Best Practice Graduate Development Strategies
In a four part series, the team at DBL have put together a comprehensive ‘best practice’ guide to graduate development. Although by no means exhaustive, the series is a great resource and useful ‘how-to’ for graduate managers both new to the industry, and for veterans looking for new or fresh ideas to enhance their existing program, enjoy!
Part 4 – Graduate Induction Programs
Will your induction program induct your grads into your organisation, or will it be the launching pad for the successful careers of your graduates within your organisation?
In recent years, our team has been involved in more than 30 graduate induction programs across multiple industries and geographies. From this experience we have seen a wide range of induction programs ranging from 1 day events through to 1 month extended programs!
Working with these graduates throughout their graduate years, we’ve also been able to track the success of the induction programs. Hence we are pleased to present to you our observations for what differentiates a best practice graduate induction program.
1) Your induction program is a ‘first impression’ and your grads are watching carefully.
Ensure your program addresses the top 5 reasons your grads chose your organisation and maybe use the AAGE research to help. Areas like training and development, long-term career prospects, job security, company reputation and content of work should be kept in mind as things your grads may want to see evidence and reassurance of during induction. First impressions count!
2) Design your induction program as a learning process, not just a series of information sessions.
Often induction programs are designed by checking off a huge number of ‘things we have to cover’ and sessions are then scheduled based on staff availabilities. While these considerations are always important, take a step back and identify 3-5 learning objectives for your grads. Balance the need to ‘get through a whole lot of stuff’ with bigger picture learning objectives and a process that will help your grads actually learn, not just digest information. Schedule sessions and fill gaps against your objectives accordingly.
3) Design your induction as a critical piece of your overall graduate development program.
Have your full graduate development program decided and finalised before induction. It might make sense to include the first soft skills workshop of your graduate development program within your induction agenda. Consider the role of your induction program not only in light of providing necessary company information and technical training, but as part of your overall graduate development strategy.
4) Get your organisation’s vision, mission and values off the power-point slide and in to real life.
Look at what has been marketed as part of your value proposition to grads and ensure these elements are not just talked about during induction, but actually lived and displayed. For example, including a community or environmental afternoon in your agenda can show that CSR is not just talk; inviting a customer in to share with your grads why they use your organisation can show a focus on strong customer relationships; having several former a graduates who started many years ago and have progressed in their careers can display real career development examples; leaders who display the company values best can be the best ones to come in and talk to your grads.
5) Provide space and time for relationship building between your grads.
Relationships between grads are vitally important not only to your grads, but your overall retention strategy. There is no need to provide endless alcohol in order to do this, so long as there is ample time for relationship building and networking. Use scheduled networking events as an opportunity to promote business etiquette and networking skills they might have been taught during your induction program. Ensure your grads are well aware of the organisation’s code of conduct.
6) Involve managers, coaches, buddies, mentors and senior leaders throughout the program, not just in one block.
Ensure there are plenty of opportunities for both formal and informal discussion with senior leaders. Open question time in a formal setting or having senior leaders stay for morning tea or lunch breaks is really valuable for your grads and your leaders. Teach grads how to handle small talk and challenge them to ask well thought questions. Schedule their involvement across all days of your program because grads love to meet people from the business and this will induct them in to your culture more effectively.
7) Ask recent grads to run sessions as much as possible and be sure to pick the good ones!
Grads like nothing more than hearing from people who have ‘been there and done that’. If you have a handful of past grads who are great performers and who you know you can rely on, involve then inn running sessions where possible. It is great development for them, and great exposure for your new grads. Give them as much notice as possible to prepare and challenge them to take it seriously, whilst still having a lot of fun.
8) Don’t kill them in the first week.
Induction programs can be totally exhausting, not just for you but for your grads as well! Particularly if there are scheduled evening or after work events as part of your program. Allow time for reflection and slower pace at times throughout the program, particularly if it is more than 3 days. Consider energy levels and design your program accordingly.
9) Empower your grads to take it back to the business.
Challenge your grads to make the most of the time spent in induction to set themselves up for success in their roles. If you treat your induction program like a development program, then you might consider asking your grads to decide the 3 things they will take back to the business and be most aware of, apply or do when they get in to their roles back in the business.
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