By Dawn Rauhe, VP of Client Services

As talent acquisition leaders across industries plan their strategies to fill roles, early career talent –someone typically in the workforce for less than a year – is highly sought after for bringing innovative ideas and enthusiasm. After hiring quality early talent, investing both time and money into their training, you want these employees to stay with your organization.

A strong onboarding program is a major differentiator when it comes to retaining early talent. But creating one can be challenging, as they require a slightly different approach than one designed for those with more work experience. In addition to introducing early talent to your organization, these new employees are often transitioning from school to a career so the onboarding program may require more planning to ensure a smooth shift.

Here are four tips for creating an impactful early talent onboarding program:

Create a compelling EVP
A compelling employee value proposition (EVP) is key to attracting and retaining the best early career talent. To capture this group, and the other unique personas in your workforce, you should tailor your EVP accordingly. Evaluate what matters most to those entering the workforce, then ensure your message speaks directly to them.

Millennials and Gen Zers demand social change and accountability. The power of purpose is also top of mind for these demographics. They want to know what companies are doing to make the world a better place and want to work for an employer brand with a meaningful commitment to the greater good.

For many early-career candidates and employees, having a job at an organization that shares their same values is important. Highlighting your company’s social responsibility in its EVP can create a sense of connection and belonging from onboarding and beyond, making you stand out from your competitors to attract and retain highly sought-after early talent.

Ensure regular & meaningful communication
Communication with early talent needs to be relatable, straightforward and meaningful – whether a welcome email, HR paperwork, or a team orientation meeting. Remember to be authentic and lose the jargon while being transparent with any downsides, setting realistic expectations.

Today’s early talent is accustomed to instant gratification and recognition. Consider adding a group to your intranet or another social media channel to allow them to express themselves, collect information, and ask questions. Providing this type of space not only helps create a sense of community but also aids in retention.

To improve communication and the onboarding process, conduct monthly pulse checks between early talent and hiring managers. Make it clear to the onboarding cohort how you plan to use the feedback so they know they are being heard, they are important, and their feedback is taken seriously. Sharing the reason behind the ask as it relates to the broader picture helps strengthen your messaging.

Vary your training program style & curriculum
Early talent has specific needs and wants, so it is essential to create a training program just for them. Adding variety to the delivery style and curriculum will ensure you cover your bases and demonstrates your company’s dedication to their career and personal growth. Consider including:

  • Hands-on experiences:
    Research suggests that these individuals learn best from hands-on experiences, so try to recreate real-world scenarios that closely model the actual challenges they may face on the job. For customer service training, have trainees listen to actual customer calls and role-play how to handle a difficult customer.

  • In-person events:
    Delivering your training program in person is advantageous, creating a team-oriented environment and accelerating early engagement. So, while the pandemic has made virtual training more common, try to incorporate on-site or in-person events into the program.

  • Mentorship opportunities:
    Mentors can help new employees learn by example and feel more connected, and are especially important for early talent. A large percentage of millennials believe having a mentor is important for their job satisfaction. Incorporating mentorship into your onboarding program is complex – you must match the right mentors and mentees, teach mentors best practices, and measure for success. But when planned accordingly and implemented properly, you will see great results.

  • Professionalism courses:
    Some experts agree that professionalism is one of the biggest factors to a successful career, but the behaviors to be successful in a work environment are not always taught in school. The best-in-class onboarding programs provide early talent with appropriate ways to conduct themselves at work to positively represent themselves and their company. Some examples of these traits are strong communication skills, the ability to handle stress, and ethical actions.

Provide a consistent onboarding experience
Most companies rely on hiring managers to conduct onboarding, which means the experience can easily vary. Some new hires may get a detailed 90-day onboarding plan, others onboarding documents with a rundown on the team, or some may simply be assigned a task and left to learn the ropes on their own.

A standardized early talent onboarding program will ensure all the essential information is delivered consistently. One method could be a video series with everything a new recruit needs to know. HR teams can even make use of the organization's central video library to build video playlists for employees to access and play anytime.

Onboarding is the first impression early talent has of the organization. Done right, it can lead to a referral pipeline, increase social media ratings, and promote consumer advocacy. Successfully onboarding early talent will prepare your business with an engaged workforce committed to moving forward together to achieve company goals.


Dawn Rauhe

Connect with Dawn on LinkedIn.