NextGen: The Key to Revamping Onboarding

What are the communication and collaboration preferences of established leaders? Are leaders prepared to face young talent’s needs and expectations for feedback? While everyone is most certainly their own unique, autonomous individual (dare I say… snowflake?), understanding trends across groups of people remains an effective step in better understanding them—especially for new hires looking to get off to a good start at work. This is why we propose incorporating the generations topic into your existing onboarding program. Everyone wants to set their new hires up for success from the start, but the way you go about accomplishing that can be the difference between high and low turnover rates, as well as employee productivity and overall happiness. In crafting a new set of sessions that approach this issue from a generational standpoint, we found a few tidbits of information we thought worth sharing.

It’s A Two-Way Street

Here’s the mistake too many companies are making—they work so hard to “figure out” the newest generation that they don’t stop to realize the conversation around bridging generational divides isn’t one-sided. As much as leadership needs to learn about young talent, young talent needs to learn about leadership as well.

Almost all the Gen Zers starting at your organization this year are experiencing corporate work for the first time. Think back to when that was you—it’s a nerve-racking time when you’re just starting out. We all want to succeed, but we’re unclear as to what that looks like. Providing young talent with as much clarity as possible is crucial to their success. The organizations that are having these dialogues and hearing from all generational points of view, old and new, are the ones who are having the most success with retention and workplace productivity.

Preparing Young Talent

For now, young talent is a mix of Gen Z and younger Millennials, and they need to learn about the Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and older Millennials they will be working with daily. From communication, work ethic, formality, and collaboration—different generations have different expectations around workplace etiquette, and it can get confusing for everyone. Integrating a generational component to your onboarding will set new employees with the foundation they need to start building positive work relationships with others despite generational differences. Part of that should include tangible strategies, explaining the “why” behind generational differences, and highlighting ways to draw from each other’s similarities.

The key is to create a narrative that puts young talent in other generations’ shoes. Take Generation X, for example. Xers have a self-reliant approach to work that can be traced back to their formative years. When Xers were young, two big changes hit many American homes: rising divorce rates and mothers going to work, both of which resulted in a rise in latchkey kids. Like many latchkey kids of the time, they grew up fending for themselves and developing problem-solving skills before seeking outside help.

This is all in stark contrast to how Gen Z or Millennials were raised. Gen Z, for example, is the first generation to grow up watching YouTube, and they’ve always had detailed rubrics at school to clearly lay out project expectations. Both of these factors have resulted in an entire generation growing up receiving precise instructions on how to achieve success, and you can count on them expecting this in the workplace too. Meanwhile, a Gen X boss might gravitate towards young hires who step outside their comfort zone to independently solve problems without seeking constant clarity and reassurance.

If you open conversation with new hires to help them understand how the other generations are different and why, you can position them for more effective and productive communication at work. Understanding the why is the first step to easing the pains of generational differences, and it will make it that much easier for them to transition into life at your organization. But the newbies aren’t the only ones who can benefit from a dose of generational wisdom.

Preparing Leadership

Onboarding is a piece of your overall talent management strategy that drives productivity and retention, so why should it start and end with young talent? It’s important for Boomers, Generation X, and older Millennials to understand emerging talent. Be it flexibility, social issues, or a career roadmap, the next generation draws inspiration from a variety of sources that companies need to tap into. And without a little prep and explanation, you can count on these differences being painfully disruptive.

An example of a generational discrepancy seasoned employees should prepare for: both younger Millennials and Gen Z seek frequent, often real-time, detailed feedback, and they are hungry for guidance on how to improve. Missing this could be a bigger deal to them than you might expect. Think about it, when was the last time you really had to wait for anything? Most of the time, the answer is in our pocket, disguised as a phone. Now imagine you’ve had that device since before your 13th birthday. Combine that with the fact that teachers scrupulously maintain and update grades online for parents and students alike, and you have a generation that has rarely had to wonder where they stood. Moreover, feedback requires clarity. “I need you to step it up” will mean very little to your new hires without explicit context.

Feedback is only the start of the clashes that will come with the next generation, but it’s vital that leaders know about those new expectations. The generational conversation is a two-way street and should be facilitated as such. Without a level of understanding from all sides, improving communication and productivity will be that much more difficult.

Bringing NextGen to Your Company

Developing a cohesive workplace where everyone feels valued and understood requires each of us, regardless of generation, to step up, learn about one another, and shift our attitudes in a positive direction. At BridgeWorks, this is exactly what we’ve always promoted, but we want to shed more light on the challenges and solutions around onboarding young talent. We’ve seen firsthand how the generational conversation, or lack thereof, impacts employee retention and engagement. And it has inspired us to develop curated sessions that help both young talent understand leaders and leaders understand young talent—all to complement your existing training and onboarding process. We call this our NextGen Series. Whether your onboarding is done within a week or executed as a year-long process, we can curate NextGen sessions to meet your unique talent needs and time constraints. If you’d like to learn more about how this program can fit with your company, don’t be shy—give us a call or send an email. We’re happy to chat.