Why the key to creating agile graduate programs requires a new approach to hiring.
In today’s world, change is the only constant. With revolutionary advances in AI technology, workers with soft skills and innovative thinking are in high demand. At the same time, businesses are struggling to find the right skills, making it difficult for them to stay competitive. As economic instability increases, organisations are looking to leverage their workforce differently. Graduates are seen as the foundation on which to build a strong and dynamic workforce that is equipped to meet the needs of now and the future.
In South Africa we experience the added complexity of exceedingly high unemployment rates with youth unemployment (age 15 – 34 years) as high as 46.5%. This results in significant numbers of graduate applicants for relatively few roles which also means that organisations want to ensure they make the right graduate hiring decisions.
Companies are increasingly investing in early career talent and graduate programs to drive innovation and growth. Graduate recruitment is therefore a crucial aspect of talent acquisition that could give your business the competitive edge in building a future-ready workforce.
Here’s what you need to consider in your hiring programs and key talent insights that will help you better understand the latest cohort of graduates to deliver great results.
Three Key Aspects of Graduate Hiring That Are Critical for Success
Our extensive experience and research shows that there are three key aspects of graduate recruitment that are critical for a company’s success: fit to the organisation, readiness for now, and potential for the future.
Fit to the Organisation
The first aspect of graduate recruitment is fit. This refers to the compatibility of an individual’s values, attitudes, and work style with the company’s culture and core values. A good fit between the employee and the company can result in higher job satisfaction, better performance, and lower turnover. Companies should take the time to understand the values and culture of their organisation and look for candidates who share in these—you can be sure that candidates are doing the same during their search.
Readiness for Now
While graduates will need development over time, it’s important to ensure they will be productive and able to contribute from the first day of joining your organisation. Companies should prioritize finding early career talent who possess the skills and attributes necessary to excel in their role from the outset.
By hiring candidates who are ready to hit the ground running, companies can streamline their onboarding processes and reduce the time it takes for new hires to become fully competent in their roles. This will lead to improved productivity, increased job satisfaction, and smoother integration into the organisation.
Potential for the Future
Graduates bring with them a unique set of skills and a fresh perspective, as well as the potential for growth and advancement. As they are just starting out in their careers, they have the potential to develop into highly skilled and motivated employees who can contribute significantly to the company’s success.
There has always been a focus on potential when it comes to graduate recruitment but has the type of potential needed now changed?
The concept of potential in graduate recruitment has evolved over time. Previously, the potential was primarily associated with a graduate’s ability to advance within the organisation and assume leadership positions. However, in today’s fast-paced and constantly changing workplace, the potential also encompasses a graduate’s adaptability and success in a variety of roles.
This shift in focus has led to an increased emphasis on skills-based hiring, as employers seek candidates who possess the foundational soft skills that are essential for success across roles. These skills, such as communication and teamwork, are highly valued because they are transferable and can be applied in different contexts.
What to expect from your graduate cohort in 2024 and how to support them
To help organisations understand more about graduates, we analysed recent assessment scores from over 20,000 graduates across the globe. With this talent insight, we can show the areas of strength and development against those that are critical for success in the workplace today – and guidance on how to use this information.
Our analysis shows that graduates’ most common strengths are: Takes Responsibility, Copes with Setbacks and Criticism, and Adapts to Change. Interestingly, our findings challenge the common belief that this generation tends to display lower resilience than the generations before them. Interestingly, the analysis shows that graduates across Africa differ slightly from the global graduate population with Copes with Setbacks and Criticism, Takes Responsibility, and Works to High Quality Standards as the strengths identified.
The three key areas for development are: Uses Time Efficiently, Strives to Achieve, and Analyses Information with the African graduate population having more of a key area of development for Maintaining Good Working Relationships and Strives to Achieve less of a development area. One possible explanation for this could be linked to challenges faced in staying motivated and working in remote or hybrid environments. Taken altogether, these competencies could be key areas for organisations to direct their efforts toward when designing onboarding and development plans.
Insights from assessments are important for identifying strengths and areas of development. Sharing individual reports with graduate candidates as part of the hiring process will help them learn more about themselves. Similarly, successful candidates and Hiring Managers should use and discuss these insights as part of on-boarding. Managers should consider developmental activities and leverage strengths through individualized task assignment activities and motivational stretch opportunities that allow them to collaborate and do meaningful work early in the employee journey.
With talent markets being so competitive and the future of work so uncertain, the need to embrace and engage new talent pools has never been greater. Research shows that employees from different backgrounds and perspectives contribute toward innovation, new perspectives, thought processes, and problem-solving skills.
When designing grad hiring strategies the goal should be to place less emphasis and priority on education and CV qualifications that tend to simply reinforce hiring decisions that are status quo. If the goal is to engage new and different talent pools, the hiring criteria needs to consider soft skills to help identify the best candidates. This approach provides a much better, more inclusive, and fairer way to identify great talent from all types of backgrounds and experiences.
In conclusion, graduate recruitment plays a crucial role in the development and success of any organisation. To achieve the best results, companies must approach graduate recruitment with a focus on three key factors: fit to the organisation, readiness for now, and potential for the future. And use assessment data to better understand individuals inform professional growth and on-boarding activities once they’ve joined the organisation.
By considering these aspects of their graduates, companies can build a workforce that is agile, future-ready, and equipped to handle the ever-changing demands of the market. With the right mix of talent, companies can not only meet current needs but also prepare for future challenges and capitalize on growth opportunities. Graduate recruitment is an investment in the future success of the company.
Aligned to the research in this article here are some practical applications to ensure a robust and highly successful graduate program. The keys to success in a graduate program include, but are not limited to:
- Real on-the-job experience: Ensure each graduate is responsible for specific tasks that enables them to gain real role experience and gives them a sense of success once objectives are achieved.
- Additional projects: Ensure graduates are assigned to projects in different roles creating opportunities for collaboration and exposure to accountability in safe contexts.
- Learn from each other: Ensure all graduates have opportunities to teach the business something they know or have learned, helping the organisation benefit from different perspectives and skills.
- Access to people: Ensure each graduate has a line manager and can access mentors and coaches to give them guidance, advice and support throughout their graduate journey.
Ceri Mongie is the Managing Director of SHL in South Africa.