Struggling to maintain engagement and retention in your graduate development program? You’re not alone. The human attention span is now said to be only 8 seconds (that’s less than a goldfish!). Which means graduate program managers need to be kicking their engagement strategies up a notch.
Half of Australia’s grad employers spend a total of more than $5,000 for each graduate for their entire graduate program (50.69%). Most programs run for 19-24 months. That’s a long time in grad years, and that’s a large sum to sacrifice on disgruntled grads!
(2018 AAGE Grad Employer Survey).
So, we’ve done some digging to unearth a few creative ways you can maintain your graduates’ engagement in the development program until completion (and an engaged grad equals a retained grad).
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5 Ideas to help maintain graduate engagement in the development program.
1. Incorporate tech
Online learning platforms and employer-customised apps are an effective way to inform and engage your graduates before and during the program and help reaffirm your employer brand. Including things like
- an online learning module library,
- synced calendars to schedule training events,
- surveys and reporting metrics,
- social connection with other grads, and
- customisable content for individual learning needs.
If you’re really feeling game, you could explore ways to gamify your program (pun intended). For example, for every session grads attend, they earn 5 bananas. Community involvement, 5 bananas. Run a scavenger hunt every development block offering prizes and points – the points tally is then tracked publicly online on the learning platform. Winner is the grad with the highest bananas at end of the program. Actually – that sounds like fun!
2. Schedule coffee meetings
Sometimes, what we learn in a workshop can be hard for us to link to our everyday roles, so content is forgotten. Why not arrange automatic coffee catch ups between leaders and their grad/s immediately after each workshop to run through key learnings and to discuss how grads can apply this new knowledge to their role.
Technology is personalising every transaction; it’s changing the way we do things online. One’s development needs aren’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Explore ways you can personalise your graduates’ learning experience, like assigning training modules according to their skills profiling results. Perhaps you could introduce a session that's "choose your own adventure" - split the group up and give them the choice from 3 career or specialist topics so you're giving them some control over content.
4. Introduce a graduate referral program
One way to keep your graduates engaged is to make them grad program ambassadors. Keep them up-to-date with program news and events, and ask for their opinion or help in shaping the direction of the program. The more involved they are, and the more appreciated they feel – the more engaged they’ll be. For some creamy frosting for the cake, get your grads involved in your next recruitment campaign by offering a graduate referral rewards program. For every grad who refers a suitable friend that’s then offered (and accepts!) employment – reward them with a $XX travel voucher (or similar to your corporate referral program).
5. Invest in further training
Graduates expect a lot from their development program. If you’re hiring graduates to be fast tracked into leadership roles – why not continue the development for high performers. A targeted program can be used as a ‘reward’ or engagement strategy to encourage participation and ambition. Just make sure you have a reliable measurement system in place to demonstrate fairness.
One final note on training – sometimes grads become disengaged because they aren’t partnered with a strong leader or right fit for the graduate’s needs. Don’t forget to invest in your own grad leaders and managers by upskilling them with the skills and knowledge they need to provide exceptional support for their newest employees.