Alison Dodd: How to make your graduate scheme a mutual success

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Most modern businesses in the UK would love to benefit from an influx of talent, enthusiasm and new ideas.  A popular way to achieve this (and taken advantage of by larger corporates) is to employ someone just out of university.

Recent graduates have much to offer – many are intelligent, keen to do well, bright and well-educated, ambitious, willing to work hard to prove themselves; and a blank slate in many ways. gradrecbadge-badge

A comment misconception, however, is that graduates are only interested in London-based or multi-national corporations. Graduate schemes aren’t just for big companies though and SMEs up and down the country should be looking to take on graduates, apprentices and placement students. The big question is how companies, and particularly smaller businesses, can ensure that both themselves and their graduates get the most out of a graduate scheme.

Here are some ideas to help make your graduate scheme a success. Firstly the selection process has to be considered. You should never underestimate the importance of the selection process. Any new recruit will come with risks and a smooth integration is not guaranteed. However, with a selection process that is adapted to your organisation’s needs and by finding out what makes your graduates tick, you’ll reduce the hiring risk and see the long-term cost benefits of not having to replace them.

Finding the right graduate, however, means competing with Britain’s top employers, so providing an appealing grad scheme is vital. In the same way a product needs a unique selling point a graduate scheme will need something to distinguish it from the hundreds of others available to students.

You’ll need to be clear about what the graduate’s role will be and turn it into a professional document to put on your website. The role profile for your graduate needs to document the behaviours you expect and the foundation for performance success.

In order to raise awareness and peak interest in your graduate scheme, make sure to post the vacancy on your website, send your vacancy to the local universities (they will post it for free), use social media to extend the reach of your vacancy, and add your job to Gumtree and any other sites which offer free postings.

Graduates also need to be incentivised.  Although many don’t expect the Earth when it comes to money, graduate incentives have to go way beyond the financial. Many graduates are hardworking and clever people and all they need is the opportunity to prove themselves. Therefore, it’s important to treat them as valuable members of the team and not just as extra employees.

Here are some ideas to help you find and keep your graduates. Firstly, graduates have to be given some degree of responsibility. Graduates can bring a refreshing approach to work. Get the balance right between administrative tasks and exciting projects. Giving them meaningful work that contributes to your company and their development will help keep them motivated.

A balance also has to be found between teaching and telling. Graduates are often inexperienced so finding a balance between giving them a certain degree of freedom and showing them how to do their job properly is necessary to help them adapt to working life. It’s important to ask them for ideas and show you value their opinion. Chances are they will come up with some great ones.

An existing team must also be utilised. New recruits will feel much more integrated into their new surroundings if they feel accepted. It can also add some fresh impetus to your current team – perhaps your new graduates will have some ideas you’ve overlooked?

Let them ask questions: Sometimes, in an effort to impress, a graduate may feel reluctant to voice concerns or ask questions they consider stupid. One solution to this is assigning them a ‘buddy’ that will help them through the first couple of weeks and can serve as a first port-of-call for any questions they may have.

You also have to plan. As a graduate, it’s a real motivator to know a company sees you as part of their long-term goals. They’ll want to know where they could be in three or four years time, so have your answers ready. Giving them a framework of core competencies they need to work towards will help with this.

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