IES 05.16.19

No Time to Learn

This past week, The Wall Street Journal Saturday edition featured articles on the class of 2019.

They addressed topics related to successfully transitioning from college, entering the job market, and launching a career.

In one article, Lauren Weber and Chip Cutter tackle an outgrowth of automation: it tends to remove basic, tedious aspects of traditional entry-level jobs. First-time positions are now placing greater demands and expectations on new employees, while allowing less time for early, foundational on-the-job training and development.

One software founder likened the impact to the removal of multiple early years from a typical career path.

Creating Alternative Career Development Opportunities

The article presents alternatives for accelerating career development opportunities so that young professionals can gain the equivalent of multiple years of job experience as rapidly as possible.

Consider these four potential strategies; we’ve added our thoughts on implementing each of them.

1. Job Shadowing – Align new hires with experienced executives and/or others in comparable jobs. This immerses new employees in real-world situations through on-the-job exposure.

Adapting a Job Shadowing Strategy:

In an organization with multiple people in similar roles, job shadowing is straightforward: assign a new hire to someone experienced, and monitor the match to ensure the expected knowledge transfer is happening.

In smaller organizations or with positions steeped in unique, specialized knowledge, job shadowing can be challenging. In these cases, hiring managers should detail the job’s activities and skills. From the list, they can identify the various people and situations that best approximate the new hire’s role. This may mean that separate senior employees (in combination) offer job shadowing for specific skills, overall business acumen, and organizational culture overviews.

Among experienced employees, identify those who are strong collaborators, process thinkers, and have coaching mentalities as job-shadowing mentors.

Incorporate a mutual evaluation step in the process. The senior person should note strong performance and highlight additional development opportunities for new employees. New employees should provide feedback for the senior leaders on their openness, collaboration, and knowledge transfer success. This evaluation benefits the current new hire plus those who follow.

2. Gaining Client-Facing Experience – In organizations where the natural path includes considerable client exposure (think: services, sales-heavy markets, etc.), missing years in development means that new hires are in front of clients right away.

Lowering Risks in Client-Facing Situations

Putting any inexperienced employee in front of a client is risky. Try picking early client-facing situations with lower stakes, such as:

  • Transactional situations (vs. ones with major, long-term clients)
  • Customers with whom you have close relationships (and can pave the way upfront for a successful experience)
  • Pairing someone new with your most seasoned, customer-accommodating employees
  • Ones with natural opportunities to split assignments (so that a new employee is actively participating and not merely observing)

This dynamic is frequently seen when new members of a restaurant wait staff receive training. For more customization possibilities, think about the most successful restaurant situations you’ve experienced. Try emulating the success factors behind those positive experiences.

3. Creating a Development Program

The article highlights the sales development program at GTT Communications Inc. It targets new graduates, offering a clear path to full account executive roles for those who excel. The participants target smaller customers while receiving ongoing mentorship and training with senior salespeople. The WSJ article characterizes the approach as the equivalent of a minor league system that prepares and proves out major league sales talent.

Building Your Minor League Team

This approach combines job shadowing and using lower-risk settings to support employees who are developing skill sets as well as generating revenue. Based on your hiring needs, is there a job function that justifies an up-or-out program that integrates training, creating a business impact, and offering an attractive advancement path? If so, this strategy is viable. In fact, we worked with a trucking company that created a revenue center from its truck driving schools. It hired the top drivers, as it generated a stable revenue flow even from training the people it didn’t hire.

4. Designing Menu-Based Jobs

An executive at ADP predicts that new employees will expect to self-select (or even create) their jobs, titles, and responsibilities. While that may have happened in the past for senior leadership positions, highly-specialized roles, or mega-attractive talent, making it a broader practice is new territory. One concern: new employees tend to emphasize the desirable duties, eschewing the more challenging and/or mundane aspects of work life.

Creating a Job Design Menu

With the rate of change in markets and organizations, flexible job design may be exactly what’s needed to foster workforce and organizational agility. Consider a menu-based approach to balance employee interests in self-definition with the need for organizational continuity and equity. Identify the areas in which you have flexibility within an employee team to support variety in job design. Take the parts and pieces of job assignments and re-express them as:

  • Duties or other responsibilities that all jobs must include
  • A list of responsibilities that a job may include (along with some sense of how much of a full-time commitment each entails)
  • Suggested job groupings to help new employees think about potential roles
  • A range of titles associated with the potential roles

While this is not a typical approach, in a tight hiring market, it identifies a company as progressive and attuned to new job seekers.

ITES: Everything is changing; it’s only natural that the employment environment for new hires is also changing. Identify where a fresh approach will benefit new job seekers and your organization’s ability to compete for the best talent.

Link: The Wall Street Journal – Into the Fray: Entry-Level Jobs No More

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