Balancing Experience and Motivation

You try to hire great people for your organization, and if you want to grow, then you need people with new ideas that can take you beyond what you have done before. But a lot of these people — especially fresh graduates — will have little experience in your industry, or maybe even very little professional experience over all. As they come in with grand ideas for change they will need to balance that with an understanding of reality…an understanding that many of them will not have due to that lack of experience. As an employer, you may often find it hard to maintain the balance between new thinking and the existing reality.

On the one hand, you want to take advantage of new employees’ motivation, and they will bring some fresh ideas from outside your company, perhaps introducing new ideas or new perspectives that can help your firm grow. New employees, especially young ones who may not yet have major financial responsibilities to distract them, often come to you because they are looking for something challenging and someplace where they can make a difference.

At the same time, without experience, they are likely to come in with some ideas that just are not feasible, and in some cases have been tried already and failed. Your older employees may not take them seriously, and may in fact see them as a threat to their own positions…after all, if these new folks have all the great ideas, maybe the experienced ones will not be able to keep up with them. So until your newbies get some experience, it may be tough for them to come up with practical ideas that have a shot at getting implemented.

But remember, your young new employees may want to being about change NOW and may not be prepared for a work environment that does not automatically accept everything they say. What should you, as a leader, do?

First, you have a responsibility to your business, so you can not put new ideas into practice merely to keep your new employees happy. If something will not work, do not be afraid to say so, though it is best to do it in a non-confrontational way; try not to go out of your way to make someone look bad or feel foolish in public.

Second, you do not want to squash your employees’ motivation, so be sure to evaluate each idea individually rather than just dismissing everything because “they are too young to know anything.” Your employees will value your opinion more if they know it is based on thoughtful analysis rather than on stereotyping.

To help with this, be honest with your new employees up front, letting them know how they will fit into your firm. Make sure they know if you want them to gain some experience before volunteering their opinions or if you want them to jump in headfirst right from the start. If they know the rules of the game they are more likely to stay with you until they have the chance to contribute meaningfully, rather than having expectations about their role that do not get met. They might not like stifling themselves (if that is what you have them do) but they will appreciate your honesty. It would also be good to have a development plan for them, something to give both you and your new employee a chance to mark their progress toward the point where they can maximize their contribution.

Next, ask yourself if “reality” is really set in stone. Remember, there are things you control about your environment, and things that you do not. If a new idea is not feasible because of circumstances outside your control, then you and your employee may just have to accept that. If, however, the thing that blocks a new idea is actually something that you CAN control, then consider what would happen if you made the changes necessary for that new idea to work. Know the difference between what you can control and what you cannot.

Finally, make sure your more experienced employees also understand your expectations for the newbies. If it is important to you for your new employees to feel they can contribute openly, then it should be important to your older employees as well. You might consider partnering your new employees with an experienced employee who can show them the ropes. This kind of mentoring can be useful to both parties.

You hire people because you think they are good, so it seems silly to lock them in a box and not listen to their ideas. Indeed, many of your employees come to you precisely because they want to do something interesting, and you are likely to lose them if you do not put them to good use. At the same time, they need some seasoning to be their most effective. Rather than just letting things play out on their own, take some positive steps to strike the best balance between their motivation and their level of experience.

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