- Telling not coaching
With less experienced employees, it’s easy to fall into the trap of a ‘tell, tell, tell’ approach. This can create efficiency and high activity but can stifle creative thought and problem solving. In taking a coaching approach, you encourage graduates to suggest ideas, take action and make decisions, the result being thoughtful, proactive and engaged leaders. Developing your future leaders is about providing opportunities for them to take responsibility and be willingly accountable, so that they feel empowered and you have great graduates supporting you. If continued, the ‘tell – do’ manager-graduate interaction will, over time, become habit, producing task-oriented, risk-averse employees rather than the expansive-thinking, proactive leaders that businesses today need. For practical tips on developing your coaching style, take a look at our short video, ‘Things people don’t usually tell you about coaching’…
- Learning not failing
Whilst failure is often seen as negative and something to steer clear of, failure actually brings very valuable learning; learning that really sticks. Wrap your graduates in cotton wool and success will come to them easily. Provide a safe environment for failure and they’ll start thinking differently, with a more reflective, responsive and creative mindset. Set aside an afternoon and give your graduates a challenging training task to complete, perhaps one that closely mirrors a situation they may actually be faced with in their roles. Make the task purposefully challenging and see how they cope under pressure. Ask them to reflect on their performance at the end: what went well? What could have been better? What would they do differently next time? This kind of activity provides what I like to call a ‘flight simulator opportunity’; an opportunity to cultivate proactive, less risk-averse and ‘do nothing’ behaviours.
- Projects not tasks
Graduates are great at taking a lot off their busy manager’s plate! They complete tasks to a very high standard and therefore, the temptation to continue setting graduates these tasks (and taking a ‘tell, tell, tell’ approach) becomes ever more appealing. However it’s vital to balance these tasks out with meaningful, project-based work. If you don’t, they’ll never think bigger than the task they’re completing.
Nearing the top of the priority list of a millennial employee is ‘feeling a sense of contribution at work’, so it’s worth asking yourself: what do your graduates know about what your organisation is striving to achieve? Can they see how their day-to-day role is contributing to the overall picture? It may be that they need a little help in making this connection, so have that conversation with them.
Alongside this, a discussion at the forefront of the Learning & Development world at the moment is around examining the return on investment gained from recruiting and developing graduates. Graduates are a business investment and it’s important to consider how you can best use that resource: what projects can they take responsibility for? How can they deliver a tangible impact for you and the business?
Underpinning all of these mistakes is a need to be open and honest. In doing this, you’ll build a strong foundation of trust and a great relationship with your graduate employees.