Jessica Farley is a Talent Development Manager for Coventry Building Society, who is speaking at next month’s Graduate Recruitment and Development Forum, discusses Graduate programme on-boarding to development.

At the Coventry Building Society, we are relatively new to having a Graduate Programme, with 2017 being our second intake. This has given us a perfect opportunity to shape what we are doing, linking it to our Society CARES values (Caring, Attentive, Reliable, Ethical and Straightforward) as well as the needs of each individual. Different functions have taken one to two Graduates each allowing us to tailor each programme perfectly. As one Graduate commented, “I felt at all times welcomed into my team… and the people genuinely reflect the company’s values.”

We took on 10 Graduates in 2016 and a further 11 in September 2017, covering functions such as Risk, IT, Finance, Financial Crime as well as a Management Development Programme which help develops Graduates into becoming operational managers.

Our Early Careers Portfolio sits within our Talent and Leadership Development Team. We created a set of capabilities and then built upwards to create a programme where every activity is thought through in detail and linked to what learnings / capabilities that the graduates achieve whilst carrying them out. Some examples of these capabilities include building self-understanding, building relationships, making decisions and implementing change.

Our mission is “Putting Members First”, and this is factored into every decision that we make. Our Graduates typically spend four weeks of the programme linked to getting to know and understanding our Members. This is achieved by spending time in one of our branches as well as time on the phones in one or more of our call-centres.

The line managers of the Graduates work closely with the Early Careers team and are a massive part of our Graduate world, with each function having an overall lead to coordinate placements, objectives and key learnings. For us, we know each of our Graduates stories, their aspirations and their development needs.

As part of our programme, Graduates spend time building capabilities, finding out about all areas of the Society, and networking with our wider Early Careers individuals, as well as those working towards being people managers for the first time. They also meet in smaller support and challenge groups to build soft skills such as their personal brand and communication skills, as well as developing and sharing their learnings with each other.

The Society is firmly rooted in the communities in which we serve and where our members and employees live. During the two-year training programme, the graduates participate in two community projects demonstrating our member first principles. One of the projects is linked to our schools programme, where Graduates coordinate and lead a group of employees from around the Society in a ‘fun with numbers’ maths session aiming to build confidence in numeracy for children in local primary schools. The other project encourages the group to work as one, identifying a charity and carrying out a form of “DIY SOS”, fundraising and then giving their time to help a charity too. Last year’s intake worked on developing a community garden, which not only demonstrated and encouraged great teamwork, but also left a lasting legacy for the charity too.

For us, a Graduate programme should reflect the company and we definitely feel that ours represents our Society well. Even at the Assessment stage, we are clear about who we are and what we do. One of our application questions is about how an individual demonstrates our values, which is crucial to us. During our assessment centres, we have all of our assessors in from the start of the day to ease any unnecessary stress and worry and “humanise” them – it helps to share some stories and play a couple of games before we get started. This way, we get the best from our candidates and the day and we give the best experience for everyone. One of our Graduates added “The application process was fantastic, the way that the Coventry put the time in to get to know you… made the experience feel personal, rather than just being another applicant.”

In the second year with us, our Graduates are assigned Mentors from our Talent Development programme which is a fantastic development opportunity for both mentor and mentee. We also hold a development day focused on CVs and interviews as well as creating mock interviews for each graduate tailored around the Graduate Programme capabilities and the role in which they are working towards. This allows us to identify any gaps in their knowledge to work with them to plug these ready for moving into their next roles.

Part of our EVP (employer value proposition) is about “the way work should be” – and our Graduate Programme is no different. Here, programmes are tailored to individuals and we invest a lot of time and support in each one to ensure that they get the best from their two years, ready to take on whichever career route they have chosen within the Society.

We do everything we can to set our Graduates up for success and can’t wait to see what the future holds for both for the individuals concerned but for their impact on the Society as well.