This is usually the time of year that I would be finished recruitment, have the next round of rotations locked in and started to plan onboarding and learning activities for the next intake.

There are several other activities I would be doing as well, like:

  • Finalizing the timeline for the next attraction & selection campaign
  • Engaging marketing support to review & refresh campaign elements
  • Reviewing supplier/s and scanning market for new products or services
  • Pulling together a year-in-review (including data and feedback) and identifying continuous improvement opportunities.

To your stakeholders, this might appear to be your ‘downtime’, but it is anything but.  This is the time of year when the foundation is laid and all the behind the scenes preparation starts.

When you’ve done more than one cycle (or year), you can unintentionally find yourself reviewing and updating the same elements rather than thinking more about what is important right now, or what is likely to be more important in the next 12 months.

Recently I have been talking to Graduate Program Managers (relatively new to their role) about some of the things they should think about for next year and thought I would share a few of these with you.

Better candidate comms

It is very rare that I hear grad managers say they have updated their candidate communication templates in their ATS.  It is usually a set and forget exercise.  However, if we have learnt anything this year, it is that how and when we communicate with our candidates is extremely important.  Think about the stages of your process that it is appropriate to communicate with your candidates and write comms that are clear, transparent and add value (i.e. provide candidates with information that is going to help them regardless of the outcome). 

It is possible to create templates that do this, and you also want to use automation (in your ATS) to reduce as much manual processing as possible.  Build communication checkpoints into your recruitment timeline so you know what templates you will need and when they should be scheduled.

Smart screening

Everyone has pretty much done something different in the recruitment space this year.  Now’s the time to take stock and identify your learnings, but also tap into your network and find out the learnings of others as well. 

Be prepared for high application numbers by thinking through your screening strategy as much as your selection strategy.  Screening is often the most time consuming and manual part of the process, but it does not need to be.  You want your candidates to have a great experience at this stage in the process, just as much as later in the process.  If you can screen your candidates quickly and communicate the outcome to them, then either successful or unsuccessful, they will have a much better experience, and you will significantly reduce your time to hire as well.

Tips to reduce screening time:  depending on your ATS, it might be better to build an application form that captures key information rather than ask candidates to provide a CV, use eligibility criteria and ATS automation as much as possible, use your capability framework to identify one or two essential criteria that candidates must have as a minimum and use a tool (e.g. assessment or software solution) that helps identifies these for you.

Getting the right feedback

Often Grad Program Managers will continue delivering the same program content year on year, because the feedback is positive (?).  But are you asking the right questions when you seek feedback? For example, are you asking them if they ‘liked’ a program, or are you asking them if they learnt something?  Are you asking their managers if they have seen evidence of that learning in the workplace?

Currently, and probably for the next couple of years, our programs are going to be under pressure to show or demonstrate outcomes.  Understanding what your measures of success are and then asking the right questions when you seek feedback is extremely important.  If this is something you have not put much effort into so far, then now is the time to really tighten this up and get some great data to back you up in the future.

Elevate the strategy

Revisit your program strategy (your why) and make sure what you are delivering is relevant and takes your program in the direction that is intended.  Engage your stakeholders and find your champions in the business who can help you spread the word.  Tell your story to the business and raise the profile of the program.  Showcase what you achieved this year despite the challenges and what you learnt along the way.  Identify what elements you are working on next and tell your stakeholders how they can support you. 

In closing, I don’t advocate for doing a complete overhaul of your graduate program, but rather choosing two or three elements to focus on each cycle.  For grad programs, it does take a couple of cycles before you start to see the benefits of any changes you make.

The Graduate Talent Maturity Model is a great place to start if you want to do an assessment of your current program offering.  It will also help you to identify what elements you want to focus on improving in the short to medium term.

Try not to overwhelm yourself by trying to do too much at the same time and do not overthink things.  Feel confident to make decisions on simple things and get help with the more complex things (e.g. grads love getting involved in continuous improvement activities).

The most important thing is to do something that helps your program move forward!

“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.” Mark Twain