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Emma Davidson

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Four ways to create a thriving graduate culture in the workplace


Today’s graduate schemes play a fundamental role in many organisations, with employers increasing the number of graduate positions in their companies by nearly five percent in 2017 alone.

Of course, from a business perspective, this makes total sense. Fresh blood and younger generations offer creative ideas and unique insights, and are destined to become your company’s leaders in the not-so-distant future.

It’s evident that enticing and keeping top talent is high on the agenda for most businesses, with leaders trying to evolve and offer packages to appeal specifically to graduates.

But the question on many businesses’ lips is: ‘How can we create a graduate programme that sets ourselves apart from competitors and ensures we make it to the top of a graduate’s list?’

1. Provide the right opportunities

Finding something you can offer graduates that your competitors can’t instantly makes you stand out. According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, the average young adult holds an average of 7.2 jobs between the ages of 18-28.

It’s inevitable that young graduates may go in search of other positions, but you can help prevent this by giving them access to the training and learning they need to move both vertically and horizontally.

It might be that you achieve this through a rotational system, offering new recruits the chance to ‘test run’ different roles. Rotational schemes may seem like a lot of effort to organise, but by allowing graduates to get a feel for different roles, you are letting them experience the company holistically. They can understand what it is that interests them, where their skills lie and build a lasting bond with your business.

Graduates don’t just want to earn a paycheck, they want to invest time acquiring the skills and knowledge they need to grow both personally and professionally. You could help many achieve this by granting more ownership and accountability for particular projects.

Whether this involves taking on their own assignments, adding to research or launching new products, this is all fantastic experience that might not be readily proposed elsewhere.

Try widening the pool from which your graduates are sourced. Many companies typically go back to the same handful of universities, meaning they end up hiring from the same socio-economic backgrounds.

You must be careful though. I still see some organisations continue despite reasoned evidence, to adopt a “sink-or-swim” approach to management. They hire and promote strong candidates, with great potential only to let them drown in the deep end.

In the process, they discourage would-be managers from contributing to future endeavours and weaken their leadership pipelines. While you want graduates to experience responsibility and creative freedom, you must give them the direction and encouragement they need to grow.

Provide graduates with a mentor who is separate from their day-to-day manager. This will give them opportunities to discuss worries and identify ways to progress, while still enabling them to use newly acquired skills in practice.

2. Know your target ‘audience’

Forming robust connections with universities is fundamental to promoting your graduate scheme. Close partnerships deliver insights on the most appropriate students to target and the best fairs for your company to attend.

Career fairs and scheme talks provide valuable face-to-face time with students. You can build personal connections and accurately assess whether someone is a good fit for your team.

Business leaders should work closely with their HR teams to create the right job packages for aspiring graduates. To stay competitive, they need a fresh approach to compensation reflecting new values, attitudes and lifestyles.

So, what are some of the things millennials want in their careers? (hint: it’s not more money). In fact, according to PwC’s millennials at Work study, many would give up pay or delay a promotion to achieve an ideal work schedule instead.

Younger generations tend to look at a job package as a whole. Make sure your offers to graduates include details on company health insurance, flexible working and greater holiday allowance to attract the right attention.

3. Re-consider traditional recruitment methods

While some elements of unconscious bias might seem innocent, we know they can have a negative impact on workplace diversity. Businesses can start combatting this by setting up and partnering with school and university outreach programmes, or by challenging internal expectations and language used in job descriptions.

Start applying a consistent and thoughtful system across the talent acquisition process, so you can be sure to avoid inadvertently excluding the best candidates. For example, asking for applicants from a ‘top university’ connotes bias towards Oxbridge graduates (even if they graduated at the bottom of their class). Try alternative wording to see if this creates differences in your applicant pool.

An effective graduate scheme can be hugely beneficial to your business. However, it’s imperative leaders implement robust strategies to ensure programmes are successful.

Make sure you include a face-to-face meeting early in the interview process. Even if a candidate does not perform well in online tests or telephone interviews, if their CV stands out, it’s still worth meeting them. In person, they might show raw talent that just requires a bit of training and support for them to shine.

If you don’t choose a candidate, write down why. What skills were they missing? That forces you to put on the table a set of beliefs that might otherwise be unconsciously informing other factors.

Try widening the pool from which your graduates are sourced. Many companies typically go back to the same handful of universities, meaning they end up hiring from the same socio-economic backgrounds. This potentially creates an environment lacking diversity of thought, which can be harmful to business.

4. Make it cost effective

Investing large sums into graduate schemes does not always guarantee success. You must foster programmes that develop employees and inspire them to stay with the company long after it ends. Even if you can’t offer the highest salaries, there are ways to make your organisation just as appealing as larger competitors.

Younger employees seek more flexibility and control over their benefits. They’re also drawn to programmes providing assistance with stress and endorsing physical health. In response to this, you could offer benefits to appeal to these requirements.

Sparking wellness-related contests across the business in an amusing and friendly style can be a successful and inexpensive way to appeal to younger employees. Big organisations were quick to benefit from the current fitness tracker craze, but this is something smaller companies can use too, without needing a big financial investment.

The mobile app Walkingspree advocates fitness objectives by inspiring people to reach step goals, individually or as part of a group. It uses workers’ personal fitness trackers too, meaning organisations don’t have to shell out for expensive gadgets.

You can offer quarterly or bi-annual health and fitness prizes for star performers - such as free sportswear, PT sessions or spa treatments. This rewards healthy behaviour and stellar business performance, without requiring big budgets to interest graduates.

An effective graduate scheme can be hugely beneficial to your business. However, it’s imperative leaders implement robust strategies to ensure programmes are successful. Those who adapt their recruitment processes, so they don’t screen out untapped potential and provide ongoing support, will see their schemes thrive.

3 Responses

  1. Creating a positive
    Creating a positive atmosphere in the work place is so important, especially for graduates who are coming into their first role. I was lucky enough to land an awesome job opportunity through Talent Pool when I graduated. They specialise in ensuring the role is right for you, and help you to find positions you may not have though to consider! Check them out here:

  2. It really depends on your
    It really depends on your business field as not every sector can achieve great results with a pool of graduates. Some services require the expertise of experienced professionals to lead the team to great success. However, I bet there isn’t any harm in gathering a team of both pioneers and graduates together.

  3. It has been a long time since
    It has been a long time since I was fresh out of school and before I was a self storage facility manager, but I think I do remember a fair bit about how I was like when I went into my first job! I think that a lot of these guys just want to learn and they are eager to do so! A company needs to be able to foster that confidence and provide a learning and nurturing environment to all these guys!


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