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Graduate Management Development Programmes: You’ve Recruited Them – Now What?


Recruiting graduates can prove expensive, especially if you don't work hard to keep them. In the second of a three part series on graduate development, consultant Mike Morrison explains how a management development programme can produce real business benefits.

Recruiting graduates can be an expensive process. This cost is doubled if you have the wrong person in the wrong role, or that as an organisation you fail to live up to your expectations and they leave prematurely. One thing for sure is that your graduates will be talking to colleagues from their former university. They will be sharing job experiences and the type of training they are getting, salary (yes young people today do tell each other what they are earning) and how they are being treated.

It's not what you do it's the way that you do it
Many recruiters of graduates have some sort of training plan for them, some more formal than others. However, if the graduate feels that they are not getting the training they were expecting and hear of former classmates that are you can say goodbye to your hard earned employee in a very short time.

In fairness most employers do have a training programme – it's just that the graduate does not see it that way. Remember this audience have spent three to four years in classrooms – to them, on the job training is work. So it's about managing expectations while delivering the type of development and training you need them to have. This can be about education, helping this group to understand that training might be courses, coaching, mentoring, placement etc.

Some organisations offer a 'cook's tour' of placements to help the graduate get to know the organisation and the different roles contained within it. As many graduates have never had a full time job before – along with the perceived constraints, our role is to help the graduate understand what and how they can contribute. This type of process can also help to demonstrate the breadth of options available to good people within an organisation.

Any good and effective development programme will have a beginning, middle and end.

Let's start at the beginning
Its week one, day one, and the start of the induction process. This is often the make or break of a relationship. If managed well it reaffirms with the graduate that it is the right choice or it can quickly show a graduate that they have made a mistake! One organisation I work with have a five per cent graduate loss by the end of week one. I believe this to be down to the style of the induction programme they have selected rather than being a 'poor' employer. Better to lose people in week one than week 53.

The inductions need to be a balanced event (or series of events) which have the following goals:

  • Welcome the new recruits

  • Gives them the important information they need

  • Gives them a true overview of the organisation – along with how they fit

Many inductions give too much information in too much detail – others have no induction! Some even have the full induction on their intranet or a DVD – and how boring does that sound?

From the world of accelerated learning we know that some people like to have the big picture, some like the detail and all need this in an appropriate balance. If you can develop an induction based on the individual's learning style (something you may have assessed at an assessment centre), what learning style is your current induction process based upon?

Remember you still need to be 'selling' the company to them – just because they have signed the employment contract does not mean you can stop the marketing effort.

If you have a placement or development programme for them, tell them now. So many organisations are either poorly organised or just feel that the graduates do not want to see the programme that a significant number leave because they feel that they are not getting the programme they expected. Remember this is very much the MTV age where everything is moving fast and if is not happening in front of them it does not exist.

The Mentor or coach
A common part of any graduate development programme is the provision of a mentor or coach, depending on the style of the organisation – some have both. This is a key relationship. I have seen organisations spend significant sums of money on training mentors only for them not to have the time to support the employees they are mentoring.

With the good intentions of the HR department, if the operational part of the programme does not deliver it impacts the graduates' perception of just how important they really are, and that perhaps the programme and mentor scheme is just marketing spin to recruit people. Unfortunately you are better off not providing mentors if the culture of the organisation will not enable them to spend time fulfilling this role.

More than just job skills
Some enlightened organisations recognise that individuals on their graduate schemes may well climb the organisation faster than other people, so they run graduate management development programmes (GMDPs) to assist this growth. This type of development plan can not only help in the longer term but in the short term too. The transition to the working environment can be a challenge for a significant proportion of graduates. The politics, performance expectations and having to deal with ambiguity for some individuals, act as significant barriers to integration and performance in their role.

As well as giving these individuals skills and competencies, a graduate management development programme (GMDP) can also contribute to changes in organisational culture. If done carefully, starting changes in this audience can migrate through line managers, peers and mentors. This can be very much a longer term strategy but it does work when planned and trained effectively.

Typical graduate programmes which support transition and lay down foundations include:

  • Managing self – improving personal effectiveness
  • Working with others – understanding different personalities, focus on utilising peoples strengths
  • Managing work – the importance of planning
  • Managing finance – well it is a commercial world
  • Managing others – an introduction to management
  • Presentation and communication skills – having an idea is one thing communicating it effectively is quite another

Arie de Geus, the former head of Royal Dutch Shell, once said: "The ability to learn faster than the competition is often the only sustainable competitive advantage a company can have". This is also true for individuals. So it is surprising that few graduates are taught modern effective learning skills, Garner's multiple intelligence theory, learning cycles etc. These tools can help within the workplace.

Graduates that have been taught these learning tools effectively report that they can assimilate learning faster and can learn faster on the job. I always recommend an accelerated learning module on the graduate programmes I design.

Equally it could be said that "the ability to continually innovate in more areas than the competition is often the only sustainable competitive advantage an organisation can have". Helping to build the innovative capacity of individuals and teams should be core to any development programme. The work of Dr Jacqueline Byrd in her book The innovation equation lays out a practical approach to developing innovation in any workplace. This, of course, ignores any technical or organisational specialist training that this audience (or individual) may need.

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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