Author: Jonathan Evans, CEO, Discovery
In a matter of weeks, our next tranche of graduates leave university for the last time with, what should be, the excited anticipation of entering the workforce and starting their careers, but this year it is very different.
If the last few weeks have taught us anything it is to expect the unexpected. If a year ago it had been suggested that the world would be hit with a pandemic, be entering a lockdown causing a (albeit temporary) global economic slowdown that has forced us to suspend life and liberty, we would be forgiven for imagining that this was the backdrop of an apocalyptic movie.
Yet the reality is exactly that. As business leaders scramble to get a sense of the shape of their organisations going forwards, this global shock has focused their immediate attention on survival mode, shoring up revenues, protecting their people and delivering for their customers.
This environment forced upon us is neatly summed up in the term VUCA, (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous). Drawn from the leadership theories of Bennis & Nanus, it is a term coined by the American military in understanding strategic leadership decisions and the behaviour of groups & individuals at times of VUCA.
You could apply all of this theory to our current global situation, and whilst it seems impossible for any of us to see beyond the next 12 weeks, it is important that we do look beyond this crisis to the future, for one thing is certain – there is a future and the actions we take as leaders now will shape it for years to come.
It is deeply troubling to me to think that this next generation of future superstars and business leaders could be forgotten in all of this. We have spent years encouraging our children to work hard, study and go to university in order to enjoy successful and fulfilling careers.
This year any excited plans for gap years are put on hold. They will not benefit from the rich learning a gap year provides as they make the transition from ‘student to suit’. Travelling is not possible (not in the foreseeable future at least), summer jobs, working in bars and the prospect of securing any work over the coming months is rapidly becoming an impossible dream. There is no normal in all of this.
I have spent my career of over 25 years working in graduate recruitment & workforce development. I have seen where it has been done well and where it has not. During this time, my company has helped to start the careers for many thousands of graduates, with highly effective recruitment strategies and impactful development. Many have gone on to be very senior business leaders and are at the forefront of our industry today.
I am reminiscent of the early 1990’s, which is when I was early in my career, where a recession caused businesses not to focus on the future. Revenues declined, inflation was over 9%, interest was over 14% and unemployment was rising. Businesses, to their detriment as they discovered, stopped investing in recruiting graduates and over the following years struggled to keep up with demand as their markets took off. They simply did not have the talent and the leaders coming through their businesses, and it caused problems for several years.
Recognising the impact this had, over subsequent years many companies have ensured that their early career & graduate recruitment remains protected. I was one of the lucky ones, I was given a chance.
We have never experienced anything like this before. We are in uncharted waters and life is very unpredictable, but I am fearful that our 2020 graduates and early career talent who will chose not to go to university this year could become the lost generation.
As business owners and leaders, I believe we have a responsibility and obligation to ensure that this does not happen. We cannot allow our children to fall between the gaps caused by this situation; if there was ever a time that business needs to pull together with humanity, it is now.
We are seeing already the impact Coronavirus is having on our workforces. Skills gaps were already an issue, but now we have capacity issues as workers self-isolate or are ill. This is not going to change in the short term, but business trading still needs to happen, and life cannot go on hold. Products still need to be produced; salespeople still need to sell; deliveries still need to happen.
I believe despite the immediate turmoil this is causing, in a few weeks’ time this will become the new norm (at least for a while), and this needs to be the time to take a moment to look to the future. In a few weeks’ time, the next wave of graduates will hit the jobs market, eager to start their careers and where possible we need to do our bit.
At Discovery, we are going to do just this, and put our money where our mouth is. Over the coming days we will be announcing our plans for how we will support businesses both financially and structurally to ensure they can benefit from these fine people, who come full of fresh ideas and a genuine desire to make a difference, at a time when business could need them most.
As business leaders, our job is to look at the pin on the floor and view the horizon at the same time. I urge you, amidst all this ambiguity, to take a moment to consider what your business needs in the next two years rather than two weeks, however difficult this may be.The secret to graduate recruitment: how to engage Millennials and Gen Zers
Hard-to-fill roles can be a symptom of wider recruitment challenges such as a limited talent pool, remote job locations or unusual working hours. In these situations, organisations often look to increase salaries as a reactive, quick-fix. Whilst this can achieve short-term success in filling the position, the long-term negative impact could be:
You need to recruit the right people to grow your business. Looking to the future, it is widely acknowledged that graduates are incredibly important in the workforce and it’s predicted that by 2020 50% of the UK workforce will be Millennials and 24% Generation Zers.
So, if these individuals are the future of organisations and are crucial for succession planning and innovation, what can be done to ensure that you recruit the best graduate talent for your business – particularly into hard-to-fill roles?
