8 design essentials to make an early careers programme successful


As we come up to the start of the next graduate season it is more and more important that the quality of the schemes that organisations deliver match the hype.

Why is this?

  1. Taking on graduates in this virtual world is both a statement of intent and of strength. Getting it right matters more than ever in this shifting world

  2. There is a background of skills shortages as a constraint on growth. These will only get worse as geopolitical uncertainty increases and there is global pressure to strengthen borders and reduce immigration. At some level this will shift the supply side

  3. Managers believe that the softer, embodied, skills around creativity, leadership and communication are more important than ever. These are developed by the early experiences at work

All of these point to the need to make grad schemes better than ever.

8 things that need to be in place

1st you need to know why you have a graduate scheme and what talent or skills gap you want to fill. What is the business challenge that this programme will solve. (Leaders for the future is not enough). We find looking at this through the lens of what roles you want early career talent to fill, how quickly and with what experiences is a great way to do this. This then has to be agreed and widely shared.

Once you have the why, the day to day work experience needs to be designed to deliver on 6 outcomes

  1. Clarity of what success looks like and what needs to be learned in terms of knowledge, skills and behaviours

  2. Stretch and challenge, increasing with competence

  3. Access to high quality teachers and role models

  4. Regular and high and quality feedback

  5. The ability to complete a cycle of delivery and own a result

  6. Visibility and sense of progression and improvement

All of these can be designed into an experience and drive a mutual set of expectations between the new starter, their manager and the organisation. All can be measured.


The 8th thing is a bit of excitement and delight to engage and connect the business, the line managers and the new starters.

Get this right and the programme will deliver value, be simple to run and get buy-in across the board.

Get this wrong and you end up with dissatisfied grads. managers and HR colleagues.




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