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Five questions and answers to a better graduate programme

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15th Aug 2016
Editor HRZone
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Alan Price is Employment Law & HR Director​ at Peninsula, recently awarded the Best Place to Work for Graduates 2016​ award. In this interview Alan talks about honing graduate soft skills, the benefits of graduats in the workplace, and the common ways that businesses mismanage graduates.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: Graduates are often intelligent but unprepared for working in a commercial environment. How do you get them up to speed quickly?

Alan Price, Employment Law & HR Director, Peninsula: Whilst it is important to equip graduates with the technical skills and knowledge they need to succeed, in my experience what graduates often lack are those essential ‘soft skills’ which are fundamental to any workplace dynamic.

These include communication skills, flexibility, time management, problem solving skills and leadership ability.

It is important to treat graduates as you would any other employee.

University often builds the foundation for these skills, however when graduates enter the workforce such skills require refinement in order to ensure their practical application.

Within Peninsula, we have constructed a graduate training programme which combines the technical teaching of employment law, with interactive assessments that fully prepare graduates for a career with us.

These activities range from realistic pitch scenarios to timed group exercises followed by presentations.

It is important to treat graduates as you would any other employee by giving them clear and measurable objectives, communicating with them regularly and providing a supportive environment that facilitates professional and personal growth.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: Why are graduates an attractive group to go after? What skills do you find they bring that are most helpful to the business?

Alan Price, Employment Law & HR Director, Peninsula: For both Peninsula and many other businesses across the UK graduates provide the opportunity to grow talent from within, strengthening your talent pool, whilst creating a supportive culture of succession planning.

Graduates enter the workplace filled with fresh ideas and insight, which are invaluable for future growth, particularly if you want to tap into the younger digitally savvy generation.

What’s more, they are often ready to mould and quick to learn, which gives employers prime opportunity to shape graduates to become an integral part of their company culture. At Peninsula, this allows us to develop strong employment law and HR experts who are valuable assets to our business and its members.

Graduates enter the workplace filled with fresh ideas and insight, which are invaluable for future growth.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: What are the most common ways that businesses mismanage their staff?

Alan Price, Employment Law & HR Director, Peninsula: I believe that many businesses often neglect the importance of engaging their employees by acting as managers instead of leaders. Employees are your most valuable asset, they represent the core of your business and as such require employers who inspire them.

Rather than concentrating on the process, leaders understand what motivates employees to perform at their best and how to ensure employees feel valued for the efforts and contributions. This pays dividends for businesses, as a valued employee is also a productive and loyal employee.

Regardless of whether they are a graduate or not, employees need to be aware of what is expected of them.

One of the biggest issues is a lack of communication and trust, which is crucial for a successful employer-employee relationship.

Regardless of whether they are a graduate or not, employees need to be aware of what is expected of them in order to prosper and meet the company’s objectives. Employees also value feedback, not only to ensure that they are doing their job correctly, but to feel that what they are contributing to the business is appreciated by their employer.

Finally, communication is essential during major changes within an organisation.

If employees feel left out of the bigger picture, they may start to withdraw themselves from their work, which can be extremely harmful to productivity levels and workplace morale.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: What are the most common negative effects of employing graduates and how can they be mitigated?

Alan Price, Employment Law & HR Director, Peninsula: It is important to be honest and open with regards to their role in the programme and within the company in general. Our graduate programme at Peninsula can be difficult as it involves high levels of multi-tasking, time management, project work and learning & development.

So it’s not for the faint hearted or those who aren’t committed to putting in the effort is requires to succeed. In saying this, however we provide an environment which is supportive and conducive to learning, and the programme itself is skilfully managed to ensure that graduates are prepared for the world of work.

We ensure that our graduate programme focusses on the development of skills that will improve our members’ experience.

As with any employee, hiring graduates involves high amounts of preparation, the implementation of clear objectives and an openness in our plans for them within the programme and beyond.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: What's your process for continuously improving the graduate programme experience?

Alan Price, Employment Law & HR Director, Peninsula: Encouraging feedback is paramount. No programme is ever perfect, as businesses and the needs of consumers and/or clients are constantly changing and evolving.

With that in mind, we ensure that our graduate programme focusses on the development of skills that will improve our members’ experience, whilst providing an enriching and rewarding place for our employees to work.

We have recently added a Buddy system from each intake, in addition to forming a Development Community, and an open forum which focuses on feedback and changes that can be made to improve our training programme and the graduates experience as a whole.

This year we have added more social and charitable elements to the programme in order for the graduates to understand the importance of giving back to the local community and how business can bring forth positive change.

We of course like to add an element of fun to the workplace by organising activities such as sports tournaments, team building days and fun days on the last Friday of the month.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: How do you embed graduates within the wider business and ensure they are as effective as possible as soon as possible?

Alan Price, Employment Law & HR Director, Peninsula: This is about exposure to all elements of the business.

We focus the first 4 weeks of the programme on other departments and functions outside of their assigned role in order for them to see how each department contributes to Peninsula’s objectives as a whole.

Following this, we encourage our graduates to remain in constant contact with the different departments to build those relationships and to stay in the loop regarding current changes within business.

This helps our graduates become integrated into company life much faster and gives them grounding into what is expected of them and where their career at Peninsula is likely to take them.

During their initial stages, our graduates also sit down with our managing director, the founder of Peninsula, who talks them through Peninsula’s objectives, our core values and beliefs, and how they will fit into where the business is heading.

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