I previously wrote about retention in 2022 and I wanted to build on that as things continue to change after the recent (weird) years we’ve experienced.

I’ve had recent conversations with members around retention and I’ve also been looking at some data. For example, did you know that the Australian Association of Graduate Employer (AAGE) Candidate Survey Report consistently shows that half of surveyed students intend to stay with an employer for 5+ years? Of course, they haven’t even started their role yet, but nice to know they have good intentions right!

When you compare this to their response after working in the business for 12 months it reduces to about a third who still intend to stay more than five years. Another interesting data point was that only 63% had not considered leaving (within that 12-month period). So, over a third had already thought about leaving within the first 12 months and the main reasons were compensation, content/quality of work and career progression opportunities

According to 2020 research by McCrindle, the average tenure for an employee in Australia currently is 3.3 years.  Interestingly though, tenure differs when you break this down and look at specific age groups. For example, employees aged 45+ have an average tenure of 6 years 8 months in comparison to 1 year 8 months for those under 25.

The research points out that a school leaver today may have up to five separate careers in their working life.

“What is unique today is that the bulk of the workforce is following the lead of young people with more retraining, career changing, home moving, and shifting from employment to self-employment (and back!) than ever before.”

So, with all this workforce movement (either current or emerging), now is the time to change our expectations and our mindset towards retention.

Over a decade ago when I started in this space, absolutely retention was an important indicator of success for our programs. We’d aim for at least five years tenure to demonstrate the program’s effectiveness and return on investment.

I think now though we can measure success in diverse ways, for example:

  • Do our graduates recommend our program to others?
  • Do our graduates endorse our products/services to others?
  • How many of our graduates are promoted within the business by the completion of the program?
  • How are our graduates performing in comparison to the broader employee population?
  • Are our graduates more engaged than our broader employee population?

Having said this, retention is still a valid data point to track and monitor. I personally look at retention for the duration of the program (my program is two years), and then 12 months and 24 months post-program completion, but no longer than that.

If you find that you have graduates exiting during the program, you may need to ask the following questions:

  • Is the brand/marketing not aligned to the actual program experience?
  • Is there something in the recruitment process that needs to be reviewed?
  • Do our leaders need more support or are their gaps in their experience?
  • Was the work offered insufficient or too simple (or too much, too complex)?
  • Is our program too rigid (e.g., can we be more flexible to what individual graduates are needing)?
  • Is our salary competitive and do we can adjust salary in response to the market?
  • Is the length of our program too long? Are we providing a vision for their career beyond the program?

While interviews are a great way to capture feedback (or reasons why) from exiting graduates, it is more effective to capture feedback throughout the program so that you can proactively manage expectations and flex with the needs of individuals and/or the cohort.  For help, there is a previous blog on GHH on asking the right questions, that you should check out.

In summary, track your retention and understand why, but don’t necessarily put benchmarks around this.  Instead, use the information you have to make improvements or adjustments so that the program supports individuals as well as the business. 

I think programs now are more ‘alive’ than they have ever been before, and we need to nurture them rather than leave them on the windowsill to fend for themselves.

Join the conversation on Facebook and/or LinkedIn at gradherohub.com/connect