Thursday January 17, 2013
Do young fresh graduates make better employees than older experienced ones?
Talking HR with Melissa Norman
THERE is often a level of “prevailing wisdom” that leads many companies to shun fresh university graduates in favour of highly experienced people coming from competitive firms. The argument in favour of this policy usually revolves around three common assumptions:
l Save the cost of training a “rookie”.
Someone, usually a productive member of the company team, must be used to train the new, less experienced employee. In smaller companies, this actually can prove to be, at least, a nuisance and, by definition, will lower the productivity of the trainer. The time and effort of an experienced employee spent on the “rookie” is viewed as a distraction especially since the outcome of the training may not be seen in a short span of time.
l The value of the “insider information” a competitor's employee can bring.
While this is sometimes true, it is starting to be more prevalent that unless the new employee had access to information beyond that which any customer or prospect could obtain, this advantage is often overrated.
l The belief that experienced employees “already know our industry.”
Another sometimes overrated theory of wisdom is the expertise that a veteran employee from a competitor brings to an organisation. It's true that the “learning curve” should be much shorter and less stressful, but many employers forget one major possibility: This veteran employee may be hard wired to do things a certain way, may have been trained poorly and may have merely reinforced this inadequate training and expanded upon it. And because they have the knowledge of the industry, they are more likely to be head-hunted.
Many forward-thinking companies, however, are having high-level success with a different philosophy. They believe that hiring recent university graduates can bring even more value to their companies than some experienced veterans. Here's a list of benefits fresh graduates may bring to your company:
1) New university graduates are enthusiastic and motivated.
What they lack in experience, they often make up for in enthusiasm, which many experts believe can be more important than experience. There is a believe that interest combined with enthusiasm ignites a passion which is sometimes hard to find. And the passion results in seemingly more interest to learn and apply.
2) Fresh university graduates hiring provides the organisation with the opportunity to mold its future leaders.
With no bad work habits or poor prior training, young graduates can be taught the way your company believes is most advantageous to its operations. There have been many success stories of management trainee programmes which resulted in hi-potential leaders who are aligned to the company values as well as strong brand ambassadors.
3) New university graduates can provide fresh ideas.
Though many companies are reluctant to admit this truth, so as not to throw their veterans “under the bus,” it has been proven in all industries, not just high-tech, that new ideas often spring from recent graduates. The fresh graduates are also a breed that is fairly different, they are of a new generation. They are a group that will challenge the culture of “this is how we do it here” and expect to volunteer views that's radical. They don't believe normal is acceptable and will continue to be different, in thought and in action.
4) Fresh university graduates are open to continuous learning and up-skilling.
Career talks hosted by organisations to attract the best of the best is only because they see a benefit and value to organisations, be it high or low-tech. Fresh graduates are viewed as open to learning and upgrading their skills as opposed to many long-time employees, who may or may not be following a continuing education programme for self development to up-skill themselves.
5) Fresh university graduates often provide excellent value versus cost.
A fresh graduate, armed with the skill and boundless enthusiasm, can provide good value for a very reasonable compensation cost. They are more than aware that they would need to compensate for their lack of experience with more interest, effort and moderate compensation.
6) Minimal bad professional habits.
Graduates seldom come with this “professional baggage” since they haven't been exposed to negative corporate cultures. They will assimilate to the organisation culture fairly quickly and if well oriented and assigned to a strong mentorship programme, will be a good advocate of the organisation.
7) Strong willingness to get the job done and to excel.
Since most recent graduates are younger people, they are often not enmeshed in many other responsibilities (happy homeowner activities, youth sports coaching, local politics, etc), giving them the opportunity and desire to totally concentrate on their new professional opportunity above all else.
8) Ability to grasp new information and integrate skills.
Students, by definition, are constantly processing new information and internalising data in a meaningful way. New university graduates have only recently left that environment. After 16 to 18 years successfully processing new data and concepts, the right fresh university graduates will possess the necessary technique that can help organisations shorten the training period for their learning curve.
9) Excellent ability to manage “change” as companies upgrade, modernise, refocus and expand.
All company executives are aware that “change” can sometimes create chaotic situations in the workplace. Unfortunately, it seems that the more senior the employee, the more resistant they can be to all aspects of change. Fresh university graduates are normally not subject to this syndrome. They are from an era where technology is rapidly changing and they have to adapt or be left behind. As such, they view change as an opportunity to evolve. Actually, they often, not only manage change very well, they welcome it!
There is a lot of truth to the clich “There is no substitute for experience.” But that assumes that people with experience have been trained properly, have performed in a corporate culture compatible with the organisation and that they remain motivated and dedicated to a high level performance standard. Unfortunately, data indicates that, sometimes, one or more of these important factors are missing with experienced people affecting their ability to deliver consistently as expected. There is certainly no guarantee that the fresh university graduates that are employed have all of the expected traits listed above, but the majority will join organisations with high enthusiasm and a child like interest to learn and contribute. There is nothing more exciting than having motivated employees, and if managed effectively it could cause a ripple effect to a positive work environment between the experience and the eagerly fresh graduates.
While conventional wisdom changes slowly in business (after all it's easier to sell a wheel that everyone's buying than invent a new, better one), organisations should give serious consideration to hiring fresh university graduates. There is no doubt that there is always an element of capability and skill that will pre-define suitability of fresh university graduates with any organisation but the fact of the matter is that it will certainly cast a wider net in the challenge of finding the “right talent” today. That which they lack in experience is often counterbalanced by their enthusiasm and applicable skill sets.
Employing fresh university graduates can most surely give an organisation a good balance between enthusiasm of the young and experience of a veteran. Veteran employees can impart their knowledge to the younger employees, while the newbies can re-inject enthusiasm and motivation into the culture of an experienced workforce.
The most amazing fact of all is that there is always an inherent risk in hiring any candidate today, experienced or not.
To find the best talent or the best organisation today, both organisations and employees must compromise. If the union is a fair one, everybody wins!