With the tremendous potential that comes with graduate development, there are also challenges to overcome; delivering a learning programme in an engaging way that works for a younger audience, giving them the skills they need for the variety of roles they will experience, and supporting them both during and after the programme, to name a few. Never mind the goal of keeping them in the business after their rotation has ended.
When you then add their recent experience of a pandemic into the mix, this gives programme sponsors and managers another important aspect to take into consideration when seeking to understand how current graduates will show up, learn, and cope – both in a working environment and on their graduate programme. This has largely impacted 2 essential skills that we expect talent to possess – 2 skills, amongst others, that we focus on developing:
Many among this generation have finished education without having had the opportunity to work a part-time job. They haven’t got used to working in a ‘typical’ environment with the work-social interactions these bring – connecting with their peers, managing upwards and managing their own time. Recent graduates starting a full-time job can find themselves in either a totally virtual or hybrid environment. That’s where 100% ownership comes in. How do I take ownership for my career? How do I take ownership for giving and receiving feedback? Managing my own diary?
Typically, people who have secured a place on a grad programme have had a very academic career up until now. They spent 2 years studying for their GCSEs, then they had an exam and they got a result. Next up was their A Levels, and the same thing happens; a contained, set period of time when they are learning with a specific outcome in mind. They ace it, and they move on to the next thing.
When they reach the ‘real world’, there is no set period of time with an exam at the end – it’s ongoing learning for the rest of their career. Their currency has been knowing the right answer and passing exams, so they enter work feeling like they should know everything; they often don’t feel like they can ask questions which can leave them feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.
Even the most accomplished and extraordinary senior leaders don’t reach a point where they are ‘done’ with learning. This is an ongoing journey and the best leaders understand this. Therefore, there is a real need for graduates to unlearn their previous mindset to become courageous learners; failing forward and failing fast, looking at what they can learn from each situation that they didn’t ace first time.
But it’s not all bad news
Whilst Covid may have restricted experiences and impacted some of the opportunities previous grads and school leavers have had, there are many positives and even some skills current grads and school leavers have gained that previous generations didn’t. For example, becoming a self-starter; many took the time afforded to us during multiple lockdowns to complete an online course or to take up a new skill. Whilst for some their resilience was knocked by this experience, others were forced to develop a resilience and drive to be a self-learner.
Graduates have become comfortable with virtual working, as in many cases this has been their only experience of employment. Depending on personality and preferences, many have learned how to build relationships in a virtual world – something plenty of us are still figuring out.
Why should you include leadership development as part of your grad programme?
We often hear about the ‘war for talent’ and that differentiating grad programmes can help a prospective employer to attract and retain young talent. While true, in our opinion that is too narrow a focus for your graduate programme – there’s a wider, societal benefit that is even more engaging and exciting. When we equip talent with the leadership and life skills to become extraordinary, it changes lives, creates better leaders and transforms individuals, organisations and societies.
Digging down to specifics, there are also immediate benefits. Clare Mitchell, Director of Programmes, shares her observations: “We often see what we call ‘a magic weekend’ which happens to grads a lot – they go on grad rotations and then they end up leading a small team. On the Friday they were part of the team and on the Monday they’re now leading the teams and it’s as if people think a magic weekend happened in between, where they gained leadership skills, when in reality nothing has changed.”
How can we expect someone to do a good job of leadership if they’ve had no intro into it? When they know how to have effective conversations, take 100% ownership, give and receive powerful behavioural feedback early in their career, there are tangible quick shifts as well as wider, cultural shifts that happen.
Traditional grad schemes can be geared towards developing someone for a specific role but grads can often think, what’s in it for me as an individual? When someone is given the opportunity to understand themselves fully – what they are passionate about, what their vision and values are and what type of leader they are – they have confidence to bring their full selves to any role within your organisation. They are much more likely to stay within an organisation that has a culture of learning and development and invests in them as a person.
We work in true partnership with our clients to create a seamless and culturally aligned learning experience for their graduates.