The graduates of today, your leaders of tomorrow

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With 71% of new graduates achieving upper second or first class degrees in 2014 (HESA), businesses can no longer rely on a candidate’s academic achievements as a differentiator. With so many academically gifted graduates looking for their next step after university, how can you ensure that you are hiring those with the potential to succeed in your organisation? And once you have them, how can you develop them into the leaders of tomorrow?

Graduate schemes come in all different shapes and sizes and span all major industries, with many large organisations implementing graduate training as a way of bridging the gap between education and the world of work. No matter what your industry may be, the need to recruit high quality candidates that are easy to train, will deliver long term results and have the potential to become future leaders is critical to the success of any graduate programme.

At a time when more than a quarter of the country’s leading employees have recently increased their graduate recruitment budgets (High Flyers), it is more important than ever to maximise this opportunity to bring talent into your organisation – talent that has the potential to develop and perform in a highly competitive environment.

Recruit potential 

Graduate recruitment is moving away from focusing singularly on academic achievement as an indicator of high potential in an employment setting. Although academic qualifications and CVs gives some idea about a candidate’s ability and fit in an organisation, they don’t provide a reliable measure of workplace behaviour, cognitive ability, personality, future potential or cultural fit. As a result of this, in 2015, 78% of professionals agreed that psychometrics are a powerful tool for hiring (Personnel Today and Network HR Executive Search).

The transition from education to work often requires a significant change of mind set and attitude, as graduates are required to think on their feet, quickly pick up new skills and adapt to a business environment. Exploring both the personality traits of an individual, their ability to deal with their emotions and those of others, their likely behaviours and their cognitive potential can give you a valuable insight into the potential of a candidate to excel.

By understanding a candidate’s cognitive potential (the speed at which they learn new information), an employer can immediately compare different candidates and identify those more likely to hit the ground running and make an immediate impact in your organisation. When combined with a measure of behavioural, emotional and personality traits, this creates a powerful selection process which will help identify the stars of today and tomorrow. By understanding all of these aspects, you can easily identify how well-matched they are to a particular job role, with the measure of leadership potential in particular providing an invaluable insight into the graduates most suited to be placed on a fast-track graduate or leadership programme.

Develop your new recruits

Putting the right development in place for your high potential graduates is as important as hiring the right people in the first place. Whilst you will naturally have high expectations for your graduates, your graduates will also have high expectations of you as an employer, therefore it’s critical for you to implement timely and comprehensive development to keep your employees engaged with your organisation, as well as their own personal development plans (PDPs).

Development should be tailored to ensure that your graduates are developing the key business skills required to succeed in your organisation. With many graduates driven by what they studied at university, exposure to different areas of your business will help to develop their commercial acumen and open their eyes to other areas that may be the best fit for their career in the long-term. Combined with behavioural and team profiling, which outlines the preferred working behaviours of individuals and compares this to other team members, you will gain a much deeper understanding of the learning environments suited to each individual, encourage effective team working and improve communication.

During year one, quarterly soft skills training courses could be implemented to help build on and develop the personality traits and behaviours identified in your high potential candidates during the recruitment process. By producing a structured programme for development, which may include training on critical business skills such as communication, managing emotions and conflict management, you can ensure that everyone has access to the same knowledge and opportunities to support progression and enhance performance.

360-degree feedback can be implemented as the foundation of your performance management process. By collecting well-rounded feedback on different aspects of an employee’s performance in the workplace, it will allow you to distinguish between the elite graduates who have implemented their development most effectively, and have moved away from the graduate peloton.

Identify your future leaders 

So you’ve hired high potential graduates and spent a year actively developing their hard skills, behaviours and business acumen - what’s next? Benchmarking allows you to audit the potential in your organisation, helping you to identify commonalities between high potential traits and performance across your entire organisation. Combined with appraisal grading and the 9 box grid (commonly used by businesses to evaluate an employee's performance and potential), you will be able to flag those most likely to succeed and identify those with the potential to be future leaders and to take the next step.

Leadership skills and communication training may be offered to these future leaders as they enter a fast track graduate stream, focused on developing their ability to perform in a management and leadership capacity. As with all graduates, development should be continuous and tailored to individuals to ensure you are providing all employees with the opportunity to perform at their best.

At Thomas, we aim to simplify the approach to graduate recruitment and development and create the right fit for the organisational culture, the people and the team. To find out more how we can help you recruit and develop high potential graduates, get in touch on or call 01628 475 366.

Louise Basu, HR Director

Louise Basu, HR Director

Louise joined Thomas in 2013 following a HR career within consumer finance and the pharmaceutical industry. Louise is passionate about ensuring the HR function is both approachable and integrated across the business, driving the Thomas values through workplace engagement. Louise is CIPD qualified with a French and Spanish degree.