Best Practice Graduate Development Strategies

In a four part series, the team at DBL have put together a comprehensive 'how-to' guide for best practice graduate development. Although by no means exhaustive, the series is a great resource for graduate managers both new to the industry, and for veterans looking for new or fresh ideas to enhance their existing program, enjoy!


The DBL Team

Part 1 – Equipping Your Leaders

If there is one thing that makes a difference in creating an awesome experience for graduates, it is the quality of leaders that they get exposed to and form strong relationships with. The same can be said for the graduates we work with in our training programs. Given that 10% of learning happens in the classroom, 20% through coaching and mentoring and 70% on the job, this is no surprise. It is fair to say your leaders heavily influence up to 90% of your graduate’s development. That’s huge! Often manager ‘briefing sessions’ in January and February are heavily relied on to equip managers to play the crucial role they play in graduate development programs. But they’re not enough.

Partnering with numerous graduate development programs across an array of industries and employers, we have helped many employers embrace this very challenge.

Here are five cost-effective ways you can help your leaders realise the crucial role they play, and equip them to play it well.

1) Refresh your leaders on leading and managing Generation Y

Approaching the height of the global downturn in late 2008, 61% of CEOs reported having enormous difficulty in attracting and retaining Generation Y graduates (“Millennials at work: Perspectives from a new generation” PwC). In what's now widely being termed the "two speed economy" here in Australia, your leader’s ability to lead and manage Generation Y will again play a huge role in attracting, developing and retaining your best graduates. Consider delivering cost-effective presentations, half day workshops or online training modules to rotation managers and business unit leaders, as refresher courses on what it takes to get the most from Gen Y graduates.

2) Train grads and leaders on building relationships with each other

97% of Gen Y respondents value a leadership style that involves empowerment, consultation and partnership and would leave if they did not get it. In fact, 42% of Generation Y respondents reported that poor leadership and management was the main reason for leaving their previous role. (Mark McCrindle; The ABC of XYZ – Understanding Global Generations). Lay the foundations for strong relationships between graduates and their coaches, mentors and leaders by bringing them together. Deliver workshops where both groups attend, and use good behavioural profiling tools (such as DiSC, LSI or PerformanSe) to help them build a better understanding of how they communicate and work together, and place equal responsibility on both the graduate and the leader to make it happen. Focus on setting clear expectations, communication channels and review mechanisms. This is a powerful, relevant and short session for induction or within the first 90 days of your graduate program.

3) Coaches and Mentors - allocation by design

From 4,271 Generation Y graduates across 44 countries, 98% of respondents rated access to strong mentors as very important (“Millennials at work: Perspectives from a new generation” PwC). Think carefully about the structure of your support network for graduates. To have buddies, line managers, coaches, mentors, graduate liaisons and graduate managers is great so long as there is a clear structure, roles and responsibilities for all involved. Think deliberately about how you allocate coaches and mentors to ensure the appropriate match that will both support and challenge each graduate to grow.

4) Structured coffee coaching

In designing your graduate development program, build in 20-30 min coffee coaching meetings between graduates and their line managers immediately following development interventions such as workshops. The focus should be to review the 3 things the graduate will apply back in the business. Do the same in the week or so leading up to the next development intervention to prepare. It won’t happen every time for every graduate, but even if there was a 20% increase in the frequency of these catch-ups, you will increase the return on your program back in the business. Communicate it up front to grads and their managers and re-iterate it throughout the program as an important strategy.

5) Expose, Expose, Expose

Use every development intervention in your graduate development program as an opportunity to expose your grads to your leaders, and your leaders to your grads. Consider how you might build time in to each workshop or event to achieve this and get creative – don’t just rely on a formal CEO address during induction! How can you design face-time between leaders and grads during workshops? How can you use case studies of your leaders within your program content? How can you design practical activities, such as business case projects, that require grads to meet and interact with leaders? Expose, expose, expose!

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