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Class of 2014: Will new grads fill employers’ needs?

The 2014 wave of college graduates has hit the employment shore, providing employers with a flood of eager applicants ready to put their newly acquired skills to work. But are they landing on solid ground or shifting sand?

Some statistics indicate the terrain is more stable than in recent years, but the road is still challenging. A survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers notes that employers expect to hire 8.6 percent more 2014 grads than they hired from the class of 2013. CareerBuilder reports that 57 percent of the employers it surveyed plan to hire new graduates, up from 53 percent last year.

Despite those encouraging surveys, young jobseekers have questions: What do employers expect, and what do we expect from employers? Employers have questions, too: What do we need from these new entrants to the world of work, and are they prepared to fill our needs?

What new grads want
A new report, “Class of 2014: Your Next Generation of Top Talent,” emphasizes the importance of communication, mentorship, and leadership. Achievers and ConnectEDU, two companies that team up to gather information from new jobseekers, surveyed more than 15,000 students for the companies’ fifth annual survey of new grads.

Speaking to employers, the report says the class of 2014 is “extremely keen to create impact and advance rapidly—but not without the guidance and mentorship of your company’s leaders.”

The report goes on to say the challenge for HR professionals is to understand how to provide the best training and mentorship as well as effective communication and engagement.

The “Class of 2014” report urges employers to get “in tune with the dynamics of this new generation” because millennials are quickly gaining numbers in the workforce while baby boomers are exiting for retirement. The report claims that the U.S. economy will suffer a shortfall of 6 million workers this year.

“The outcome will be a talent war where by 2015, 60 percent of new jobs will require skills held by only 20 percent of the population. Attracting and retaining this new workforce will be of paramount importance,” the “Class of 2014” report says.

The report includes a ranking of the factors new graduates say keep them engaged with an employer. Topping the list is communication, followed by leadership, culture, professional and personal growth, accountability and performance, rewards and recognition, vision and values, and corporate responsibility.

What employers should do
The report notes that as boomers retire, “they’re taking years of experience, knowledge, and workplace ideals with them.” The millennials replacing them are the most educated generation in history, the report claims, but also the least experienced. That makes it tough for employers to recruit new workers who have “the cutting-edge skills and experience employers seek,” the report says.

So employers should figure out what kind of talent they need to develop for the future and then decide how to coach the new graduates they hire so that they’ll be ready to take on leadership roles.

The report also advises employers to examine recruiting strategies and determine how accessible their organizations are to new grads. “Provide opportunities for millennials to communicate with your company directly when prospecting, via internal referral programs, social media, or recruiting events,” the report urges.

Since the new crop of employees values training opportunities, the report’s authors advise employers to make their training and succession planning clear so the young workers will understand how the organization plans to keep them qualified for future advancement.

In addition to training, communication is key, the report notes. “But how, where and when communication happens today has drastically changed from the internal communication strategies HR professionals practiced 15, 10, and even five years ago. Today, we are seeing a huge shift towards connecting employees through social collaboration platforms and mobile connectivity given dispersed workforces.”

What employers want
It’s not just about what new grads want. Employers also have needs and expectations regarding their new employees. The National Association of Colleges and Employers Job Outlook 2014 Spring Update includes a list of traits employers most want from new grads. Skills were assigned an importance rating based on a five-point scale. The most important skills and their ratings are:

  • Ability to make decisions and solve problems—4.7.
  • Ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization—4.6.
  • Ability to obtain and process information—4.6.
  • Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work—4.5.
  • Ability to analyze quantitative data—4.4.
  • Technical knowledge related to the job—4.2.
  • Proficiency with computer software programs—4.1.
  • Ability to create and/or edit written reports—3.7.
  • Ability to sell or influence others—3.6.