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Leverage Mentoring to Teach Entry-Level Workers Soft Skills
Gen Y is most receptive to learning soft skills when they can connect with and mirror behaviors exemplified by an experienced senior leader or peer mentor.
On-boarding season is upon us. With most college graduation ceremonies in the rearview, many organizations are preparing to welcome hundreds — for some, maybe thousands — of entry-level hires into the workplace.This flood of entry-level workers can be a burden for learning leaders, who, aside from having to revamp materials for technical-skill training, are charged with introducing to new employees the soft skills necessary to thrive in their professional lives.For most entry-level workers, this might be their first full-time job in a highly professional environment — summer internships and stints flipping burgers at the local public pool don’t count. Therefore, knowing what behaviors and soft traits are needed to become valued employees — communication, teamwork, general workplace etiquette, etc. — can be a major adjustment.Luckily for learning practitioners, the means to teach soft skills don’t necessarily require complex learning programs. In fact, for many Gen Y workers, some of the most effective soft-skill training can remain informal, according to David DeLong, author of the forthcoming book, Graduate to a Great Job: How to Make Your College Degree Pay Off in Today’s Market.The trick, DeLong said, is for learning practitioners to clearly define vital soft skill behaviors — either through stories or relatable examples, during an on-boarding welcome session. Then, pair new hires up with a respected mentor who already exhibits these behaviors and let nature take its course. “When teaching soft skills to Gen Y you can’t lecture,” DeLong said. “You’ve got to get them into interactive, experiential learning as quickly as possible.”Yet while most might use older mentors to help younger workers get acquainted with a firm’s desired behaviors, Gen Y might be more receptive if their mentor is a peer, said Bob Taylor, CEO of learning and development firm OrgWide Services LLC. Taylor said peer mentors of similar age range might be more comfortable for a new hire — as they may be less afraid to seek help or ask questions than with more senior-level mentors.
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