Onboarding the ‘COVID Generation’ – FITT Forum

The pandemic has brought new challenges for young adults entering the workplace. There have been huge changes to the way students study, are assessed, and communicate which has in turn affected the skills they bring to the workplace. We recognise that because of this, new starters may need more support in place than usual when starting their role.

Gareth John, First Intuition Chief Executive, hosts a discussion on what employers can be doing to help young adults during the onboarding process to assist a smooth transition into the workplace.

Onboarding the COVID generation

Onboarding the ‘COVID Generation’ – FITT Forum

The pandemic has brought new challenges for young adults entering the workplace. There have been huge changes to the way students study, are assessed, and communicate which has in turn affected the skills they bring to the workplace. We recognise that because of this, new starters may need more support in place than usual when starting their role.

Gareth John, First Intuition Chief Executive, hosts a discussion on what employers can be doing to help young adults during the onboarding process to assist a smooth transition into the workplace.

Onboarding the COVID Generation follows on from our session looking at recruitment of the COVID generation. This forum explored the additional support that employers and training providers should offer to new hires affected by the pandemic. This is to ensure new starters transition smoothly into the workplace and are provided with the support they need to start a successful career, following months of increased isolation and lack of skill-building opportunities.

This article shares highlights from the session where guest speakers, listed below, joined Gareth John to discuss how employers can assist in the onboarding process of this year’s cohort or school and college leavers.

Guest speakers

Anne Bailey, CEO and Co-founder of Form the Future CIC
Debbie Longhurst, Business & Education Development Manager at Growth Works with Skills
Sean Allison, Managing Director at Not Going To Uni
Representatives from the awarding bodies AATACCACIMA and ICAEW

You can watch the recording of the forum by clicking the button below.

EDI

Top 10 Tips for Employers Onboarding the ‘COVID Generation’:

  • Students are finding it difficult to articulate their transferable skills, give them assistance with this in interviews
  • Do not assume anything from new starters and be really clear with your expectations. Clearly articulate in writing what is needed
  • Make allowances when bringing people in and ensure there is a strong induction programme in place
  • A mentoring system should be in place where new starters can ask questions to another member of staff
  • Regular roundtables that ask staff how they are feeling can create a safe place for employees to get support
  • Whilst remote work continues, employers should integrate social activities into the way they work
  • Employers should work with schools in a more regular way including speaking at assemblies and careers events
  • Offer virtual work experience and integrate lack of skills solutions into induction programmes
  • Talk to those who went through the remote onboarding last year and ask what worked and what didn’t to shape how things are done going forward
  • Consider induction apps for new trainees that provide a schedule of induction other company information

Key Comments from the Guest Speakers

Form the Future

Form the future is a not-for-profit social enterprise that aims to help young people make informed decisions about their future. They work with schools and employers to help give students insight, confidence, and more access to career information. Anne has noticed that career advice has been squeezed out of the curriculum since the start of the pandemic as schools focus on learning and exams. The education system favours good exam results over creativity, confidence, and problem-solving attributes that are increasingly recognised as valuable and essential skills in the workplace.

The lack of focus on careers and skills has meant fewer young adults have been exposed to available career opportunities. Fewer employers have been speaking in schools about their industry and offering hands-on learning and work experience. Whilst lost experience from part-time jobs and the ability to work with people has affected young people’s transferrable skills, creating ‘skills gaps’.

Anne has also seen that students are finding it difficult to articulate their transferable skills. Not working has made it difficult to see how their skills translate to the workplace.

How can employers help?

Anxiety

The interruption to education has made students feel resentful, anxious, and nervous about how they going to be assessed. This may translate into the workplace where they feel their hard work is not assessed fairly. Employers should be mindful of people who have anxiety over being assessed, as well as social anxiety. Not everyone has come through the pandemic completely intact and will have different needs.

Pre-boarding

Do not assume anything from new starters and be really clear with your expectations. The basics of work may be alien to them. Clearly articulate in writing what is needed for remote working including a list of all equipment required, as well as what to wear. Before joining employers should set up phone calls to give new starters opportunities to meet their team.

Mentoring

A mentoring system should be in place where new starters can ask questions to another member of staff who is not their line manager. The check-ins should be pre-scheduled on a regular basis for the first few months.

Mental health check-ins

Regular roundtables that ask staff how they are feeling can create a safe place for employees to get support from peers without shame. This allows for a culture where it is okay to say you are struggling and where to get support. Corporate memberships to meditation apps such as Headspace or Calm can be a great way to ensure staff has access to helpful resources.

Social activities

Whilst remote work continues, employers should integrate social activities into the way they work to encourage shared experiences.

Growth Works with Skills

Growth Works with Skills is a free and impartial service across Cambridge and Peterborough that brokers relationships between schools and employers to work with career leads. They offer grants, growth coaching, signposting, and help with the process of apprentices and employer training.

