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Running a world class graduate programme?

The graduate recruitment round is over and thoughts now turn to on-boarding and development.  Due to cutbacks many organisations now have the chance to review existing development programmes or develop a new one.  We work with a range of clients and there are four key questions that graduate developers ask time and time again:

  • What should the programme cover?
  • How will I measure success?
  • How can I win stakeholder engagement and line manager support?
  • What do I need to do after the programme to ensure that graduates remain engaged and continue to develop?

What should the programme cover?

This can be answered by looking at:

  • the skills that the graduates will need in the first couple of years
  • the long term aims for the programme – is it to develop technical specialists or senior managers?
  • data from the selection process.

Business awareness and understanding is obviously a key need and for many graduates commercial and financial awareness is lacking.  There are other development needs that graduates share which include a need to develop self awareness, assertiveness and influencing without authority, time and project management and business etiquette and personal impact.

The design and approach used is important – making the graduates learn for themselves helps them to make the transition from academic life and to take responsibility for their own development and career.

Measuring success or justifying the investment?

Evaluation has now become ROI in these budget constrained times so the first question is not what to measure but why.  If the reason is to have confidence in graduate recruitment as a viable way to recruit and retain talent then measure retention over one, three, five and ten years and compare this and recruitment and development costs to those associated with alternative ways of recruiting and developing talent.

If the reason is to measure the effectiveness of the programme then establish clear aims at the start of the programme and measure how well these are met over time.  The process of gaining real clarity about the aims of the programme will significantly help design and also help with engagement of the key stakeholders.  Using line managers in the evaluation process will also help win their support.

Getting managers on board

We know that many programmes are compromised by poor line management and the best programmes work well because key stakeholders are engaged and involved in the programme.  Regular discussion and involvement of key managers in recruitment decisions and programme development and delivery goes a long way to winning engagement.  Getting line management support can be harder especially if you are recruiting in large numbers but here are some ideas:

  • only allocate graduates to managers with good people management skills
  • run briefing sessions, coaching training and provide guidance notes for line managers
  • question allocating graduates to managers who are involved in complex, time consuming projects as they may not have time to support the graduates
  • establish six monthly reviews for the manager to appraise the graduate and for the graduate to air concerns
  • maintain regular contact with line managers and graduates to keep track of progress and how things are going.

Avoiding post programme fall out

This is a common problem and can affect retention.  As graduates take up substantive posts and come off a structured development path, they can feel lost and abandoned.  By providing the graduates with tools and clarity about the path ahead this can be avoided.  Ideas include:

  • Running a development centre as the end of the programme can be effective as it allows graduates to self assess and put together a development plan for the next couple of years.
  • Career management workshops provide a way of providing information about how to manage their career in the future.  The organisation can also provide information about career paths and resources.
  • Linking the graduate programme into talent management processes is also important to make sure that high potentials do not drop off the radar.
  • Mentoring and coaching are also options to provide support for the graduates as they move away from the programme.

For more information about how we work with graduates as well as our open graduate programme, have a look at some examples of past programmes or call Jill on 0117 315 5243.