Emma Davidson: 4 ways to create a successful graduate scheme

With talent shortages across all industries and the uncertainty of Brexit looming, fierce competition is seeing businesses engaging people earlier and earlier in their job search. This makes the newest generation, Gen Z, a key target. In 2019, we will see a shift in how employers are actively engaging with this generation and adapting their ways to suit them.

But this is no easy undertaking. The first step is understanding this least understood group, that doesn’t just expect equality, they demand it. This means the importance of balanced gender pay gaps, diversity and public perception are increasingly important if firms want to attract this latest cohort to join them.

In fact, Vision Critical profiled the new wave of graduates and found they are connected on a global scale like never before. This means that they have a wider perspective and strong opinions on things like inclusivity, diversity, and pay equality. Peter Heneghan at LADbible revealed Gen Z is engaging the most with wider concerns on a global scale, for instance plastic pollution.

Campaigns that promote social good are what LADbible has identified as most important to young people. Heneghan revealed that its core audience, 18-34-year olds, is interested in mental health, politics and the environment. After uncovering this insight, LADbible adjusted the tone and focus of its content to address this. Something hiring managers should take note from.

Gen Z are also focused on building their own personal brand, and no longer define themselves by one lifelong career. In fact, like their millennial predecessors, this generation’s vision of working life incorporates passion projects and switching between a variety of different functions and industries.

As the land grab for talent has never been more competitive, it’s tempting to craft an idealistic image of your firm, overpromising and overselling a role and the company based only on the positives. But this is short-sighted and can lose trust. Gen Z may initially be attracted by the promises made in a job ad, but as soon as the reality doesn’t match up, they’ll be searching for their next role. So it’s important to actually practise what you preach.

LinkedIn describes Gen Z as the most mobile generation of professionals, with more than 40 per cent interested in changing the direction of their career, whether that’s to a different industry or a different role entirely. Therefore, overselling the job will simply result in disappointment for both parties and more hiring costs later down the line. Especially considering the job market remains highly saturated and tilts in favour of the candidate – which doesn’t look likely to change anytime soon.

Leaning on old traditions will not slide with Gen Z. Take big tech firms. The fact that tech firms slipped down the rankings in this years’ Best Place to Work is very telling. Google, which topped the rankings in 2017, slipped to 13th last year, Apple has fallen from ninth to 43rd, and Facebook has dropped out of the top 50 entirely. This isn’t surprising following the string of scandals that many of them experienced last year.

This generation is outspoken on topics that directly affect them, like the gender pay gap and racial prejudices. For instance, traditional businesses who enforce women to wear heels at work will only drive away the best young minds. We surveyed a pool of young people on gender pay inequality and found 7 in 10 students view an organisation with a large gender pay gap as having a distinct lack of integrity and think it reflects badly on the business not to address this issue. And unsurprisingly, 1 in 3 young women we surveyed said they would be completely deterred from applying to businesses with a large gender pay discrepancy.

Alongside graduates’ expectations regarding gender and racial equality, social mobility is another key issue they care about. Yet many employers continue to favour privately educated students, as reports reveal the majority businesses are still only hiring 57 per cent of their workforce from state schools. This figure isn’t proportionate, considering the fact that the majority of the population is state-educated. This must change to align with modern values.

What’s next for graduate recruitment?

Taking all this into account, in 2019 the focus should be cultivating a company culture that aligns with the values of the young professionals businesses are seeking to recruit. Salary and benefits are a small part of the puzzle to these graduates, if unaccompanied by a sense of community and wellbeing at work. Almost half (45 per cent) of professionals under the age of 24 admitted that work relationships are what is keeping them at their current job, compared to 25 per cent for those over 35. Gen Z feels no loyalty to a firm that disregards their mental health or ignores wider concerns like environmental sustainability.

It’s time businesses turn their attention to their graduate recruitment scheme and ask some frank questions about whether it’s still attracting young talent and what changes must be made internally. Businesses should move away from a short-sighted view of just hitting KPIs and filling quotas. Staff are more than just data points and numbers, so should be treated as such. Graduate recruitment must adapt to keep up with the demands of this new value-driven cohort by engaging with them using the right language, through the right channels which they understand and can relate to. Or else they face the risk of losing out on future talent.

Interested in graduate recruitment and the future of work?  We recommend the Graduate Recruitment and Development Forum 2019 and Future of Work Summit 2019





Michele Trusolino, co-founder and COO at Debut, a student careers app that is shaking up the recruitment sector. Michele started his career with Goldman Sachs in 2004 in London but decided to leave the big corporations behind and apply his knowledge to start-ups, initially within the same sector. After hearing about the idea of Debut, Michele was immediately interested in becoming the second member of the team.