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How to engage your graduates with their development

Something we hear often from our clients – and see on our programmes – is that keeping graduates bought-in and engaged throughout the learning process can be a challenge. Why is that? And what can organisations, as well as programme delivery teams, do to increase this elusive engagement?

A common challenge encountered is getting graduates to attend the training events, on time, and to show up fully present (i.e. not working simultaneously) Given the environment we have just emerged from, this is often a graduate’s first job so they are potentially inexperienced when it comes to working with a line manager and a team, having effective conversations, prioritising and understanding the role that development plays in their career.

To understand the reasons for low engagement, we need to understand how this generation likes to learn. From working with graduates, graduate employers and experts in generational intelligence like Dr Eliza Filby, we’ve learned that:

  • Customisation is important, so a one-size-fits-all won’t necessarily work
  • They’re independent learners who are used to getting what they want by Googling it, so just repeating what they could find online isn’t perceived as useful
  • They’re really interested in things that makes them feel individual so helping them to develop their own brand is appealing
  • Convenience is key – if it’s a clunky process they won’t bother with it, so things have to be one click away. Platforms have to be as easy as Amazon
  • They’re more socially and environmentally conscious, so they want to work with companies that are ethical, that do things in the right way
  • Certification makes a difference – they like certificates, badges of achievement and things they can put on their social channels
  • They want opportunities to learn from each other. Any way you can facilitate this and create a community will be beneficial

With this in mind, what can organisations do to increase engagement?

Firstly, if you’re seeing that engagement and attendance on development programmes is low, look at all the opportunities to engage grads pre-workshop and continue this throughout journey. This can span recruitment and induction – include information about their learning within any welcome packs, give them pre-work videos to watch and link this in with the rest of the business, encourage line managers to reference the amazing opportunities available to them. This increases the likelihood of them showing up to their learning engaged and excited.

Talk to grads about the fact they’re not expected to know all the answers. What’s really valued is being open, asking questions, and learning. Lots of the 21 year olds we’ve met and worked with think they need to wear a ‘management mask’; get it all right, be strong, don’t show vulnerability. Actually, being a human leader is about bringing your whole self to work, so supporting them to change their mindset around this is critical.

Support grads to go on a journey of discovery around what it is that really excites them. They might have chosen a degree subject because they are good at is, but it’s not their passion; just because someone has a natural ability for maths, that doesn’t mean they would be in their element as an accountant. Finding out what puts people in their element is really important. One of the things Ivy House do is to help people understand their core strength. Talking to them about their vision and values so they can make the right decisions for their career – and their life – is transformational.

It’s important that line managers go through this journey of discovery too, so they can role model, use the same language, and show up as we want grads to.

Deandra Murphy, Client Experience Director, recommends drawing upon your leaders within the business who already have these skills: “Something we’ve seen work really well is when an organisation runs internal spotlight session with courageous leaders who role model openness, talk about what’s worked well in their career and got them to where they are now. Whatever you want to see more of from your grads, find a leader who demonstrates that and showcase them to your graduate population.”

If you don’t have leaders who demonstrate those values, look at opportunities to develop those. The learning will only work if it’s part of the culture of the whole business and demonstrated throughout.

Senior leader sponsorship is key. This doesn’t have to be just HR or L&D leaders but also operational leaders that your graduates are familiar with, and whose insistence that they attend and maximise this place on the programme will carry weight.

On any programme you’re looking for a tipping point, and it only takes 1 or 2 people who don’t know why they’re there and are disengaged to be disruptive and taint the rest of the group.

You need people to show up engaged and ready – that’s why on our Master Programme people have to apply and earn their place. With one client we had 600 applications for 48 places, so when people won their place, they turned up with the mindset that they had won something of value.

You might also find the link to a short clip from one of our free events below useful. Coach Tim Hewitt talks about how we create an engaged learning here at Ivy House, to give you an insight into some of the techniques we use. And if you have any questions after reading and watching – please get in touch!





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