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Employee Experience

The golden question to ask when building a graduate programme

4 mins  |  28.11.2023

Creating a graduate programme is a great opportunity for your business to expand its people offering. Early Talent initiatives provide a space to bring in a diverse, enthusiastic cohort to support and expand your existing teams. They also help to address a number of other people and development initiatives that your organisation may be facing - across diversity, skills, knowledge and resource gaps. 

If you’re considering setting up a programme, it's crucial to address the purpose and objectives before you embark on the design phase. Be real about the “why” of the programme. Just like planning a road trip, you've got to know where you're headed before you get going.

As the wise Steven Covey once said, "Start with the end in mind." Knowing your destination helps you take all the right turns.

In the context of designing Early Talent initiatives, there’s one key question you need to ask before kicking off:

“What is the purpose of this graduate programme?”

Sure, some folks set up graduate programmes as a speedy way to grow their company, but it's important to define a set of clear goals for your programme to hit.

This will guide your entire approach to hiring, onboarding, managing and promoting graduates and ensure great return for the business. Trust us, nailing this question shapes everything – from how long your programme goes on for, to what the grads will be learning, and the responsibilities they'll pick up.

It's important to tackle this question by yourself, before asking all other stakeholders who will play an active role in the programme the same question. It may surprise you to find out that others have a very different initial outlook as to the purpose of your programme. Making sure all key stakeholders are on the same page before you kick off is important for several reasons.

If stakeholders feel like their needs aren’t being met once the programme has begun, it will be very difficult to reinterpret their requirements as it may require an overhaul of candidates, training and evaluation. With stakeholders aligned on objectives, you now have a bought in working group who will help drive deliverables from a big picture perspective, as well as the day to day management and training.

Once the programme is up and running, revert back to the golden question from time to time. Are your answers still aligned? Is the programme still doing its thing for your business? If not, and your answers have changed, a little makeover might be just what you need. Look at the set up and structure of the programme to make sure it's still effective in delivering expectations. This will give you time and space to make adjustments as necessary.

After completing the initial lap of your programme, take a moment to revisit your original intentions. Consider it a way to measure how well the scheme has played out. If you find that the objectives haven't quite fallen into place, remember, it's not necessarily a sign of the programme being off track. Sometimes, the game plan shifts a bit internally. In such scenarios, it's a good idea to assess the value the programme has brought and the returns it has delivered.

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What are popular objectives for graduate programmes?

Let’s take a look.

High volume recruitment.

When your business is in the fast lane of growth, graduate programmes can be your accelerator. If you need to expand your teams pronto, gathering a batch of fresh grads at once can be a smart move. It streamlines training and eases the load on senior leaders. Here, the focus is on fostering a collaborative atmosphere where knowledge and ideas flow freely, all geared towards fuelling your organisation's expansion.

Specific competency gaps.

Sometimes, there's a particular skill missing from the toolkit. That's where graduate programmes come in handy. If you're low on a specific know-how, you can target universities and courses that fit the bill. Once your specialist group is on board, it's time to dive deep into the subject matter, filling those gaps with precise expertise.

Future leadership.

Building a pipeline for tomorrow's leaders? Graduate schemes can be your groundwork. If grooming future top dogs is the goal, you're on the right track. It involves letting graduates shadow senior leaders, undergo management training, and get hands-on with cross-functional projects that carry weight from the get-go. It's about sowing the seeds of leadership and watching them grow into sturdy pillars of your organisation's future.

In a nutshell

Creating initiatives that truly matter hinges on defining your organisation's purpose for crafting a graduate programme, with all the key folks on deck, before you roll out the blueprint. It's also important to check in regularly to assess whether the programme is staying true to your initial expectations. Think of it as ensuring your compass is pointed in the right direction as you navigate ahead.

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