers need to help their teams understand what effective communication is. In places where people exhibit poor communication, employees need to be helped tounderstand why a better approach may be more effective in helping them achieve their objectives.

How can learning leaders educate an executive or manager to work better with Gen Y in that mentor or coach role?

People who are succeeding tend to have four sets of skills. I call these content, approach, network and presence.

In the knowledge economy,you need to have content. It is what you are known for. College and training are great ways to get this knowledge. While important, it is not sufficient.

You also need to show you can achieve your objective and drive a team. I call this your approach. How do you go about your daily work and working with people?  If content is what you know, approach is how you use what you know.

Network is about who knows that you can use what you know. They need to exist inside and outside organizations and companies’ employees. Millennials come trained at building a network with technology; they may need to learn to do so face-to-face.

Finally, presence. So much of our work communication is verbal that poor skills in this area can derail a career. Presence is not just about being able to speak in public but knowing how to command a room and make your case.