3 crucial points to consider when designing a graduate programme

Apr 19, 2022 | Development

It’s important to consider three core areas to ensure a graduate programme meets business and people needs, explains Ella Franceys, programme lead at Wiser.

Graduate programmes have the potential to address several people related issues for organisations, from creating future leaders to driving high growth in a particular business area.

With this comes a set of lofty ambitions that the programme is required to fulfil. These varied objectives make it different to hiring for a normal role – because there are a set of expectations that a cohort needs to achieve en masse.

Therefore, it is crucial to reflect on certain areas before kicking off your graduate programme design to ensure that you can best meet the needs of your business and your future people. Understanding these three points will enable you to build an offering that matches the intentions of your people strategy.


1. Graduate programme objectives

Consider why your organisation needs a graduate programme. Defining the purpose of your offering will help you to design a programme that is truly effective.

Very often organisations fall into the trap of creating an offering that doesn’t match up with the initial requirements. For example, if you have very particular skills gaps that need to be plugged, you will want to design a scheme that allows for graduates to dive into the details, with plenty of investment in technical training. If you need your people to observe and understand an end to end process, then rotations can offer unparalleled breadth and exposure.

Organisations can also fall into the trap of creating a graduate programme that doesn’t serve business needs. This might include bringing in large cohorts, offering rotations or training that isn’t complimentary to the roles and goals of the business.

It’s important to strip back what your perceptions of a programme look like and match up your programme design to the aims of the organisation.


2. Skills and behaviours to be developed

Being clear and upfront about the specific skills and behaviours that you expect your graduates to demonstrate is essential for strong performance from the start and throughout. This enables your managers to provide clear feedback and development objectives, and for your graduates to take ownership of their learning with tangible goals to work towards.

If your company doesn’t have an existing capability framework fit for graduates, the Wiser model can be built bespoke for your programme offering. This framework is built by researching the characteristics of your most successful people and by assimilating best in class standards across a range of industries graduate cohorts.

Once these relevant skills and behaviours have been identified, the model should be rolled out and introduced to everyone who comes into contact with your graduates. Firstly, it should be framed as a management tool, so that your managers can integrate the model into their day to day leadership.

Graduates should also be upskilled with the model, so they feel comfortable using it to identify strengths and areas for improvement as they move through the programme, to ensure the greatest level of relevant upskilling opportunities for your organisation.

Skills and behaviours are therefore vital to identify before kicking off a programme, and should always link back to the wider programme objectives.


3. Performance evaluation

Just as medics and pilots go through a series of assessments to ensure they are able to meet the expectations of their industries, when you are onboarding graduates into highly technical roles, it can also be advantageous to integrate evaluations across the programme.

These assessments should be based on the skills and behaviours you have already defined, to remain consistent across all aspects of your programme offering.

This provides you with a highly detailed tracking system of how your graduates are performing, as well as a great indication of where your skills gaps are and what additional training will be needed to bring people up to speed.

From a graduate’s perspective too, going through regular tasks and evaluations makes it less daunting, and receiving this level of granular feedback can be paramount in helping them achieve their goals. Especially in rotational programmes where individuals move quickly through a series of roles, assessment can help people pinpoint their strengths, celebrate successes and prioritise any areas of improvement.

Building these evaluations up front during the design phase enables you to stay on the front foot of your programme management and means your training can effectively target these key areas – providing your graduates with as much insight into what they will be reviewed on.

Allotting the specific dates for assessments well in advance is important too – so you can secure stakeholder time and give your graduates as much space for preparation as possible.

So, remember to start your design process by thinking about where the business wants to get to, and plan how your graduates will supercharge this through relevant skills and behaviours. Finally, make sure your objectives and capabilities are consistently evaluated through the assessment of graduate performance. By creating your graduate programme with these three core principles in mind you can set your business and your early talent up for success.

Read more advice and inspiration for designing graduate programmes

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