As summer comes to a close, it's common for startups to find themselves offering positions to summer interns, asking them to come on board full-time. While hiring interns is incredibly beneficial -- they're familiar with the business, they're well versed in the way the company operates and have formed relationships with other employees -- onboarding entry-level staffers can also be incredibly challenging.
Whether you're looking to bring just one recent grad into the fold or are bringing in a class of 50, here are a few things to keep in mind when onboarding the new kids on the block.
You should capitalize on their work ethic.
It may sound counterintuitive that recent graduates would have a better work ethic than long term employees, but think about it for a second before you reject the notion. Students are used to juggling a lot of different projects, topic areas and responsibilities at once -- a full class load, extracurriculars, an internship or a job and of course a social life.
My first startup job was the direct result of a summer internship my freshman year, I was asked to come on full time at the end of the summer, all while going to school full time. They're used to working odd hours and their brains are primed for absorbing maximum information in a short period of time. (Remember those all-nighters cramming in the library? Actually I don't, I never saw the inside of one during undergrad.)
As we get further and further away from our educational mindset, most of us forgot how to study and learn and instead shift to execution and strategy. Recent graduates present a unique advantage in that they are often perfectly happy to do extra work outside of regular business hours to study what they will ultimately be asked to be experts on. So, look to give them educational resources that will help them get up to speed through learning.
Make sure they have a realistic mentor.
Remember when you went to college and you moved into the dorms and you were met by your RA who made sure you felt comfortable, kept you accountable and was always there as a confidant to help you through challenging times or answer your "stupid" questions?
Well, having that person in an office for young, new hires is just as important. But you shouldn't assign just anyone to this position of mentor. Think about who in your organization will listen without judgement, but also escalate issues that require outside involvement.
Who is someone that has succeeded and grown within your company, but is still at a level that would be seen by recent grads as a realistic goal for them to achieve in the next three to five years? I found a mentor in the CEO of the startup that I joined freshman year, it's what got me started as a lifelong entrepreneur. Of course, that startup crashed and burned, but I learned a lot.
Finding the right person to serve as an outlet for new hires will ensure they feel supported and valued within your organization, which in turn will motivate them to go the extra mile in those early months, and years, as they work their way up.
Help them establish a professional community.
Whether you're bringing in a large new class of hires or just onboarding a few here and there, helping new employees find their place in your organization is incredibly important if you want them to stick around and perform at a high level.
We all know that being at work isn't really just about work, it's about the community, camaraderie and teamwork of working towards achieving the same goal day in and day out. Establishing cross-functional communities in the workplace can not only help balance an organization, but it also helps make new employees feel like they are a real part of the team. At Techstars, we assign new employees "peer mentors" to do exactly this.
Growing your organization is extremely challenging and hiring new people, especially those who are young and inexperienced, is a risk, but establishing a positive onboarding process helps ease the burden on your employees and ensures new employees are both nurtured and challenged.