With over 20 years’ experience in delivering top graduate talent, here are some tips from Discovery on how to engage Millennials and Gen Zers with your business, and your recruitment process.
Whilst these are definitely fun and ‘cool’ benefits that can be a great hook to get employees through the door, it won’t necessarily keep them there. If you don’t cater to some of the more basic needs of employees, such as work-life balance and professional development, then they may well leave. All the time and money that you spent on recruiting your graduate will be wasted, taking you back to square one.
Research shows that Millennials and Generation Z are motivated more by mission than money. In a job advert and the subsequent recruitment process, it’s very easy to get caught up in the fact that you want to give them information about the specific role they’ve applied for whilst also finding out as much as possible about the candidates. Whilst these are both important, you also need to remember that the candidate is judging your company – make sure you tell them about you, and what matters to your organisation.
Are social events important? What about supporting charities? This will help to give candidates a more rounded view of your culture and values, and they will be able to decide if your company is a good fit for them.
Employees who feel that they aren’t developing in a company are 12 times more likely to leave. Progression and development are important to most employees, but particularly to those who are early in their career and have a lot to learn. Make sure you demonstrate that you have a plan for your graduates in the job advert – not only for what they’ll do in this role, but also how you will develop them to have a successful career within your organisation. If you also have employees who joined as graduates and have progressed, make sure to create videos, blogs or social media posts telling their story – if others have progressed and been successful, it suggests your new graduate intake will too.
94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers. Once you’ve recruited a high-potential graduate, you want to retain them for as long as possible. Demonstrating the willingness to further invest in your workforce is also likely to encourage people to apply for the role. Alongside any internal training, think about how else you could develop your employees – are there any professional qualifications that they could complete such as CIPD, CIM, Advanced Diplomas, etc.? Or could you develop them further in their professional skills such as commercial acumen training, Leadership & Management courses or presenting with impact training?
Most graduates have little to no experience in the working world, but they have a lot of potential. It’s important that you strike the fine balance between giving them real responsibility and stretching them, but also ensuring that they have the support in place to ask questions and not feel overloaded or alone. In job adverts and the recruitment process, talk about what they’ll be responsible for but also who will be there to support them – will they work closely with someone more senior? Or will they have a whole team to support them?
If you would like to discuss how Discovery can help you with your graduate recruitment and development, please contact us.Shaping the Future: It’s all about individuals
In businesses, things can change very quickly – that makes the future very hard to predict. For organisations, this can make training and development difficult; what are you preparing your workforce for?
Having worked with organisations across most sizes, industries and locations, Discovery knows there is one area that is hugely important and often gets overlooked: your people. Whilst most training and development is based on helping your people be better, this is usually focused on providing them with job-related knowledge with little focus on them as individual people.
Developing individuals provides many benefits; however, it can be difficult to determine which areas to develop first. Reflecting upon our OPEN programmes, which are centred on ‘developing the person’, Discovery has identified three areas that benefit employees and their organisations the most. We’ve also included some tips so you or your employees can begin their journey of individual development.
Increasing personal effectiveness
Sometimes the biggest change can come from taking some time to reflect upon you. How good are you at managing yourself? Do you wait for others to give you direction or make decisions for you? Do you lead off in your own direction and others have to reign you back in?
Of course, taking this time to analyse yourself is only successful if you are fairly self-aware and able to be objective about yourself. This isn’t easy, so a good way to increase your self-awareness and personal effectiveness is to involve others. Enlist people you work closely with (not just your manager, but your peers too) to reflect upon your performance in particular situations and discuss it with you – this will help to indicate some areas of development and it will also help you to be more self-aware in the future.
Once you have a good idea of areas you need to develop in, start thinking about what needs to change to help you achieve your goal – you should think about what you need to do for yourself, what support you need from others in your organisation and if you need any further training or development outside of your day-to-day role.
Improving interpersonal skills
In the working world, interpersonal skills are absolutely critical for every stage of a career – whether you have a customer-facing role, you manage others or you’re a fresh graduate starting your first role.
Most people think they have strong interpersonal skills, however, often the strength of someone’s interpersonal skills can only be judged by other people, after all, they’re the ones receiving the communication. Without understanding your audience and how to adapt interpersonal styles, it can have a negative effect when leading & managing people, building relationships or during day-to-day communication.
To help you begin to see how others may perceive your interpersonal skills, start reflecting upon your style and the suitability for the intended audience. Try to recall conversations you’ve had – could your tone, body language or word choice have had an inadvertent result? If you’re struggling to recall conversations, review emails you’ve sent. Based on your audience, could one worded emails be perceived negatively? Equally, are long paragraphs of information right for your audience?
