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Onboarding Millennials: Start by Nurturing Them

Onboarding Millennials: Start by Nurturing Them

By: John Rossheim 

What do you do with newly recruited Millennial employees after you give them a handshake and a tour? If you want to maximize the return on your enormous investment in people, tell them a compelling story -- particularly your brand-aware Gen Y workers

Here are six ways to successfully onboard Millennials. 

Don't be boring
"Compelling" means that your narrative shouldn't begin with insurance enrollment or end you’re your company’s social media policy, even if it must include those topics.

“Most organizations spend too much time attracting candidates and conducting the transaction of hiring them, and not enough time ensuring that those new hires are successfully onboarded,” says Robbie Kellman Baxter, a management consultant and author of The Membership Economy.

Hand them their bootstraps
Put yourself in your new hire's shoes and think carefully about what they need to thrive from 9 to 5 in a new business and social environment.

“On the first day, make sure people know who they’re supposed to report to for what,” says Alexia Vernon, executive coach and author of 90 Days 90 Ways: Onboarding Young Professionals to Peak Performance. “And give them a keen understanding of what the company culture looks like and why they would want to be a part of it.”

Keep in mind that newbies must absorb company culture by engaging in your business with your people; it’s not about the ping-pong table or the once-a-year community service day.

Orient Millennials in their native media and learning modes
Millennials may not take kindly to reading sheaves of printed material as orientation. New hires of any generation will engage more deeply with an interactive approach.

“Our onboarding is very hands-on and experiential, not virtual, even though Millennials are digital,” says Anne Donovan, human capital transformation leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers. “We’ve streamlined our 'administrivia' to appeal to new hires who say, 'Can’t I just do this online?' Real-time learning -- whether it's face-to-face or online -- this is what appeals to Millennials. And we start new hires working as a team as early as possible,” says Donovan.

The roles of coaches, mentors and buddies
Millennials  yearn to be surrounded by people in helping roles -- and almost anyone will learn better this way.

“The direct supervisor is a coach, whereas a mentor is someone who’s going to share their own related career experience and be a cheerleader for the new employee,” says Vernon.

Peers with experience in your milieu -- even if it’s just a few months -- can be a huge help. "OpenGov 's buddy system matches new employees with a peer from another department to help them get acquainted with the office, other teams, and the neighborhood," says Yasmeen Assisi, director of recruiting for the Redwood City, Calif., financial software provider. "The buddy has lunch with the new hire on the first day and periodic coffee chats for a few weeks."

Give feedback that Millennials will act on
“Make feedback early, often and informal,” says Vernon. Millennials can be thin-skinned, so keep the emphasis on what they can do to improve, not what they did wrong. 

“Feedback is the single most important thing that drives satisfaction and success, and it’s not expensive,” says Baxter. “The problem is that most managers are afraid to be transparent—to share the bad and good." If company leaders give frank and constructive feedback, everyone below them will.

Onboarding is all about the long haul
From day one, Millennials will be thinking about what they can accomplish over their tenure with your company. So you need to sell them on the career opportunity, from the beginning.

Ready to onboard? Keep this in mind: “The more effectively people are onboarded, the longer they stay with the firm in the first year or two,” says Donovan.