Graduates just entering the workforce may have the technical skills needed for the job, but years of online learning mean their professional social skills are somewhat lacking.
- The class of 2023 was in the middle of its freshman year in 2020, right when the world shut down and distance learning became the norm. Now, they are starting to see the consequences.
- Many students were forced to complete their college education online, and others had no option other than virtual or hybrid internships.
- Though convenient, these virtual education environments significantly affected students’ ability to interact socially on a professional level, The Wall Street Journal reports.
- In response, some companies are developing ways to teach new hires the soft skills they may have missed.
Why it’s news
Graduates from the era of virtual learning will face challenges that previous generations did not. To combat these shortcomings, companies and universities may have to get creative to provide these new hires with opportunities to catch up on skills they missed out on.
Miami University in Ohio has started trying creative solutions to provide its graduates with the soft skills they will need to survive in the business world. The college hosted an etiquette dinner where students were given instructions such as how to butter a bread roll or properly hold cutlery, The Wall Street Journal reports.
At Warner Bros. Discovery, some interns had the opportunity to attend a presentation on office dynamics. This discussion spelled out some of the unwritten rules of the office place, such as office dress codes, interacting with coworkers, and some of the nuances of in-person work.
Michigan State University has started to require that its business students attend soft skills classes to help them learn how to network. The school has also asked companies to start over-communicating expectations, including dress code and what to do during a lunch break.
The university’s classes cover topics such as networking and watching for signs that someone is trying to end a conversation.
Some of these lessons may seem like common sense for employees who have had the opportunity to work in person or attend in-person internships, but for young employees who have not had the chance to learn through experience, spelling out social cues may be helpful.
While studies show that younger workers are eager to work in the office at least part-time, many may struggle to navigate social cues or understand appropriate behavior in a workplace meeting.
Vice-chair of talent and culture at tax advisory company KPMG Sandy Torchia puts her company’s new hires through presentation training. While at the company’s training facility in Florida, the new employees will practice scenarios such as workplace conflicts and how to chat with a colleague or client.
During these training sessions, the company has found that the young workers are likely to be too stiff, talk too fast, or use jargon and filler words, The Wall Street Journal reports.
One of the other problems businesses face is that young employees do not know how to dress appropriately for the workplace. Professional service firms PricewaterhouseCoopers and Protiviti say that they have had to tell new employees that their clothes are inappropriate for certain workplace situations, The Wall Street Journal reports.
In many cases, Protiviti’s global human resources vice president Scott Redfearn says, young employees dress too casually. He has started defining what the company means by business casual, such as wearing slacks, collared shirts, blouses, skirts, and professional footwear.
While many aspects of appropriate social workplace behavior feel second nature for seasoned professionals, they may need to be more patient with the next generation of workers.