by Pablo Listingart, Founder and Executive Director of ComIT
To begin again, to start anew, to have a fresh, blank slate — the corporate advantages of hiring entry level employees, strong professionals at their career beginnings, seem self-explanatory. But for many companies, it’s a source of stress, and an area too often overlooked. Onboarding at the entry level can be resource intensive. New employees require proper training, supervision, and the time and space it takes to navigate the learning curve of a novel corporate landscape.
In any economy, successful entry-level hiring is a crucial aspect of corporate success. New employees bring refreshing perspectives, creative sparks, energized work ethic, and a future orientation. Never have the aforementioned qualities held such importance than in the moment of the COVID-19 market. Today, a company’s ability to innovate, to pivot overnight, to take creative risks and to bet correctly determines their long-term viability. In this era, companies with strong entry-level employees certainly have the upper hand.
And yet, entry-level positions are among the most shed roles, as companies cut budgets to survive the pandemic. While it might be an effective short-term strategy for cutting costs, reducing risk, and ‘surviving,’ it’s an oversight that will plague operations in the long run. Companies that are foregoing entry-level salaries are creating a top-heavy corporate structure that will lack those differences in perspectives, those surges of creativity, and that freshness of an employee with a recent education. In time, the company will have trouble passing on corporate culture and values, and will face a huge divide when it does come time to integrate a new work force into staff consisting of only senior executives.
Even the IT sphere, well known for entry-level hiring and a never-ending search for talent, has shed a number of early stage positions in response to the COVID-19 virus. The factors are manifold. Closed borders prevent job seekers from interacting abroad, and opportunities for mentorship and talent training are restricted. Instead of connecting with competent workers on a global level, companies have adapted their recruitment strategies to contend for local senior talent. Costs are incurred in the form of salary requirements, and the chance to include new perspectives and fresh workers is lost.
Furthermore, with the economic pressures of the virus, many employers have shifted to survival mode. With changing needs and rapid hires, recruiters seek experienced workers who can quickly adjust to the role. While the need for immediate performance is understandable, employers often look in all the wrong places, prioritizing years in the industry over certifications, training, and displays of ability. Survival is the task at hand, but success is the long-term goal. And success depends on a well-developed, entry-level hiring protocol.
Job Descriptions: Details Matter.
Begin at the beginning: the job description. Many employers try to describe a position by recommending or requiring a certain amount of previous experience. Here, specificity is limiting. Should the description suggest one year’s worth of experience in a relevant field, true entry-level individuals won’t have sufficient qualification, and will regard that as a barrier to application. This is one place talent can be lost. On the other hand, job seekers who have more than one year’s experience might assume the role is not a fit, and apply elsewhere. Another black hole for prospective talent.
Instead, consider promoting the soft skills you’d most like to work with. Emphasize a potential employee’s values and strengths, and make clear what the role will offer them as well. The more you’re able to excite an applicant, the more talented, creative individuals you’ll attract.
Training, Training, And More Training.
This is one place that corners cannot be cut. Employee training from the outset reduces turnover rates and increases productivity. Training comes in many shapes and sizes, but it never goes out of style. Begin with a digital onboarding. As people become more comfortable with remote operations, there’s no reason an onboarding process can’t begin online before the first official day. Along with the normal practices of filling out direct deposit forms and signing employee handbooks, new employees can be introduced to mentors or pointed toward learning resources that will be helpful through their roles.
After the initial onboard, continuity is key. Consider investing in opt-in workshops, courses, or online certifications at a number of milestones in a new employee’s journey. There’s always something more to learn, and giving your employees the opportunity to do so will not only keep them engaged but will ensure that the engine of your corporation is engaged with the newer conversations taking place at large in the industry. Soft skills training, new coding languages, a course on mindfulness — there’s never a reason not to learn something new.
Entry-level employees play an important role in the COVID-19 recovery including their zeal, their energy for creative solutions and their forward-thinking mindset. As a corporation looking to weather the storm, or as a successful startup hoping to gain longstanding market traction, consider your entry-level hiring practices, your early stage training, and the investments you make in building your team from the ground up.
Pablo Listingart is the Founder and Executive Director of ComIT, a non-profit organization designed to help people overcome employment barriers and re-introduce themselves to their local labor market. With an extensive network, ComIT builds ever-changing courses tailored to immediate industry connecting promising graduates with companies in need of local talent.