When a gap develops between what brands hope to get from students entering the workplace and what those new employees are capable of doing, the result can be expensive for the brand and frustrating for the recent graduate. Sometimes, that gap exists not because the student received a poor education or doesn't want to contribute, but because the brand is not prepared to make full use of their capabilities.
In a recent podcast recording, Carnegie Mellon University Professor Ari Lightman, who teaches classes in IT transformation, marketing, social media, and mobile content, discussed how brands can do better at harnessing peak performance from their new hires and how universities can improve a student's likelihood of success in the workforce.
What Brands Should Expect
Graduate students should prepare to be problem solvers. In school, they learn to use a variety of tools and processes to explore data and develop solutions. Brands can dumb them down by telling their newly minted employees that they have to change the way they work in order to fit in.
While some adaptation to the workplace is undoubtedly necessary on the part of the new hire, a willingness to adapt to the new employee on the part of the brand can pay significant rewards. Companies get more out of recent post-graduates when they encourage them to continue to use the culture, tools, and processes with which they have already been successful - the ones they used in school.
Break Projects Down Into Chunks
The school year, with its semesters and trimesters, artificially limits how long a project can take and how complex it can be. Among the biggest changes students entering the workforce have to deal with are project complexity and project duration.
Performance improves when the new employee can put her arms around a project and see an end in sight. Breaking down a complex project into smaller, more manageable chunks lowers their stress levels and helps illuminate a clearer path to success.
Employers aren't the only ones who need to adapt in this regard - universities can also make the transition easier for grad students entering the workforce.
Create Client Facing Opportunities for Students
Having been a successful consultant before becoming a teacher, Ari recognized the limitations of assigning purely theoretical projects to students which leave them without the real-world experience of working for a client, so he developed opportunities for students and brands to work together on projects.
These projects are brought to Carnegie Mellon by companies that would like to explore a particular area of interest, but whose desire to do so is not so great that they would make it a budget item. Ari puts together a team of students to work on the project and together they work out an approach, which includes identifying, collecting, and analyzing useful data. Each week they report on their progress directly to the client. The project concludes with a full presentation to the client, which is created and presented by the students.
Major brands have participated in these projects, and students have received job offers as a result.
Encourage Lateral Thinking
Every decision a brand makes has repercussions. In some academic settings, students may be asked to consider how a theoretical action will impact a given stakeholder, such as, "How did Company A's new marketing campaign impact their topline?"
Students who can envision and appreciate the effect of a decision from a variety of points of view (lateral thinking) are more valuable to the brands they join. An alternative way of asking that question in order to encourage lateral thinking might be, "How did Company A's new marketing campaign impact their topline, their social media department, their vendors, and their customers?"
Bridging Gaps to Harness Peak Performance
Just as a small misstep while climbing a cliff face can lead to a tragic result, the difference between an employee who flourishes and one who fails can be very slight. As Ari Lightman made clear in the podcast recording, students entering the workforce - and the brands that employ them - enjoy greater success when their universities prepare them for the real world and their employers embrace the gifts they bring to the table.
On This Social Business Engine Podcast Episode You'll Discover:
- How Ari was involved in many startups as a Management Consultant before becoming a Professor at Carnegie Mellon University.
- How there are 7 projects conducted in his class per semester for different companies.
- How the Pittsburgh Pirates (baseball team) came to Ari and his class to obtain research on community engagement in relation to ticket sales.
- The various social analysis and listening programs used by Ari's class.
Featured On This Episode of the Social Business Engine Podcast:
- Ari Lightman on Twitter and LinkedIn
- Ari Lightman's CMU faculty page
- Ari Lightman's personal blog
- Download Social Business Journal Vol. 3: Digital Transformation
- Subscribe to the Social Business Engine show
- Write a review of this podcast in iTunes
- Bernie Borges on Twitter: @bernieborges
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