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How to make your graduates happier. What the data says you should do.

the facts on graduate success

We are approaching the start of another graduate season with 1000's about to start and teams starting to worry about what they need to do to make this year better than last year. This is the first of a series of 4 articles that digs in to our unique data set to identify what is it that really makes the difference in delivering a great graduate scheme.

We have been collecting data on graduate schemes for 7 years across a range of companies and sectors. We have consistently collected this data for 100's of graduates at six month intervals across their first two years at work.

The data is collected from a standard set of 27 survey questions delivered through 2 different surveys. From this we have built up a database of 1000’s of data points which we interrogate with sophisticated data tools to understand what makes a real difference to the success of a graduate scheme and by how much.

How to make your graduates feel happier about their scheme

The outcome we are going to look at in this article is how happy the graduates are with the scheme they are on.

The three inputs that have the strongest correlations with this, (all with a correlation of over 80%), are

  1. As a graduate I feel that I can shape my own career

  2. The expected level of performance for the graduates is clearly defined

  3. There is an appropriate balance of technical and personal learning

When we run a regression analysis we see that these 3 inputs explain just under 80% of the changes in how happy a graduate feels with their scheme over the 2 years. These inputs matter.

Out of these 3 "the ability to shape my own career" and "there is an appropriate balance of technical and personal learning" have the most predictive power* with clearly defined performance expectations a bit behind.

Does the causation make sense or is it a random correlation?

We believe this is more than a correlation and their is a causation.

Graduates believe they have joined a graduate scheme to develop a career and learn fast. It makes sense that their sense of happiness will be linked to their perception of the quality of learning offered and to their sense of control of their career.

As understanding what success looks like, and how it is measured, is a critical input to engaging in effective learning, this also makes sense as a contributing factor.

What does not make an impact according to the data

These factors seem to have no significant impact across the 2 year period

  • Understanding why organisation has a graduate scheme

  • Their views on the quality of their peers

A couple of extra points come out if you look at year 1 and year 2 separately

  • In year 1 the importance of the work a graduate is doing does not matter as long as the work is challenging

  • In year 2 line manager buy in to the scheme does not appear to matter, nor does their sense of salary and perks compared to external peers

What you can do to have the biggest impact on how happy your grads feel with your graduate scheme

Two set of actions will make the biggest difference and are where the effort needs to go

Set and reinforce clear expectations about performance

Make it very clear what is expected of the graduates on the scheme in terms of performance. What does being a good graduate look like. Reinforce this regularly over time as the data shows it is even more important in the second year than in the first year.

Create and deliver on learning plans that the graduates own

Enforce a process to help the graduates develop their own career plans which clearly link to learning plans for skills development. This needs to be reinforced over the 2 years, with a a slight change in emphasis in year 1 to year 2.

In year 1 the process needs to focus on identifying the balance of technical and personal skills, how this links to their role at the end of the scheme, making sure their day to day experience is challenging and ensuring that their local HR partner is aware and supports their plans.

In year 2 there is a shift to increase the emphasis on the value and importance of the content of their day to day work and a shift to designing their development with a longer term, 5 year, view of their careers. Learning new skills still matters. The data shows graduates care even more about their learning and the design of their learning in year 2 than year 1.

To find out more about how to measure and benchmark the effectiveness of your graduate scheme click here.

Next week we look at a different question, what drives a graduate's belief that they are making progress?

* (r squared of .78, significant at 95% and p scores of less than .001 for the data geeks)

Next week we look at what drives a graduates view of if they are making progress.

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