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How to help your graduates make progress. What the data says you should do. Part II

the facts on graduate success

Last week we looked at the evidence behind what you need to do to make your graduates feel happier, with some key suggested actions. This week we move on to how to help your graduates feel that they are making progress.

The evidence for this work and the suggested actions again comes from our 7 years of collecting data from 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 help your graduates feel they are making progress

A sense of making progress is an important part of motivation. When we feel we are making progress we feel good about ourselves. When we feel we are going backwards, or are blocked, energy drops. (Harvard's Teresa Amabile's work on this is both accessible and compelling)

The good news is that, from our data set, most grads most of the time report that they are making progress. They more often feel they are making progress than they feel happy with the scheme.

The three inputs that have the strongest correlations with this, (all with a correlation of over 60%), are

  1. The day to day work of the graduates is consistently challenging and interesting

  2. The graduates feel the work they are doing is worthwhile and important

  3. The graduates feel they are learning important new skills

When we run a regression analysis we see that these 3 inputs explain just under 70% of the changes in whether a graduates believes they are making progress.

Out of these 3 "The graduates feel the work you are doing is worthwhile and important" and "The graduates feel they are learning important new skills" have the most predictive power* .

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

Again we are pretty confident that we are looking at a causation not a correlation

Progress is about the day to day experience of the work a person is doing. Their belief that what they are doing today is better than what they were doing yesterday and will be better tomorrow links to both a sense of challenge and a sense of increasing competence.

Put another way if you do not feel the work you are doing is important or that you are learning new skills, then you don't feel you making progress.

What does not make an impact according to the data

Surprisingly few items seem to drive this outcome.

Areas which do not impact it are

  • Clarity of short term goals for the graduate programme

  • The other graduates on the programme

  • The buy in of the graduate to being on the scheme

  • Access to role models

Interestingly the quality of the learning experiences and the buy in of senior managers and buy, has a low correlation to a sense of progress.

When you look at year 1 and 2 separately the pattern of what drives a sense of progress becomes more distinct with the addition of a focus on understanding the types of roles the graduates believe they are heading for in 5 years and the quality of the learning experience becomes more important alongside the original 3 drivers.

What you can do to help your graduates feel they are making progress

This is predominantly about the quality of their day to day experience, making sure their role is well designed and the design allows them to stretch themselves as they learn.

Action 1 Design the roles that graduates are moving into

Sit down with the line managers and check with them the design of the roles that the graduates will go into. Designing a role for a graduate who is new to work is a different experience for most line managers as the stretch and challenge needs to grow as the graduate moves up the competency curve. They normally benefit from help.

Action 2 Manage rotations and new placements

If graduates are moving placements check in with the new line manager that the role is set up right and at the right level. Progress can stall for graduates if their new placement is a backward step in terms of challenge or skills. The second and third placements matters as much as the first.

Action 3 Year 2 up the focus on career direction and maintaining directed learning

Year 2 is the point to reinvigorate focus on where the graduate is heading. Look at career planning workshops that link to critical roles in the organisation. Get back to the basics of good learning plans and reinforcing the need to keep developing new skills even as their confidence in their ability to deliver the day job increases. Action learning sets is a great tool at this stage as it builds reflective capability and group support.

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

Next week we look at the next question of what makes a graduate recommend a scheme to others.

* (r squared of .60, significant at 95% and p scores of less than .015 for the data geeks)

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