Once you start to think about your style and the intended audience, you can think how best to adapt it in the future.
Understanding behavioural impact
Every person can demonstrate a range of ‘behaviours’, but how they impact on others is particularly important in working environments. Unlike interpersonal skills, they could impact on people or things that you’ve never had any contact with – it’s like a ripple effect. These can be large scale and smaller scale – a small scale example is someone using the last drop of milk at the office and not getting more or telling anyone. A colleague’s clients come in, and when offered a drink, they either have to wait for an extended period of time or can’t have milk in their hot drinks. A small behavioural act has then had an impact on a client’s view of your company and brand, and on your colleague.
This is a small scale example that shows the person hasn’t taken responsibility or thought about the consequences of their actions. On a larger scale, this can have a huge impact, particularly given how important agility is in most organisations. Before taking action, it’s important to start asking yourself “What could the impact be of me doing or not doing this?”
Could you hire a 21-year-old to be your next ‘Head of’, MD or CEO?
As experts in behavioural change, the Discovery team know that making changes for individual development isn’t an easy journey, but the result will be huge for individuals and organisations alike. We hope these tips help, and if you’re looking for further support in implementing individual or team development, please visit our website or call us on 0121 665 4060.
Author: Jonathan Evans, CEO, Discovery
Initially, this may seem like a ridiculous statement, and I’m sure that most people’s instant response would be to answer ‘no’ to this question: a 21-year-old is unlikely to have the skills, commercial acumen, life experience or just general experience and knowledge to undertake one of these roles. But instead of just answering no, consider how you could say ‘yes’, and more importantly, ‘how do we create the roadmap to success so they can?’.
Today’s talent is very different from 20 years ago. Not only are Universities producing more graduates, but in many cases, they have different skillsets that we need to harness to drive our businesses forward for the next 20 years.
When I review the careers of graduates that we’ve placed over the last 18 years, it’s impressive to see how far many of them have gone on to have incredibly successful careers. A significant number of them are in executive level roles for some of the finest brands in the world, and some have started their own equally successful businesses. Yet, when these people first walked through our doors all those years ago to actively compete for their first jobs, all they had at this point was the education and potential. Over the years, I’ve also noticed that the time it takes for graduates to progress within a company is becoming shorter – in 2017 it was reported that 39% of graduates became managers after five years [AGR Development Survey 2017 Key Points].
Hiring graduates has many benefits. The right graduates for your business will bring fresh ideas, and with them, a desire to achieve. Harnessing this relatively undeveloped talent can reap dividends for businesses by capitalising on their education, their analytical mind-sets and the basic knowledge of the role/industry. Industrial placements, work experience and internships are common practice for students, with many Universities offering a ‘year in industry’ as part of their course. As such, students aren’t necessarily starting from scratch, but they are still malleable to your company’s way of doing things, without having to undo too many ‘bad habits’.
Although University provides the basic preparation for a graduate role, you should consider – ‘what skills does this graduate need to progress in the company in the next three, five or seven years?’ As a graduate learns new skills, they become a much more valuable asset – not only for your company, but to your competitors too. So how do you retain and grow this talent to make them your next ‘Head of’, MD or CEO?
There are a number of contributing factors towards this:
1. Company ethos and values are becoming more and more important to graduates and early talent when they are choosing which companies to join.
During an interview with some of our recently placed graduates, many of them highlighted that one of the most important things about the company they had joined was how the company made them feel valued. One graduate commented that: “You’re not just another cog in the machine that can be replaced tomorrow, everyone is remembered and you’re appreciated for who you are, rather than just your skill set”.
Discovery take a diagnostic approach to truly understand the company we are partnering with, and get a clear understanding of ‘what good looks like’ for a role – what are you comparing your potential hires to? We see many companies that recruit graduates extremely well, and the returns are well deserved. Unfortunately, we see a bigger proportion of companies who don’t do it well – they hire for the immediate requirement with little consideration for the long term.
It isn’t uncommon for some organisations to invest more time and resources in hiring their executives and senior hires, they can be considered to be more ‘business critical’ and harder to get right. I find this to be counterintuitive; the hiring process should be consistent and balanced across every role in a company with all routes leading to the heart of your business values and culture. After all, if you recruit your graduate hires well, they will become your senior talent of the future. As a business leader making critical decisions on a daily basis, why put your business at risk by creating a ticking time bomb further down in your matrix?
