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What makes a graduate recommend their scheme? What the data says you should do. Part III

the facts on graduate success

This week we look at what drives a graduate’s willingness to recommend the programme they are on. This builds on our work looking at how to make your graduates feel happier, and how to help your graduates feel they are making progress. Again, we have some suggested actions that the regression analysis from our data strongly implies will make the biggest difference. Less opinion and more fact.

The question of recommendation and how likely a graduate is to recommend their scheme, we think, is particularly important. Recommendation is not just external to new potential recruits, but internal as well, to the rest of the organisation. Get this right and your scheme is perceived as a success, get it wrong and it becomes a struggle to get the internal engagement you need.

Where does our data come from?

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.

What makes your graduates recommend their scheme or not?

This is an outcome that varies significantly over time and across companies and schemes. Graduates’ experiences do change how they self-report their willingness to recommend.

The evidence from our data is clear on what drives this variable. Though there are plenty of strong correlations over 80%, there is one input measure that stands out from the rest when you look at the regressions. It is

"The expected level of performance for graduates is clearly defined"

This one measure predicts over 80% of the shift in how graduates feel about recommending their scheme.

When we run a regression analysis we see that this one input predicts 86% of the changes in whether a graduate will recommend their scheme both internally and externally (at 95% confidence with a P score of 0.00000000066).

Does this make sense?

Yes it does. Graduates are a bright lot. If you tell them what it is that you want them to achieve then they will have a good chance at pulling together the resources, both from the organisation and from themselves they need to get there.

On the flip side, if you don’t tell them what is expected you open up an expectations gap that can lead to discontent.

What doesn’t make an impact according to the data

What does not make an impact to whether a graduate recommends is as interesting.

The data tells a markedly different story across the two years of a graduate programme.

Putting it simply, in year 1 it is all about the graduates and their perception of how well they have been treated.

They do not seem too bothered if the scheme makes sense for the organisation, whether they are in a great peer group or if their day to day work is important. The care about if the organisation is honouring their promises to them.

By year 2 their emphasis shifts and the importance of knowing where they are heading to and the quality of their day to day experience in terms of stretch and challenge increases in importance.

Of note is throughout the issue of salary and perks does not correlate with a willingness to recommend.

To reiterate, If you want your graduates to be out and about recommending the scheme, you need to be crystal clear about setting the frame around what is expected and how success will be measured over the 2 years, not just at the start.

What you can do to increase the recommendation rate from your graduates?

Action 1 Set and reinforce performance expectations clearly throughout

Set the expectations around performance clearly from the start and keep doing it.

Our experience is that this needs to be done in terms of the three dimensions of

  1. Performance in role delivering tasks

  2. Speed and quality of learning to be a high performer. This links to clarity around careers and roles and their learning plans.

  3. Performance as a graduate on the programme. What is it that you expect of them as a graduate that is different to everyone else?

Action 2 Relevant performance feedback systems

If the graduates are driven by understanding expectations around performance, it is critical that they get useful and accurate feedback to know they are making progress.

Standard performance review systems do not do this as they do not have the frequency or detail needed to track the graduates’ performance across their speed of learning or their performance as a graduate on the scheme.

There needs to be a simple, but relevant, approach that provides this clarity of progress that runs alongside the standard systems.

Action 3 Link performance to roles in year 2

For year 2 focus hard on linking these performance expectations to the stretch and challenge in their roles and helping the graduates make sense of their experiences through the lenses of performance and learning.

Similar to for making progress, year 2 is the point to reinvigorate focus on where the graduate is heading. Their focus is moving from "what can you do for me?" to "how do I progress?". 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 are a great tool at this stage as it builds reflective capability and group support.

Get these three actions right and our data predicts your graduates will be out promoting your scheme.

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

Next week we look at pulling this all together to see how the drivers for making your graduates happy, making progress and recommending your scheme internally and externally, come together in a single big picture.

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