Most employers know graduates are an investment in their organisation’s future. They understand they need to foster and develop graduates’ enthusiasm into competence, skills and experience which can be harnessed and turned into tomorrow’s leadershipe and profit.
However like parenting, graduate development requires careful thought and accurate planning.
Once an employer has identified and successfully recruited their graduates, induction is the first real organisational challenge. From the start, new graduates need to have sense of belonging to the organisation.
Graduates need to be introduced to the organisation’s key performance indicators and what effect their input can have on the organisation as whole. Like any employee, it is imperative that graduate recruits feel their role is productive and valued.
Graduates need to understand the organisation’s business literacy needs – how it makes money and how individual performance can add value to the bottom line. With this fundamental understanding, new graduates can begin to make meaningful contribution much earlier than they might otherwise.
New employees’ chances of success are also greatly improved if they have framework and guidelines within which to operate. They should know what their responsibilities are, what is expected of them, and perhaps most importantly in the early days, what they should do when there is too much – or not enough – work to do.
In order to maximise opportunities and minimise risk, it is essential that employers set clear boundaries. Client contact and the authority of the recruit need to be made clear to reduce the potential for misunderstanding.
Graduates are like sponges and stimulation is the key to growth. They have the capacity to soak up immense amounts of information. Getting graduates involved in different aspects of your organisation not only gives them chance to understand the whole operation, but also tempts their tastebuds and may give them better idea of the areas they want to specialise in.
Having spent years preparing for working life, graduates are champing at the bit to face the challenge of real case management. Encouraging new recruits to attend client meetings, even in an observation capacity, allows them to gain the real life experience they need and want.
Another important factor in getting the most from graduates is the establishment of some type of mentoring process. Every person in the organisation should essentially be mentor, but appointing specific mentor will give the recruit an opportunity to probe the mind of someone they respect. The mentor need not be someone chosen by the employer. Often someone the graduate identifies with and who may share similar styles and areas of interest is the best choice.
At the end of the day it is the casual and informal interaction with experienced staff on which graduates thrive. Knowing that senior people in the organisation are prepared to spend time and take the interest in them is what really matters.
Challenging graduates is very important for their development. Many employers don’t appreciate how rapidly graduates can begin contributing. Graduates want to be pushed and challenged right from the start. Setting tasks slightly above their comfort level but with manageable risk is an important part of getting the most out of graduates.
Perceived business risk is often the biggest hurdle many employers struggle with in taking “sink or swim” approach. This is often the best experience new recruits can get – and the only way to learn their boundaries.
Letting them take few mouthfuls of water can be highly instructive as long as there is lifeline handy and wary eye for sharks. With management support, it should be possible for organisations to minimise risk while still giving graduates the very important and satisfying opportunity to make decisions and swim successfully in the deep end.
Very few valuable resources are immediately useable in their raw states. Oil needs refining and gemstones require patience and skill to determine which rocks hold great prizes within.
Like these resources and many others, graduates require the same attention, development and refinement – in short, you get out of graduates what you put in.
If you offer them career rather than job and are prepared to back it up with opportunities you will see substantial return on your investment.
Bevan Gibbs is recent graduate with the organisational performance consultancy The Empower Group.