From effectively handling e-mail to casually conversing in an elevator, new-hires—many of whom experienced at least part of their college experience online due to the pandemic—are entering the workforce without the interpersonal skills to prosper. Interpersonal skills refer to the various ways people work with and relate to others. They include the ability to communicate effectively, collaborate, manage time, and think critically, and experts say these skills can be learned.
Employers have noticed that since 2020, many new grads struggle with basic interpersonal dynamics such as reading social cues or behaving appropriately in meetings. The young workers have difficulty connecting with others, managing deadlines, or presenting in front of others. Experts say these issues are a direct consequence of having inadequate in-person mentoring and valuable on-the-job learning due to the pandemic.
The problem is so widespread that many college career centers have met with local employers to warn them that new graduates will require explicit instructions on the basics, including how a first day on the job may look, what to wear, and even what to do for lunch. Some colleges have responded to the situation by requiring their business students to take classes on interpersonal skills as elementary as introducing oneself by using a first and last name.
Employers are responding by training their newbies and providing the advice that can help them succeed. Warner Bros. Discovery, for instance, created a presentation on office behavior, dress codes, and interpersonal work relationships. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), the professional services firm, has had to coach new workers on wardrobe choices, especially for client site visits because new workers were dressing too informally. The company has also had to specifically define why a professional image is important, knowledge that used to be obvious to workers. PWC even began year-long onboarding process that covers topics such as making social conversation and impromptu public speaking so participants learn to come across authentically instead of awkwardly.
Hirers have also noted that new workers need guidance on collaboration. KPMG’s new-hires go through training in which they learn how to deal with conflicts in groups and even the basics of talking to colleagues, such as maintaining eye contact and avoiding jargon. And although the newest generation of workers is considered to consist of digital natives, Gen Z workers have not learned how to respond to and manage e-mail, other firms complain.
One thing is certain. Since over half of recent grads prefer to work in person full-time, they are going to need to grasp the nuances of the workplace—or they won’t thrive in it.
- Why is eye contact important when conversing?
- Why are deadlines so critical in the workplace?
- How did the months of taking online classes affect your ability to be a valuable employee?
Ellis, L. (2023, June 16). New grads have no idea how to behave in the office. Help is on the way. The Wall Street Journal. https://www.wsj.com