Training Fresh Grads: The Biggest Time Waster?
It’s a well-known fact that I’m an advocate of employee training and mentoring programs, especially for fresh graduates just entering the workforce. The purpose of today’s article is to take you through some stories which show how I formed my opinions on the subject. First, let us start with some advice which I was handed just as I graduated:
“Expect to hit the ground running, nobody’s going to train you. It isn’t school”
“As a fresh grad, you can ask questions, but not too often. It makes you look stupid”
“Only smart questions in front of your boss, or you won’t last a year”
All very practical advice (granted this was over a decade ago). In hindsight though, such advice didn’t have my growth as an employee or even my company’s best interests in mind. It was more reflective of a time where ‘looking the part’ at work was favored heavily over actually delivering results. These days, thankfully, attitudes in many industries have improved for people entering the workforce.
My own tale of three onboardings
I have been fortunate to work with several great companies over my career so far, but a little known fact is that when I just graduated it was the tail end of a massive economic downturn and jobs were scarce. I had three very short-term stints at companies before I found my feet in the financial services industry, which I refer to these as my career ‘false starts’. Out of respect for my former employers, let’s anonymize their names as Anemone, Barnacle, and Conch. All three had very different approaches when it came to handling employee training and the concept of ‘operational readiness’.
“We do not do that here”
Anemone was a lean company - there were a total of 18 employees and if you were looking for help there wasn’t a single person with your exact job description to ask. The first day there pretty much consisted of being asked if I knew what their product was and then immediately being given a to-do list. I just hopped to it and finished off the list, filling in information gaps with ‘best guesses’. Like many startups, you usually get hired because the existing team doesn’t know how to get the job done either. Your best guess is going to be better than nothing getting done, hence the nonexistent approach to training.
Hey Buddy, how’s it going?
Things with Barnacle were a little bit different. They had a very structured training pathway for the jobs and a dedicated in-house academy to accomplish it. Unfortunately for me, they decided in their infinite wisdom that my (completely unrelated) university education trumped their training academy syllabus and threw me directly into a very technical job with no more than a buddy to hang on to. Now I’ve learned over the years that on-the-job training and buddy systems can work provided that the team as a whole remains accountable for the new hire’s progress. When left to their own devices, these systems tend to just be ‘the new guy’ being dead weight thrown onto a very unenthused senior. Unfortunately again for me, this was certainly the case. The buddy I was assigned to resented both the age gap between us and the fact that I was ‘excused’ from the academy while he had to attend previously - something I surely had not asked for, but now had to live with. There were elements of information withholding, task sabotage, and even creating a spectator sport out of watching me flailing in front of the bosses whenever possible. A horrible training experience is the core reason I did not manage to pursue a long and fulfilling career in that industry.
Flying first-class into my first class
Finally, we come to Conch, which had the smoothest of all three training experiences for new joiners. Firstly there was an assigned mentor in place (a senior with the same job role). Structured classroom sessions were introducing the company, job, tools, and clients. There were even online e-learning sessions that offered insights into how to get the most out of each case I was meant to handle. The entire training period lasted about one week, during which time I didn’t get any real work done but it left me with the confidence to hit the ground running in the following weeks.
So Conch made me feel great, but what was in it for the company?
When it comes to setting time aside for any fresh graduate employee’s training it's never a ‘waste of time’. The entire process at Conch took only one week, and thereafter I was already able to act as an assistant to my mentor and complete my own workload. Compare this against floundering for eight painful weeks at Barnacle and about three months of constant best-guessing followed by second-guessing myself at Anemone before I realized that it really didn’t matter because nobody else knew what they really wanted there anyway. You can add this to the fact that letting me loose on any process untrained could have risked a very expensive damage bill if I were to have actually made a critical mistake. Thankfully, crisis was averted - but I’ll put that own to plain ol’ luck.
**If you'd like to have a chat about your new employee onboarding training and how we can help optimize this for you, contact us to set up a call or drop either Navvir or Ashwin a DM on LinkedIn.