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Stopping Hopping - Reducing Turnover With New College Grads

I met with a recent grad recently because he was looking for a new job. He'd been with his current company less than a year and if you were to look at the websites on what Millennials want, you'd think he would be happy. Here's what the employer was offering:

  • 100% virtual/home office

  • Complete flexibility in work schedule

  • High starting salary

  • Strong, global company

But he was miserable. Why??? Here's what he said to me:

"I'm all by myself when I'm working, and my boss it too busy to help me, but I can't get a straight answer from anyone on where to get answers when I'm not sure what to do. Then when I'm late or I make mistakes because I couldn't get answers, my boss gets mad. I know he's been working in this area for 15 years, but I just got here, and nobody can even tell me where I can learn how to do the work they way they want it. I graduated at the top of my class and I won my college's leadership award. I never thought I would wind up in a situation where I would feel stupid and inadequate. I've worked so hard, and even though they said I'd get a raise after six months, I never got one, and they never said why. I'm just tired of this place."

The graduate started a job search after only nine months on the job and received six interviews and two very good offers within months. I've encouraged him to attempt a more direct conversation with his manager before giving up on his current employer, but it may be too late. This company is going to lose both a great future leader as well as the investment they've already made into this new hire. How could they have avoided this?

1. Give young employees time in the office. Young employees need a support system to help them feel both connected and supported. 100% virtual officing is often too much for a new employee. Time in an office allows for informal discussions and one-off conversations that help the new employee learn both their new job as well as the corporate culture and priorities. While some of this can be achieved by including young employees in meetings that give them exposure to the "bigger picture" and to related projects, there's nothing like good, old-fashioned, water cooler conversations to help this process along.

2. Establish a formal mentoring program. While this once happened more organically in corporations, the advent of the flexible workplace has made these relationships less likely to occur unless they are defined. There is tremendous research around the benefits and savings associated with mentor programs. In this particular case, though, the new grad would have had a place to not only get advice on how to get key answers, but also have a discussion about his frustrations before giving up and starting a job search. In a perfect world a manager could take on this role, but today's managers seldom have the time. Also, a younger mentor who doesn't supervise the new grad is generally less intimidating, and therefore more likely to get honest questions and feedback sooner than a manager might.

3. Facilitate their learning. Young employees are fresh out of school. Colleges and universities are not job training programs, but they do create a foundation for lifelong learning. It is up to companies to not only set defined learning goals for young employees to help them "know what they don't know," but also provide the resources and direction for how to acquire that learning. With today's new technology, it is easier than ever to do on-demand training for new employees using pre-recorded webinars and interactive, online training. However, if you want them to know things and never take time to teach them, you will generally be disappointed in the pace and steepness of their learning curves.

4. Set Realistic Expectations. If this is someone's first, real job, then they have no frame of reference to manage their own expectations. It is

to be clear on what young employees should expect in terms of advancements and promotion, including what conditions must exist before they could expect any raises or growth. The more clear you are up front about your expectations of them and what they can expect in return for meeting those expectations, the more likely you are to both be satisfied with the outcome. More importantly, tell them your real expectations. If you expect them to exceed your expectations, but you don't tell them this, then you will not achieve either of your goals.

These are basic things that can be helpful for all new employees, but particularly for young employees who are relatively new to the world of work. As a last tip, one complaint the new grad had was that they hadn't been completely forthcoming during the interview process about the job content and environment. The more honest you are in your interviews, the more likely you are to hire the right fit for your organization.

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