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Jonathan Evans

Discovery Graduates


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Top tips to retain your graduate talent


A report from leading advisory firm CEB, published in August, highlighted that a quarter of graduates leave their first job within a year of starting it with an estimated sunk cost in the UK of £112m in 2013.

What can businesses do to retain their graduate talent? Here are my top five tips:

1. Employ the right graduates in the first place

Although companies are looking for a quicker return on their graduates there is no ‘quick fix’ and many companies rush to recruit what they perceive to be the ‘best’ graduates, without taking the time to identify the most ‘appropriate’ graduates for their business and industry.

But it’s a costly mistake, and in order to avoid such large financial losses, businesses need to recruit graduates who not only are a good cultural fit for the business and who have a genuine passion to work in that particular sector and role but their values are congruent with those of the company. Using Situational Judgement Questions as part of the selection process provides further insight and evidence to support their likely suitability and achievement in the role alongside benchmarking. This will also help the candidate to fully understand the position they are going for and the important part they will play.

2. Have a robust and objective recruitment process

To avoid employing the ‘wrong’ graduates it is essential that the recruitment process is a thorough one. The selection process needs to be personalised and rigorous to ensure that the business is right for the graduate. Whilst aptitude testing and profiling tools provide great insight to aid development once your graduate starts, it is equally important to see candidates ‘in action’. Assessment centres which incorporate role play activities and analytical exercises give you a concrete idea of how the graduate will be likely to perform in your workplace.

3. Link your recruitment to your business strategy

Whether you’re recruiting using an in house team, or an external agency, make sure that your business strategy is at the heart of the recruitment process alongside your values. It is crucial that those doing the recruiting have an in depth understanding of a company’s business strategy and values so that only those graduates who have the skills to achieve it get through the net. Likewise, managers who are assigned a graduate must be fully aware of the graduate’s destination within the business so they can fully support them and encourage on their path to get there.

4. Invest in their development

When it comes to retention, the development of your talent is just as important as the recruiting. Once you’ve attracted the right people you must ensure that they are supported and that they are enabled to develop within the company. This engenders loyalty and also makes sure that people feel valued and want to stay at the company.

5. Take the long view

Businesses need to start looking at graduate recruitment and development as the longer term investment it is in order to hire better people, improve retention and ultimately get a better return on their original investment. Clearly communicate what you expect from your graduates and check in with them regularly to discuss their progression.  Use appropriate performance reviews and appraisals to ensure ‘clarity and unity’. 

If you’re delighted with them, tell them! Taking the time secure the right people is time, and money, well spent. Graduates must also be willing to commit time and energy to the process – our assessment process just to get onto the books at Discovery Graduates is rigorous so we’re not for the faint hearted!

The world is moving towards a very different place to the one we have known before – and talent attraction and retention is at the very heart of this. Post downturn, many companies are voicing their concern over the skills shortages that will prevent them from achieving their growth plans.  Only the most agile and forward thinking organisations who recognise this, and plan for it, will be able to attain this competitive edge. 

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Jonathan Evans


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