It is that time of year and one of the biggest challenges to confront any graduate manager is gaining key stakeholder endorsement and funding approval for a graduate program.
So, what do graduate managers need to include in a strategy to get their program, funding and graduate numbers approved?
Put yourself in your stakeholder’s shoes and ask yourself why you would invest a significant amount of money, time and resources in recruiting inexperienced, fresh-out-of-university employees who need to be transitioned to corporate life.
The answer is simple: graduates have potential. Combine that with the fact that they are energetic, innovative, tech savvy and, let’s face it, a very cost effective resource and it all adds up to a strong business case for injecting any talent pipeline with graduates.
The reality is that not every new graduate will become your next CEO. But statistics do show that graduates who have been with an organisation for more than five to seven years are more likely to grow into future leaders and take on senior positions.
Your graduate strategy, or business case for key stakeholders, will need to address:
- your Graduate Value Proposition (GVP)
- how quickly the graduates will be ready to take on critical roles in your organisation
- how this young, potential talent will be developed
- the type of real and challenging roles that will be available for graduates
- how graduates will be managed, supported and led
- pay structures
- the provision of career pathways for graduates to realise their potential
- the required investment
These key elements are required to engage and manage the expectations of your stakeholders or senior management. It is critical that they support the graduate strategy and throw their full support behind the program. Stakeholders need to be passionate and excited about championing the program and will ultimately set the tone for how the rest of the organisation views the program and supports the graduates.
Graduate Value Proposition (GVP)
Key stakeholders need to know why graduates should, and would, join your organisation. This is effectively your Graduate Value Proposition (GVP), which will underpin your business case as well as your attraction strategy.
Overall, the proposition being offered to the market (GVP) should address the following questions:
- What will your graduate brand look like in the market place?
- How will your brand be perceived?
- What are you offering and promising?
- Importantly – can you deliver on that promise, and how?
To address the above, graduate managers must showcase their strategic intent and vision for a graduate program that includes:
- an attraction campaign that showcases the organisation, its people, values and culture
- a selection methodology that identifies the best available candidates
- a ‘keep warm’ phase that engages offered graduates prior to them starting with your organisation
- a comprehensive technical and skill-enhancing induction program to transition new graduates from university to corporate life
- a structured graduate development program
- a plan for rotations, mentoring and buddy programs and community partnerships
- clarification of the jobs that graduates will be performing and transitioning through
- clear and realistic career pathways
- opportunities to identify and foster talent
All of these elements combined, if planned and executed effectively, will form a convincing GVP.
Your key stakeholders and business leaders need to understand what the GVP is and how it relates to the organisation’s Employee Value Proposition. They need to believe in it and become ambassadors who are both actively involved throughout the program and ultimately responsible for driving approval for the program. Imagine the influence and strength of a program when a CEO, and other senior executives, endorse and foster the program. When this key initiative is overlooked it is often the biggest downfall of a graduate program.
While you may have a great strategic plan for the program and even a substantial GVP, if the program doesn’t have the support of senior leaders it will struggle and even fail. It is absolutely critical to gain program sponsorship and support from influential stakeholders. And remember: in all organisations, leaders come and go and stakeholders change. You’ll need to engage with them regularly to ensure consistent support.
Brand and reputation
The reputation your organisation can build in the graduate market should never be undervalued. Positioning your brand as an employer of choice can go a long way in helping to convince key stakeholders of the longer-term value of the program. Aim to position your program with the universities, especially if you are a product or service-related organisation, as it will benefit from the additional brand exposure they can provide. Imagine the value of thousands of university students responding to your brand’s positioning at careers fairs, in careers advisory units or on an array of job sites.
Return on investment
Any group of key stakeholders will want to see the associated costs or investment required to fund a leading graduate program.
The elements for consideration are:
- your attraction, marketing and branding campaign budget
- cost per hire for your selection methodology
- competitive graduate salaries and progression scales
- graduate on-boarding, induction and development program costs
- talent identification and talent program costs
It is vital that you support your cost analysis with statistical information relating to:
- industry data (e.g. AAGE Survey statistics) to showcase industry average costs, resources and expenditure items
- market and competitor analysis – nothing ignites a stakeholder’s competitive nature more than showing them competitor data
- Free university commencement and completion data available at: www.deewr.gov.au/highereducation
- benchmarking – real case examples of employers who are leading the way and developing best practice
Demonstrating return on investment is arguably the most essential component. Show your stakeholders the actual, and the potential, return.
If you need any assistance building your program, GVP, Cost per hire or simply convincing stakeholders please feel free to contact Fusion Graduate Consultancy.