How Spirax-Sarco Engineering plc has changed its Global Graduate Programme for 2023

Mar 15, 2023 | Development

Spirax-Sarco Engineering has changed its Global Graduate Programme to improve graduate transition to leadership roles, explains Caroline Ellis, group early careers manager.

We are a FTSE100 company with over 100 years of engineering expertise, specialising in steam solutions, electric thermal energy management and fluid path technologies.  We are committed to creating a more efficient, safer, and more sustainable world.

Operational across over 65 countries globally with almost 10,000 employees, providing an equitable workplace where everyone is included is core to our business.


Why change what already works?

Our Graduate Development Programme started life in 2013 in the UK when we recruited three graduates into our UK Headquarters in Cheltenham.  In 2017, we decided to expand it globally and we now recruit approximately 25 graduates each year across 8-10 countries.

Until this year our programme was two years long, with graduates based in their ‘home’ country, completing four, six-month placements in key functional areas of our organisation; Sales, manufacturing, technical and business.

One of their placements was in a different business unit and is also completed internationally, in a country of the participants choice (a great perk of the programme!)

Whilst our Global Graduate Development Programme was extremely well regarded amongst the graduates and throughout the business, and had great support from our senior leaders, we decided in 2022 to review its core purpose and design in order to keep it fresh for participants and aligned to our business needs.

The existing aim of our programme was to recruit and develop graduates into future leaders of our business, but in practice, looking at our alumni globally, this was not happening often enough.

Graduates after the programme, were either choosing more technical career routes and staying in that department with little room for growth into leadership, or were just not progressing fast enough into the leadership level roles as we had planned.


From Global Graduate Development Programme to Global Graduate Leadership Programme

Here are some of the key changes we made to our programme:

1. Incoming graduates now have a clearer expectation and pathway into our core leadership roles, sales leadership or manufacturing Leadership. This reflects our strategy as a direct sales organisation that designs and manufactures innovative products.

2. We have broadened the degree types to include STEM and Business (previously it was just STEM). We have seen the benefit of recruiting a broader range of degree types, they bring a different perspective and are often less focussed on a technical engineering career and more inclined to move into leadership. We are also committed to achieving a 50% female intake each year, by broadening the degree, this may also support this aim.  Finally, the supply chain-related degrees that will also benefit our organisation fall under business degrees.

3. We have reduced the number of placements to three, eight-month rotations, so that every graduate experiences sales, manufacturing and business, removing the pure technical placement. This helps our graduates be better placed to move into our more business-critical areas and roles in sales and manufacturing/supply chain.  Graduates will still have the option of an international placement.

4. We will now focus our recruitment in five hub countries globally and recruit more graduates in each location. We found that there is real benefit to the graduates to be alongside other graduates in the same location.  It will also help us to gain more momentum by focusing our awareness and recruitment in fewer locations. Once they complete the programme, there is no expectation that they must stay in their ‘hub’ location, but the likelihood is some will. Others will relocate and we are supportive of this (we currently have a small number that move country or business unit as they leave the programme).

5. Finally, placements will be weighted more towards ‘real role’ experiences, rather than projects, but with a smaller project alongside that will help to build leadership capability.

We will implement some of these good practice changes to the existing cohort of graduates as well.


How will we measure the impact of the changes?

Tracking alumni progression and retention has proved key to ensuring that our graduates are challenging themselves and the business is giving them the opportunities to progress at pace.

We have an aspiration that we will start to see graduate alumni progress into sales or manufacturing leadership roles around five years post programme.

Each business unit leadership team in our company will be responsible for ensuring that they review the progress and ongoing development of the graduates in their area post programme.

Whilst the changes to the programme will take time to have an impact, the changes have been well received and supported.

Changing something that is working well already could be perceived as a risk, but at Spirax Sarco we are always looking to stay ahead of the game to make sure that we do the very best for our graduates and our business, so in this context the changes are worth the risk.


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