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Graduate Development Programmes: Making it Work


In the last of this three-part series, Mike Morrison reveals how to make graduate management development programmes work for your organisation.

Running a development programme for graduate recruits requires a number of decisions - so what works best?

In-house, external or accredited?
This is the perennial question asked by learning and development managers all over the world. The simple answer is all of them! For graduates in particular we are looking for additional effort above and beyond attending a training course – we need application and learning. That means effort beyond sitting in a chair.

Having a programme facilitated by external providers shows that the organisation is taking this seriously. Having the programme accredited by an external body (CMI, ILM etc) provides a carrot to work towards. Again, think marketing – it's something that your competitors (in the graduate recruitment field) are not doing – it gives you an edge. This is not to say that internal programmes are not as good – often they are better but this is about marketing and image.

Timing is crucial; developing the induction to give an overview then fill in the details over time works well and looks to the participants like a well thought through the programme. Starting the GMDP part of the programme some six to nine months into employment has a number of benefits:

  • the graduate has had enough of classroom stuff and wants to get on with the job
  • many graduates do not have much fulltime work experience so will have limited experiences to base their learning on
  • planning the programme over time helps show that the programme is well considered

Remember as well as being about marketing and brand image it's about retention and progress. If they tick all the development boxers in quarter one what are you going to do for the rest of the year/ graduate scheme?

Tying it all together
Having a programme of modules is one thing – making it integrate with each other and work is quite another. I have found the use of Action Learning Sets to be a valuable tool in supporting the learning back to the workplace, they can also act as an integrator or link between all elements of a development programme.

Finishing off – or the project close
A graduate training or development project is like any project – it has a beginning, middle and end. These should be distinct phases. The end is no exception. What marks the end of your scheme or programme? Change of job title? A slight pay rise? Certificate ceremony to say well done?

Whatever you do it needs to be the end of one phase and the beginning of another. Like a good presentation we need to know when the person has finished, when to applause. So many development programmes start with a blast from the trombones but end in a whimper. The transition from graduate to 'professional' or employee is an important step.

Moving on
In this MTV world with psychological contracts meaning less and less to all involved, employment for many is about a transaction, I do this - you do that. When the agreement is not seen to be delivered it could be a signal for time to move on. The demographic changes to the working populations mean that we need to ensure that we recruit the right people at the right time and take action to keep them.

Ask yourself a question - Is what we are doing encouraging people to stay in our organisation or giving them a reason to look elsewhere?

* Mike Morrison is an organisational development specialist with 20 years experience in development and management of graduates and training delivery. He can be contacted through


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