To remove this risk, we always recommend building benchmarks that link the role to your overall business strategy, which in turn are measured and evidenced through an assessment centre process. We’re not just talking about competencies – the values, behaviours and relative organisational pace all have to be considered when building an effective benchmark. Equally, to ensure that you can attract talent with the ‘stretch’ you need, your benchmark needs to look beyond the requirements of your business now. What will you need in 5-10 years’ time?
2. You need to have a proper plan for your graduate(s) – what are they going to be doing or learning in the first six months, one year or two years? What progression routes are there for them in the company? If you don’t outline a plan for them, they can (and will) take the skills you‘ve taught them to a company that does have this plan. Apart from being good practice for growing your own talent, this will succession-proof your organisation and allow you to plan future hires in advance to reduce reactive hiring and your overall total cost of ownership.
3. One of the most important, but often overlooked, things that you need to consider is providing graduates with the support they require. Helping them with day-to-day work and acquiring the skills to complete tasks isn’t enough; going from University to work is a big jump – only 52% of UK employers think University prepares graduates for the world of work [The TEFL Academy].We recognised this many years ago, and introduced The Discovery Graduate OPEN Programme (which has now expanded into two programmes for Aspiring and Emerging Leaders) to bridge the gap between academic life and the workplace. Investing this time in a graduate enables them to become self-aware, better motivated, more productive and fully equipped to become a genuine asset to your organisation. This is a crucial time for graduate hires; the foundations that are built during this time will affect their future career and their ultimate success with you. It’s important to teach them skills outside of those required for their current job – teaching them about the wider business and helping them become more self-aware will facilitate their learning and growth as a professional.
When I’m hiring people, I try to remember the advice one of my managers gave me – always hire someone better than yourself. This doesn’t mean that they could do your job now, but it does mean that they have the potential to. What’s the difference between a graduate and someone who’s been in the role for a year? Experience and knowledge. What’s the difference between a graduate and a ‘Head of’, MD or CEO? Experience and knowledge. We were all 21 once, after all.
So, I’ll ask you again, could you hire a 21-year-old to be your next ‘Head of’, MD or CEO?How do you keep your graduate employees from leaving your business?
So you’ve invested a fortune in your graduate recruitment programme. You’ve used a graduate sourcing company to recruit those grads that are really interested in your industry and are raring to go. But how do you counteract the 1 in 4 graduates that will leave a graduate programme before it’s complete? How do you ensure that they stay engaged for the entirety?
We asked a recent graduate scheme employee for some top tips on how to keep graduates engaged and in it for the long run.
What is the best part of your graduate scheme?
Rotations – going around all of the branches and departments of the organisation. I have also enjoyed doing presentations in front of board of directors. It’s nerve wracking but a useful skill to have in the future. I’ve been exposed to project management and have been encouraged by my colleagues to take on larger tasks. Within the company, there are a number of great options for training courses, from personal development to business courses. One thing I have experienced a lot of is the option of travel, its great graduates have all these opportunities.
What part of your graduate scheme would you say needed improvement?
I would say wage structure firstly. There wasn’t any clear increase throughout the scheme and the wages were lower than what other company schemes.
I would also say to provide structure to give future insights – there was no clear after plan for graduates, and with some uncertainty in industry, a clear plan would help envision a career within the company and the objectives to reach that goal. I would have also like to be involved in more real projects on the scheme.
One other thing I found unclear was levels of seniority at the end of graduate scheme that were agreed to graduates. There were minimal senior roles in the areas of the businesses in which we preferred. To counteract this I would say to match degree and flexibility to explore preferred areas of the business.
What would you encourage employees to do more of in the schemes?
I would expose people on the schemes to more management experience – perhaps on a part time basis. I would also try to tailor the graduate schemes around skill sets and then decide on rotation around the business on this basis, and encourage more exposure to customers and pressured situations to equip us with relationship development and crisis management skills for future careers.
What part of the scheme switched you off?
For me, it was having to do some of the aspects of head office placement. Whilst good to know, my placements were too long in parts of the business that were outside of my interest and skill sets.
There was also an element of making graduates do projects and jobs that normal staff didn’t want to do. There was a sense of using graduates on placements in varying departments to pick up on some of the undesirable activities. There is always an expectation of this going into a business at entry level, however, the departments didn’t seem well prepped for a graduates arrival.
What did you feel about your future in the company whilst going through the grad scheme?
I was worried about job security – what was going to happen when the scheme ended? Uncertain industries and business changes did make you feel nervous at times. I would say, on the whole, the company did look after grads.
If I was to do my own grad scheme
I’d start them for 3 months in the heart of the business then 3 months in office manager/admin roles. I would then encourage graduates to spend a month in their chosen area whilst continuously reviewing them to scope what they really wanted to do.
