The Future of Work is in Good Hands

Dr. Melanie Peacock, Contributor
Monday, April 26, 2021
The Future of Work is in Good Hands

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As another academic year is winding down, a pool of students will be completing their studies and entering the world of work. As a post-secondary educator, I am often asked to describe the characteristics of graduates. Industry colleagues want to know what to expect as these individuals join their organizations. The disruption caused by COVID-19 has only served to heighten the inquiries as I sense some angst amongst employers about how well-prepared those leaving school will be to face the new, and ever evolving, realities of the work landscape.

Let me be clear. I don't like putting people in boxes, nor do I believe it is advisable to describe a generation or group of people all with the same qualities. Individual differences do, and will always, exist and therefore should be respected. This said, after 30 years as an educator, there are notable similarities that I've witnessed amongst those that are about to leave an academic environment and begin their careers.

The following are some highlights:


Those entering the workforce are hungry for knowledge. Time immersed in post-secondary learning has taught students the value of critical thinking and problem-solving skills, so they want to apply these competencies. As such, they will ask questions — about you, the people they will work with, the work itself, and the organization. Don't view this as a disturbance or distraction from your job. Be an open and accessible source of information. Capitalizing on this and leveraging their ongoing thirst for understanding will only serve to enhance and advance your organization's outcomes.


Many will assert that education provides development of exceptional skills for working in teams. One only has to hear the words "group project" and there is the belief that all graduates fully understand how to navigate group dynamics and processes. While opportunities have been provided to work with others, I'm going to be controversial and assert that a great deal of learning during students' post-secondary journeys has necessitated individual work that is driven by personal focus and motivation. This in and of itself isn't a bad thing and can be strategically used to ensure that new graduates are given opportunities to shine when performing individual tasks. With this in mind, when these newly hired people are placed into groups, it is critical that time is spent socializing them to your teams. One shouldn't expect that they will 'just know' how to do this, especially when working with those who have much more experience than they do, both professionally and personally.

Technical Knowledge and Ability

Those leaving post-secondary environments have utilized various platforms and on-line resources. As well, they have found creative ways to incorporate their personal preferences into their learning (think social media as an example).

New graduates have remarkable abilities to understand how to strategically link various technical resources in efficient and effective ways, not purely for pleasure but to produce results.

It is incumbent on you to encourage these new hires to review your technology and provide feedback and ideas for improvement. Capitalizing on this specialized knowledge will create many opportunities within your organization.


New graduates want to contribute and do a good job. They want to be successful. While it may be uncomfortable to talk about it, they are also nervous. Entering unchartered territory brings about imposter syndrome and fear of failure.

Setting clear performance expectations and providing regular coaching help to limit potentially damaging outcomes while maximizing the new team member's passion and motivation to succeed.

Those exiting post-secondary education are accustomed to ongoing feedback so it is up to you to ensure they get it.

Great Potential

The above noted characteristics serve to illuminate that new graduates have a great deal of potential and lots to offer future employers. Each of us has a role to play to ensure this happens — their success is not their sole responsibility. Together, working with those that are entering the workforce, I know that the future of work is in good hands — theirs and yours.

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Dr. Melanie Peacock

Dr. Melanie Peacock


Dr. Melanie Peacock, PhD, MBA, CPHR, SHRM-SCP, is an Associate Professor with the Bissett School of Business at Mount Royal University and past-president of the University's Faculty Association. Melanie runs her own boutique firm, Double M Training & Consulting, and is a published author of various best-selling HR books including The HR Professional's Guide to Change Management and Understanding Human Resources Management, 1st Canadian Edition.

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