Leaving studies and joining the world of work is a “jolt” for graduates. “They don’t know what the job is,” says Chris Hirst, managing director of advertising agency Havas Creative. The challenge, he says – for both employers and new hires themselves – is how quickly graduates can become “really useful” without the same level of “nourishing and structured learning” they received. at University.
Graduates whose college education has been disrupted by the pandemic and whose only work experience might have been a remote “internship” are poised to enter workplaces struggling with hybrid work and training budgets tight.
According to a report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), a human resources association, around a third of UK organizations said they had reduced their learning and development budgets, staff numbers and use of external consultants during the pandemic.
This, added to the social distancing requirement, explains the shift to tech platforms. Prior to 2020, only 36% of organizations used webinars or virtual classrooms, according to the CIPD, compared to 51% last year. For graduates, the training is more mixed than ever, says Alastair Woods, global co-head of people analytics at accounting firm PwC. “If you’re training to be an accountant or an analyst, a greater proportion is online.”
Simon Hallett, director of resourcing at Deloitte, says the pandemic has forced the professional services firm to re-evaluate its training and consider “if we should come back in person after going 100% online.” The company has adopted a 50/50 mix of online and in-person learning.
The benefits of online learning for graduates are that they can learn at their own pace and replay lessons. Today, employers are looking at how to bring their newest hires up to speed on new work models and organizational culture, as well as develop their soft skills, such as communication, as well as the hard skills they actually need to do their job.
“Companies that do not update their training models in response [to hybrid working] are going to become less competitive,” says Jeff Maggioncalda, chief executive of Coursera, a course provider.
In many ways, hybrid graduate studies will have served as good preparation for the new workplace, even as companies are still adjusting to new realities. But some patterns are becoming clearer.
One approach that seems likely to persist is that of buddy systems, which many organizations have introduced or strengthened during the pandemic. Consulting firm Oliver Wyman, for example, matches new graduates with two or three senior people for informal check-ins, rather than the one or two it assigned before the pandemic.
At Standard Chartered, the bank’s approach is in line with its hybrid ways of working, internally dubbed “Future Workplace, Now”. It includes a mix of hands-on, face-to-face learning and online training. All graduates have access to a global learning platform called diSCover, which offers training in areas such as sustainable finance, digital banking and cybersecurity. To help with career growth and personal development, the lender is also encouraging feedback via a digital tool – last month it held a ‘Feedback5’ challenge which encouraged all employees to provide weekly feedback for five weeks.
Harriet Skipworth, director of learning and development at Oliver Wyman, says “the pandemic has kickstarted some new initiatives,” like signing up for Degreed, a platform that facilitates just-in-time online learning. The heavy use of videoconferencing has also changed the way the consultancy looks at training. “The benefits of doing quick escapes, polls, putting something in the Zoom chat, are on our minds as we design new programs now,” Skipworth says.
Technology can even help teach soft skills and reinforce learning. Dominic Putt, learning and development expert at PwC, says his online platform uses cognitive science and machine learning to ask personalized questions of users.
“If we want people to change their behavior, they have to remember what they’re supposed to do differently,” he says. Regular reminders help learners remember information longer and develop new habits.
Used well, technology can also complement in-person training by helping graduates prepare ahead of time. Putt gives the example of learners watching videos on theory and techniques before meeting with their peers, and moving on to sessions “with actors playing different characters for people to practice responding to.”
At Deloitte, junior employees develop professional speaking and writing skills through offsite programs and virtual workshops. Using the company’s Toastmasters network, they can practice public speaking and presentation skills in a virtual environment.
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The company is also creating a new website to support training and teach staff about its culture. A Leeds University Business School report examining the experiences of remote interns recommends that employers promote certain aspects of organizational culture online, such as “etiquette and norms” for communication and formality, and examples of corporate values in practice”.
Still, there’s not much that can be taught online, argue back-to-the-office proponents. Goldman Sachs chief executive David Solomon has been particularly vocal about the need for young recruits to learn by osmosis – more easily when people can overhear conversations and observe experienced peers in meetings or negotiations. “Without being around people, it’s very difficult to learn those job skills,” says Hirst, who advocates a mix of remote and office work.
The risk of working from home too much, says Helen Hughes, associate professor at Leeds University Business School and co-author of the remote internship report, is that young recruits don’t understand workplace norms.
She says some of the interns she interviewed struggled to manage their workload because they struggled to “understand that peaks and troughs were normal when they couldn’t compare” their experience to that of their peers in the office.
The research also found that while young employees quickly acquired digital skills, it masked “deep-rooted insecurities about working life more generally. . .[making]the challenges that employees face are more difficult for organizations to recognize and address,” says Hughes.
Some graduates who started at Oliver Wyman during the pandemic will repeat some of their training. “The learning model is so much harder to work with [remotely]says Skipworth. However, Charlie Ball, senior labor market intelligence consultant at Jisc, a UK-based non-profit tech provider, says in-office learning is not an argument to force young workers back. full time. “Overall, young workers like hybrid work,” he says.
Employers’ insistence that osmotic learning can only be facilitated by returning to the office may taste like “laziness” on the part of employers, says Hirst. “The most junior person in a meeting will sit down in a meeting very often. The advice, spoken or not, is just to watch and learn. It takes very little effort or imagination to give this person a clear role without pretending that they are going to be the chief strategy officer. Give them a slide to present, ask for their input – feedback on this can be beneficial. »