How to decide if your business is ready for a grad scheme

Lee Biggins discusses why it might be worth thinking about whether your company should introduce a graduate programme.

Many businesses establish a graduate programme to foster and develop the next generation, bring a new way of thinking into the business or even get their hands on the best of the best before anyone else. So as your small business begins to expand, how do you decide if a graduate scheme is right for your business and how do you determine when you’re ready?

Our latest research suggests that 68 per cent of UK businesses don’t offer a formal graduate programme, so if you’re ‘um-ing’ and ‘ah-ing’ over the decision to bring in a fresh batch of university leavers, you’re not alone! While it’s unclear whether the decision against a grad scheme is an active one, or if it’s something that just hasn’t come to mind yet; what is clear is that graduate programmes can be a massive investment, albeit one with many rewards, so here’s what you should consider before making your decision on a formal graduate programme.

Determine how well your business objectives align with a graduate scheme

As a business owner, your company’s needs should always be at the top of your priority list. So if you’re debating a graduate programme your first consideration should be your business objectives. Take a look at what your business needs to reach your objectives in the next few weeks, months and year. You might find there’s an immediate or upcoming demand for graduate talent, whether you’re operating in an industry that requires technical qualifications, or you’re looking to appeal to a younger demographic, there could be a natural place for university leavers in your business.

However, with over 80 per cent of recruitment experts admitting work experience is more valuable than a degree, you should also determine how prepared you are to train and develop graduates. If your business has room for two more employees in the next six months and you need people who can hit the ground running, it might be best to shelve the idea of hiring graduates for a while. It’s critical that you weigh the pros and cons of having recent graduates join your team.

Your business may be ready, but is your workforce?

OK, so you’ve reviewed your objectives and business needs and it’s clear: you want to hire graduates. As with most decisions in the business world, my advice to you is not to jump right in and immediately launch a formal grad scheme. Before making any rash decisions it’s important that you look at the bigger picture; you may be ready to hire a graduate, but is your workforce prepared?

Our recent research reveals that 56.3 per cent of UK workers find working with graduates challenging because grads lack experience and don’t understand the fundamentals of business; suggesting that your current employees will need to have free time for a little bit of hand holding while your new recruits learn the ropes. You don’t want to bring onboard a group of university leavers who could damage your workforce’s level of productivity.

So first, have an honest conversation with the graduate-to-be’s line manager and be clear about what is expected of them. Make sure they have the time and experience to handle the challenge ahead (you might even find it’s not a challenge at all!) Once you’re confident the team is ready, perhaps start off by hiring just one graduate before launching a formal programme. This way you’ll be able to test the waters, measure the success of the new hire and get honest feedback from everyone about the experience.

Measure, measure and measure again

In order to get the most of everyone, you must measure results. Make sure you’ve given every team member (including your new grad) achievable targets and measure their performance before and after launching your mini-graduate scheme. This way you’ll be able to clearly see how the new hire has impacted on your bottom line, for better or worse. Use these results, along with the feedback from your staff to consider how to move forward.

It’s worth noting that while results and performance are critical, graduates can bring a wealth of benefits beyond the bottom line. In fact, the research shows that workers believe graduates bring a fresh way of thinking, which could result in new ideas, processes and recommendations that might ultimately save time and money. In addition, workers admit that graduates are fun to have around and boost overall office morale.

As with most things in life, there are pros and cons to having graduates join your workforce, so take the time to really consider the investment required before implementing a graduate scheme. If you decide what’s best for your business, start slow and measure the results, you should be in a good position.

Further reading on taking on graduates

Lee Biggins

Lee Biggins

Lee Biggins is founder and managing director of CV-Library.

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