Growth Works is currently working with employers to communicate the importance of transferable skills for entering the workplace. This is done through companies presenting in schools in assemblies and enterprise events. Advice on CV writing and mock interviews are especially useful for students.

Debbie reports that since the pandemic started, apprenticeship opportunities are down 40%. More students than usual are going to university or having a year off. Employer engagement has also decreased as employers have had other priorities. Virtual schooling has also meant engagement in careers has also dropped as not everyone has access to a computer. Furthermore, the change in assessments and workload pressures have meant teachers have struggled to have time to engage with careers leaders.

How can employers help?

Engage with local schools

As a result of the reduced engagement with schools, employers can help by working with schools in a more regular way. Talking in assemblies, getting involved in enterprise events, and mock interviews can help inspire young people.

Most employers enjoy working with schools, particularly as virtual engagement offers more flexibility. Engaging with local schools can also be a great way for employers to recruit talent when students leave. If employers are recruiting new apprentices, they have the opportunity to go in and influence students themselves. Furthermore, businesses can develop their own team’s skills by going into schools and communicating with students and teachers.

Not Going To Uni

Not Going to Uni is a jobs board for school and college leavers offering information on anything other than the standard university route. It is a commercial organisation but is equally trying to promote informed choice for young people. The organisation also works with employers about their attraction programmes for school and college leavers. They produce regular content to offer practical advice from people doing apprentices.

Sean reports that between March 2020 – June 2020 apprenticeship recruitment dipped by 75% as most companies shifted their focus away from growth. However, in quarter two of 2021, there are signs the market is on the recovery with interest to their website up by over 100%. Despite the reduction in recruitment, Sean praises employers for reacting quickly and reshaping their recruitment policies to the situation.

How can employers help?

Work experience

Employers can help the COVID generation by offering virtual work experience and speaking at schools. This is especially important in bridging skills gaps by providing experience in a professional environment. Employers need to be aware of this lack of skills and confidence when they are onboarding and integrate solutions into their induction programmes.

Patience

In addition to the extra support from mentors, all staff need to be patient and understanding towards new starters who may have had 18 months without social interaction. Training for staff will help with this.

Strong induction

Employers should make allowances when bringing people in and ensure there is a strong induction programme in place. This needs to cover everything including basics, businesses should not assume people know the way things are done.

Key Comments from the Awarding Bodies

AAT

During their own recruitment through this period, AAT has found that effective onboarding needs a really strong plan. Below are some points they found valuable when onboarding the COVID generation:

  • More time for formal inductions as a lot of company culture comes from connections between staff
  • More fundamental business basics in the induction
  • Make sure IT systems are working to help confidence early on
  • Regular check-ins to keep track of new starters
  • More patience, helping, and guiding – give expectations and allow longer to adjust
  • Give new starters more face to face time in the office

Below are some successful practices from AAT’s clients:

  • Talk to those who went through the remote onboarding last year and ask what worked and what didn’t to shape how things are done going forward
  • Pre-boarding and pre-induction measures that help break down perceived barriers – being in the home broke down barriers as it removed the formality of the office
  • Induction apps for new trainees that provide a schedule of induction, social chat channel, key contact numbers, and other company information
  • Work in conjunction with training providers to build exam preparation into the first few weeks so new starters are more prepared after no pressurised exam exposure

ICAEW

The ICAEW is running virtual work experience and virtual intern programmes during the summer of 2021 to assist in the development of transferable skills in young adults. The programme encourages employers to get involved and assist in getting students ready for the workplace.

The ICAEW has found that some virtual communication regarding onboarding has worked well. Some firms are going to keep aspects of virtual onboarding going forward. Similarly, virtual work experience will remain for some companies as they have found it more inclusive and easier for staff to manage.

CIMA

CIMA has ensured their new hires are sent a link with all onboarding documentation, important information, and virtual office tours. Remote onboarding hubs are a great way to ensure all information is in one place as well as easy to find and follow. Similarly, checklists for onboarding tasks and for the first day of work can give structure to new starters and mean all tasks are met.

ACCA

Following a report into employers views of the pandemic and what it means for recruitment and onboarding, the ACCA found:

  • The generation of new starters being hired are the most digitally connected. Their knowledge of social media can be used as a strength and present an important opportunity for employers. Particularly as social media can assist with the recruitment of young adults and help advocate the image and value of the profession
  • The purpose of the finance profession is important for people looking to start a new career in it
  • Potential recruits can learn a lot from virtual discussions. Businesses can set up sessions to talk about practical topics and what it means to work in finance

You can find more information on our upcoming FITT forums here.

Employability Skills

From finding the right career to making a good impression on the first day, First Intuition has a number of resources to help in all aspects of finding a job. Combining original content and links to other helpful resources. The resources are relevant to anyone looking for help and advice on how to find a job,  not just in finance. Find our employability skills resources here.

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