10 Takeaways from NACE for Employers

Recently, I was in Dallas to host a presentation at the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Expo. 1,600 university career center and recruiting leaders packed into the Gaylord Texan for four days of networking and workshops.

In true Texas style, it was grand.

Here are a few of my favorite takeaways from the experience.

  1. Be short, sweet, and swallowable. Guy Kawasaki, former Apple executive and NACE keynote speaker, discussed the need to break our projects and ideas into bite-sized chunks that are easy to digest. A good reminder for us all especially at this time of year when we tend to overwhelm interns and new hires with a lot of information in a little window.
  2. Teach interpersonal communication. John Medina, author of the book Brain Rules, led an interesting discussion on how our minds are adapting to the digital age. Medina has spent the majority of his career studying mental health and has found that years of communicating via technology has resulted in digital natives (i.e. Gen Y) losing the ability to recognize facial cues. This is huge news since supervisor behavior is repeatedly cited as a key reason people quit – yet how can today’s new hires become tomorrow’s leaders without this key skill?
  3. Hire the idea generators. Medina also discussed another disturbing Gen Y trend, i.e. growing up Google means your entry-level hires are very accustomed to finding information, but not as comfortable actually generating it. In other words, according to Medina, we’re becoming a nation of searchers, not thinkers. The future success of your organization lies in the ability to root out the thinkers – and keep them onboard.
  4. Say so. Too often, what is viewed as poor performance is really the result of unclear expectations. Particularly with entry-level newbies, you have to be very specific about things lateral hires may take for granted. Accordingly, you should discuss – in detail – the success accelerators and decelerators in your organization. Do you expect all employees to respond to emails within 24 hours? Say so. Arrive by 8:30am? Say so.  Even though it seems obvious, you can’t hold new hires accountable for standards you haven’t defined for them.
  5. Conduct a premortem. If you’re implementing a new project for your organization (or looking for a good critical thinking exercise for summer hires), try a premortem. This is similar to a postmortem except, instead of looking back to debrief, you gather your team before the projects starts and pretend you failed miserably. Then, you ask the team to brainstorm all the reasons you failed so you can develop proactive strategies to avoid them.
  6. Make yourself available. If you supervise a group of new hires, you may want to consider scheduling a monthly breakfast where you (and/or members of your leadership team) are available to network. There’s no agenda and attendance is optional. Just you demonstrating your commitment to their success by giving your most valuable asset – your time.
  7. If you’re looking for a fun activity, consider a Passport Program. When your interns or new hires arrive, you give them a “passport” complete with their photo and pre-scheduled places to “visit.” These include colleagues they should know, fun lunch spots they should try, networking events they should attend, etc. When the newbies collect all their “stamps,” they receive a small gift basket full of treats from around the world.
  8. Consider stay interviews. When we ask people why they’re leaving, typically it’s after they’ve submitted a resignation. Stay interviews reverse this process by discovering what actually keeps your keepers. This doesn’t have to be a complex or formal initiative. Simply schedule short, individual meetings with team members and ask three questions. 1.) What do you like most about working here? 2.) Is there anything we could / should do to lengthen your employment? 3.) Are there any additional resources you’d like to have in your position? You won’t be able to implement all of the suggestions you receive, of course, but the fact that you cared enough to ask will go a long way.
  9. Twits rule. If you’re not on Twitter, you are seriously missing out. Twitter not only gives you the ability to target and connect with people you want to reach directly (bypassing email altogether), but it also gives you a platform to stay in contact with them well beyond a single meeting or event. For this reason, Twitter is the very best networking tool in social media right now. Period. I met more new contacts at NACE through Twitter than any other activity – including the scheduled receptions.
  10. Sell your vision. Guy Kawasaki’s presentation was about how to be enchanting and a big part of achieving this, he says, is selling people on your vision. For your new hires, this means painting your company for them in a way that inspires. Example: In accounting, the act of “crunching numbers” isn’t nearly as inspiring as what you really do, i.e. help clients solve problems.  Since employees are looking for more than “just a job” these days, painting a clear vision is especially important.

For a copy of the presentation I delivered at NACE, Five Steps to World-Class Onboarding: How to Keep Your Best Hires From Jumping Ship, click here.

Until next time, as they say in Austin (not Dallas)…. keep it weird.


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