Thinking Beyond the Graduate Scheme

Graduates Throwing Mortar Boards

Graduate development schemes are increasingly adopted by organisations across a wide range of industries and have proven to be an invaluable strategy in terms of filling talent gaps and enabling coherent succession planning. Actively developing bright graduates as soon as they enter into the professional world allows companies to mould them in alignment with their values and overall goals.

However, the benefits of graduate schemes are often only evaluated in terms of how they relate to the acquisition of new talent and the filling of skills gaps, when their benefits actually extend much further and can positively impact the entire organisation. It’s important that businesses begin to think beyond the traditional scope of the graduate scheme and consider the numerous other benefits that a youthful workforce provides. This will help to further prove that a graduate scheme is worth continuing with in the face of any scepticism from senior management or board members.

Adding creativity and energy to teams and departments

Because graduates are unencumbered in terms of what they think (or think they know) about the way processes should work and things should be done, each of them will bring a fresh pair of eyes to a team and can help find new, more efficient ways of working. If appropriately encouraged to do so they will feel confident that they have the right to make suggestions and offer their opinion to people who might be senior to them without second-guessing themselves. In this way, they could point out flaws or inefficiencies in a system that haven’t been considered or noticed by existing staff.

This is a key way in which companies that hire and develop graduates prevent themselves from stagnating. It’s not about replacing retiring employees with young employees; it’s about ensuring freshness and vibrancy in the work that is produced and the methods that produce it. Companies of all kinds should value this way of working – the benefits are not limited to those in industries where young workers might traditionally be expected to flourish (such as technology), or where they comprise a large part of the consumer base.

Encouraging better performances from existing employees

An influx of young team members with new and interesting ideas and valid opinions can often prove to spur existing employees, who might be a few years older, into performing to a higher standard.  This may especially be the case if there’s a suggestion that the new individuals might overtake them in terms of position and responsibility; this low level ‘competition’ between employees can often have a galvanising effect, particularly if an organisation had previously enjoyed a fairly solid status quo. Professional and personal pride in the face of youthful competition may encourage individuals to give even more in the workplace and help create higher-performing teams, which can only benefit the company.

However it’s important that companies don’t push existing employees to compete with new generations – the process, if it occurs, should do so because the individual feels motivated, not forced, to advance the way they work. Many individuals will not respond positively if they feel they are being pitted against one another and any attempt to get them to do so might make them feel under pressure and unhappy. If employees are already working to high standards and there is no active deterioration in their work, this could derail the team in terms of morale and productivity.

Integrating new processes and technology more easily

Young graduates are often naturally flexible and generally accepting of new tools and processes that might be introduced into their work. Older or more experienced employees however may be more fixed in their approach and perhaps less comfortable adapting to a large change like this. Graduates’ openness to new ideas can be vital in helping these ideas get off the ground and, if approached in the right way graduates can be the champions for change and offer support in both advocating for new ideas and offering practical support to those wary of their implementation. By utilising this willingness to try new things there will be far less disruption to the team and its workflow and it also ensures that the organisation can more easily meet the evolving needs of the consumer.

Although it’s important to hire young faces and minds to ensure the talent pipeline remains intact, graduate development schemes can have far-reaching effects across an entire organisation, rather than in individual departments or teams. In extraordinary cases, given the right opportunities and freedoms, they could completely revolutionise a company in terms of product, methodology, marketing and any other operational aspect you might consider. Ensuring you demonstrate a clear interest in their professional development and progression will ensure they are able to use these talents to positively impact your business rather than your competitors.