I would tailor the final year of the grad scheme around what your graduates want to do post the graduate scheme whilst continuing the full business experience.A Guide to Working with your Graduate Recruiter
If there’s something we can relate to at Discovery Graduates, it’s the recent article published by The Guardian: A graduate guide to successfully working with recruiters.
A brief, but to the point, article explaining the graduate recruitment process from the point of view of the recruiter, and there isn’t anything we can disagree with here.
The article has nine main points:
The best way we as a recruiter can help you is if you work with us. It’s an odd experience, as we provide you with a positive service for which you don’t pay a penny! We, on the other hand, are investing in you and our client is relying on us to ensure you’re right for their business. So, just follow the guide above and remember, we are here to help!
To read the full, original Guardian article follow this link.How to get that Graduate Job
As a graduate looking for your first graduate position, it can feel like the corporate universe just refuses to give you a return on your educational investment. Thousands of pounds spent on tuition fees, all those late nights fighting sleep to get that assignment written, endless days of hangovers as you struggle with the stress of student life and the pressures of living alone, potentially, for the first time.
I asked the Manager of our Graduate Development Programme, Gemma Ford, how she felt graduates could best set themselves up for securing that all important graduate job. Gemma regularly liaises with our placed graduates and through her experience in our resource team has an insight into the hiring process. Gemma understands the struggle graduates can face when looking for work, as well as in the early stages of their careers, and is always happy to share her thoughts.
So, do you need a little guidance to help you on your way?
1) What is your CV missing?
This really depends on what the employer is looking for. Try looking for clues in the advert, on the company’s website and social media. Then, rather than forcing your potential employer to find the relevant parts in your CV, draw attention to them in some way. It’s also vital that you cover the basics. Be vigorous in your proof reading- typos and spelling mistakes can very quickly disengage an employer. Take the time to do a professional job, and don’t make the layout too busy.
2) How can you best represent your skill set?
Focus on the job and what the employer is looking for – add a “highlights” section at the top of your CV that is tailored to each role you are applying for. Ask yourself “Why am I the right person for this job?” and make sure you answer this question right at the top of your CV. If you describe yourself as ‘ambitious’, ‘personable’ and ‘a good communicator’ think about how you have demonstrated those things; you may be asked to justify them at interview!
3) What could it be other than your CV?
If you are getting to the interview stage, even if you have no relevant experience, try to make connections between your academic or extra-curricular activities and the job. Reflect on your past experiences and find those essential transferable skills all employers are looking for. If an employer can see that you are bright, willing to learn and have a good work ethic, then that might be the tick in the box you need to get that job!
4) How can you make university work for you?
While you are at university you get so many opportunities. Try to get involved in as many as possible, and again, make the most of them. Do a placement year, if your university offers one, join a society / sports teams and take on a leadership role. This is what will make you stand out! These roles can also provide you with great examples to use at interview. Remember- transferable skills!
5) What more can a graduate do?
If the job hunt isn’t going too well, don’t panic. Think about useful things you can do to fill your time. Get involved in as much as possible and make the most of any temping work – use it to demonstrate the competencies that employers are looking for – problem solving, leadership etc. There is a difference between simply doing data entry for 6 months and doing data entry for 6 months, being the best at it and improving the process to make it more efficient. Consider how you can demonstrate your value and encourage your employer to give you a great reference and, more importantly, to give yourself something fantastic to talk about when you next go to interview. Temping isn’t just something to do to pass the time and make a bit of money. It’s an opportunity to prove yourself to your potential future employer before even stepping through the door, so use it to your best advantage.
Think about the jobs you are applying for: are they the jobs that LOADS of other graduates are applying for? Is the competition simply too fierce? Try to broaden your search and consider different locations if you are fixed on a particular role or industry. If you are unable to relocate you may need to be more flexible when it comes to role or industry. Smaller, less well-known companies recruit graduates too. It may be that with these roles comes greater responsibility, quicker opportunities for progression and greater exposure to the whole business.
6) When should you start looking?
ASAP. This will enable you to understand the market and what employers are looking for and could give you an early indication that you may need to do something extra in order to get the job!
Companies do recruit graduates all year round however, so don’t panic, it’s not too late!
7) How can Discovery Graduates help?
We will give you access to well-matched graduate jobs with genuine opportunities in a variety of business sectors, with employers who are committed to developing your skills. We offer advice, training and feedback on how to get the right graduate job through effective interview and CV techniques.
We provide feedback following Assessment Centres. We will also help you strengthen your CV and develop your interview techniques