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Management of College Graduate Recruits
by Norman J. Smallwood
New college graduate recruits are managed poorly in many businesses. Mediocre to poor performance and great waste of human potential are the usual consequences.
It does not have to be that way. For the few businesses of excellence, the leadership knows how to do it right and everyone wins. The purpose of this presentation is to identify and compare the management assumptions and practices that yield both mediocre and outstanding results. From that base of understanding, the process for recruiting, training, challenging and developing young professionals is examined.
For businesses dominated by traditional thinking, the common assumptions about the role of new college recruits are:
With these assumptions, there is no recognition for the need to improve upon the management process -- "Why should we? That's the way we've always done it.
A few businesses operate on much different assumptions. The management viewpoint includes the following:
In these organizations, there is the keen awareness that if young professionals are not managed properly the business suffers and individual careers are impaired.
With the most common business practice, a new recruit may spend five or more years in the first assignment, receive very little if any initial training, have poorly defined responsibilities, and not be held accountable for very much. This kind of management, lacking in motivation and intellectual stimulation, is likely to place the recruit on a path to develop the long-term behavior patters of narrow mindedness, provincialism, defensiveness, and inability to collaborate both within and across the functional boundaries. The outcome is a limited view of the possibilities, minimal contribution, and stifled growth.
For progressive businesses, the new recruit is immediately given the task to learn, take over, and be responsible for a specific part of the business. There are no titles or roles of assistant. Everyone has specific and autonomous job ownership. The expectations are clearly defined to master the job thoroughly, develop sound working relationships with everyone involved, and achieve a better level of hard-measure performance in the areas of responsibility within one to two years. Once these objectives have been conclusively achieved (one year for the best performers and two years for the average performers) it is time to change roles.
Lateral changes in assignment are usually appropriate during the first five to six years of professional life to gain perspective of the business from several functional positions. The difference in impact of this approach on professional contribution and development compared to the more traditional practice is remarkable.
Training to successfully take over and carry out every job assigned is critical to the success of this process. The training system is uncomplicated and is based on a self-managed process for developing sufficient competence to handle the job.
The salient aspects of the training process include the following:
2. Working with both subordinates and peers to develop sound working relationships.
3 Achieving an understanding of and empathy for each job.
4. Gaining insight into the ability of each person.
5. Understanding and assessing the technical merits of the operating methods.
7. Demonstrating mastery and competence through a rigorous qualification process.
Every employee has a role in and responsibility for the training, and that is why it is robust.
Recruiting people to function and thrive within this management system requires careful attention. The selection criteria should include high personal standards, drive and initiative, ability and receptiveness to learn, ability to get along with people and function within a team, and relevant education and experience. A thorough process for assessing candidates against the selection criteria is needed. The selection process should involve several people who have been trained to make objective assessments.
Especially on the first assignment, the new recruit's performance should be evaluated thoroughly to assure that the integration and development process is working properly and the expectations are being achieved. If the young professional's performance does not meet expectations after providing sufficient and patient counseling to correct the problems, employment should be terminated. If there is incompatibility, termination of the employment relationship is best recourse for all parties.
If the process is thoroughly managed, spending only one to two years in each job assignment for the first five to six years of professional life is of great benefit to both the business and to the developing professional. On the other hand, if the process is allowed to deteriorate into a "musical chairs game" of only spending some time in each job, the value is lost. In each assignment, the young professional must perform to the proper standard and meet the carefully defined expectations. The next job opportunity is made available only after the "performance dues are paid."
© 1994 The Core Team ® Managing New College Recruits