I initially wrote this article in February when we were operating in a very different landscape but feel it’s still relevant now (maybe more so). It’s critical during this time of social distancing to make sure we don’t lose sight of keeping new graduates warm and engaged prior to starting in a new role.
In 2019, Grad Connection shared results from a survey in which 16% of students stated that they had reneged on a graduate role and 35% claimed that they would renege on an offer if a better one came along.
It’s too early to say if Graduates will have a different view this year. However, they still may be weighing up multiple offers and applying to other firms as assessment centres are re-designed and postponed and we potentially see a higher number of hiring processes being run later in the year.
So what can you do to keep your Grads engaged remotely over a potentially extended period?
Earlier this year, I was speaking with one of the biggest employers of graduates in Australia and they believe that graduate engagement and retention strategies start from the time a student decides to submit an application.
“It’s all about the experience from application to start date, continuing to push your value proposition and building an emotional connection with the firm, team and role. Setting expectations, communicating often with meaningful content and allowing graduates to connect with their cohort or team are key factors in a valuable engagement experience”.
So, as a first step, make sure any new virtual hiring process is just as focused on positive experiences from application to offer. This means being clear on expectations and the process and providing regular updates to all candidates on any delays, changes or outcomes.
Here are some other suggestions on ways in which you could bolster your graduate experience:
- Recruit Hiring Managers to support engagement
My colleague Nadine wrote a recent article about building the capability of Hiring Managers (”How to Train a Hiring Manager”), which highlights the importance of setting strategic context in your Hiring Manager community. Recruitment doesn’t end once the offers have been made and Hiring Managers have the greatest opportunity (or perhaps responsibility) to help newly offered graduates stay engaged with their team. Work with your Hiring Managers on a plan and calendar of virtual activities that everyone agrees to and participates in. Think about the audience, their access to technology and how you can make them feel relaxed and comfortable meeting their managers and teams from home or a shared living space.
Some simple ideas (that can be managed virtually) where hiring managers can get involved:
- Connect with their Grads on appropriate social media and facilitate interactions with the team
- Identify buddies and mentors straight away and get them talking
- Include newly offered Graduates in online events, social gatherings and virtual office tours
- Allocate them casual work or projects that can be completed remotely or look into virtual internship platforms like InsideSherpa to set up work modules students can complete at any time from their own devices
- Share interesting articles or updates that will appeal to the cohort or feature recent graduate joiners and their tips and tricks to tackle the study to work life transition
- Ask your incoming cohort
When in doubt, ask. To ensure you establish meaningful engagement, ask or survey your incoming Graduates to find out what they want to hear about, how they prefer to engage and how often? The act of considering their needs alone is a good way to connect and show them you are listening.
- Provide coaching and feedback
Arrange for one-on-one virtual feedback sessions based on the results of their assessment. We provide feedback to unsuccessful candidates but helping your new graduates understand where they can focus in terms of professional and personal development will ultimately benefit everyone. Adding value typically adds engagement and loyalty.
- Consider a “work-readiness” program
Students want to know how they can prepare and what to expect leading up to their first day, week, month and for the rest of their program. Offering virtual pre-boarding training on skills to help students transition and be successful when they join will be appreciated not only by your graduates but your business as well. Highlight how this learning will continue throughout their program.
The Career Conversation is a good example of a company that works with organisations to equip students with online ‘job readiness’ content such as developing confidence, interpersonal awareness, communication, personal brand and other personal capabilities which improves the quality of connection and conversations. This is the sort of gift that keeps on giving!
- Leverage new technology
This will depend on your size and budget but customised apps are a great way to share information, videos and training. They also provide a platform to submit questions, share profiles and facilitate discussion amongst the Graduate cohort prior to joining.
- Human connection, for the win
This generation of digital natives continue to crave face to face human interaction and connection. So while physical interaction is still not possible, continue to look for opportunities where your graduates can have virtual meet-ups and one-on-one’s with their teams.
Ultimately you’ll need to figure out what will work best within your context and budget. A fully virtual pre-boarding engagement and retention plan doesn’t have to cost the earth but it will result in a more positive experience, greater conversion and ultimately pull through into improved performance and advocacy.
Having run Grad campaigns for several years, if I can provide any more insight or guidance, just let me know – I am always happy to share knowledge, swap stories and brainstorm!
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0411 068 358.
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