Iowa College Grads Need Training on How to ‘Make Appropriate Eye Contact’
As I read "The Wall Street Journal's" article, my jaw nearly hit the floor. How could recent college grads be so clueless about working in person? Then it hit me: they've spent the last year and a half in a virtual world.
It's easy to take for granted the small nuances that make up our day-to-day interactions, but it seems as though the pandemic has robbed these students of a fundamental skill set. Who knew that a company would need to teach someone how to introduce themselves and pause to let the other person respond? It's almost comical, but it speaks to the challenges these grads will face in a post-COVID world.
Thankfully, major companies have started to take action. Offering training sessions on in-person communication is just the start. Colleges too have stepped up and created courses that cover everything from elevator chit-chat to appropriate work attire.
Teaching Basic Conversation
With recent graduates spending the majority of their college careers taking virtual classes and participating in remote internships, there is a need for them to enhance their soft skills, including email etiquette, casual conversations, and dressing appropriately in the workplace.
In response, some companies and universities are providing training to help Gen-Z employees adjust to an office environment, as per The Wall Street Journal's latest report.
For instance, KPMG has introduced preliminary training for new recruits, which teaches them how to communicate effectively in person. Sandy Torchia, the company's Vice Chair of Talent and Culture, informed the Journal that this includes providing advice on maintaining appropriate levels of eye contact and pauses in conversations. Earlier this year, Deloitte and PwC also started delivering comparable training programs, as per the Financial Times report from May.
According to the Journal, Protiviti, a consulting company, has enhanced its new hire training during the pandemic with virtual meetings that cover topics such as authentic conversation. Scott Redfearn, the company's Executive Vice President of Global Human Resources, revealed that Protiviti has reminded new hires to avoid wearing blue jeans with holes, as such casual attire is inappropriate for work.
As each generation enters the workforce, they are faced with a cultural gap. This includes understanding what attire is appropriate for business, using technology and social media appropriately, and adapting to corporate social norms.
The same was true for Millennials and Gen X as they entered the workforce. However, with Gen Z's complex history with social media, the gap is wider than ever before.
Universities like Michigan State are trying to bridge this gap. They are encouraging companies to provide clear guidance to new hires on how to dress and behave in the workplace. Additionally, they are offering courses that teach soft skills like in-person networking.
One such course focuses on networking conversations. Students are reminded to pause after introducing themselves and allow the other person to respond. They are also taught how to read signs that indicate the conversation may be coming to an end.
Experts suggest that even though most companies provide onboarding sessions to discuss office dynamics, including attire and interpersonal relationship rules, younger employees require constant reminders now more than ever. According to Helen Hughes, an associate professor at Leeds University Business School, it's critical for young workers to comprehend norms, values, and etiquette. Who should they contact, how should they be contacted, and are there any boundaries?
Several CEOs believe that younger workers should spend more time in the office. In earlier statements, Meta's Mark Zuckerberg argued that employees who joined in person had a higher average performance than those who joined remotely. Consequently, the firm mandates its workers to spend at least three days each week in the office.