Strong Development from the Start: Onboarding Generation-Y


This article originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of HRPA’s Up-Date Magazine (Human Resources Professional Association) and is targeted to employers and HR managers. 

Congratulations! You’ve hired an infamous Gen-Yer. You’ve got reason to be excited: you know their appetite for impact and thirst for learning has the potential to infuse energy and results into your organization. As an HR leader, there are several best practices in leadership development you can leverage during the onboarding process that will give your new Gen-Y employee a jump-start on their development. To get them on their way to becoming a strong performer, help your Gen-Y employees answer the following four questions:

“Why am I here?”

Help them make the business/role connection.

With high expectations coming into the workplace, it can be easy for a Gen-Yer to be disappointed when starting out a new job. This can be especially true if they perceive their role to have a narrow scope of responsibilities. Whether or not their job is appropriate for their skill level, Gen-Y have a hunger for impact and, as an HR leader, you can help them understand their impact in the broader business context. By leveraging your business or organizational acumen, you can help your Gen-Y employee understand the importance of their role by explaining the cascading objectives of your organization. For example, if you work for a non-profit, you can start by explaining the mission, strategic priorities, responsibilities of the board, senior leadership, among others, and then describe their role within the organization. By establishing the connection between the organization’s mission, strategic priorities, and the individual’s role, you will be feeding your Gen-Yer’s need to make an impact. They will have a reason to reconnect with their mission on a daily basis, which will be engaging for them.

“What am I good at and what do I need to work on?”

Leverage data from the selection process.

In your hiring process, you may have already collected data on their strengths and opportunities for employee development. A best practice is to share this data with the employee to help them think about where they are and where they need to go. This could also be a good time to have the “why we hired you” discussion, which can serve as a much needed self-esteem boost throughout their onboarding.

“How Can I Get Better?”

Teach them how to build a development plan they can get excited about.

Now that the employee knows their assessment data, they can build a development plan to help address gaps and leverage their strengths. This should be an employee-led activity, but recognize that most Gen-Yers will need guidance (in the form of templates or expectations, as well as coaching) in order to create a strong final plan. The development plan will have the dual purpose of helping ensure the employee can be successful in their roles, as well as addressing the strong need of Gen-Yers for learning and development in their roles.

“How am I doing?”

Create opportunities for ongoing feedback from different sources.

Feedback is a precious commodity that is crucial for successful development. Unfortunately, feedback can sometimes be hard to find (and hard to give). As an HR leader, you can create feedback opportunities by identifying coworkers in your Gen-Yer’s environment that can provide feedback to them. You can also go one step further by asking them to play a role in the new employee’s development, thus making them accountable for providing ongoing feedback. You can also remind your team members on how best to deliver feedback. With a core group of employees that have a heightened awareness to give feedback, and an engaged Gen-Yer encouraged to seek feedback, learning is much more likely to occur.

Helping your Gen-Y employee answer these four questions is crucial for them to reach their potential. With a strong connection to a mission, an accurate assessment of strengths and development opportunities, a robust development plan, and opportunities for feedback, your new Gen-Y employee will be on their way to accelerated development as well as organizational impact.

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