By and large, workplaces in Australia have never been more holistic and compassionate to graduates as they are now, whether it be health & wellness budgets, mental health support services, volunteering opportunities, and dedicated social events.
But even now, there are ‘top-down’ remnants from old-world corporate that linger in the way intern & graduate programs are designed, bound by a lack of confidence in young talent.
There’s a ‘3+ years experience required for entry-level role’ culture that underweights the learning speed and independence of early-career professionals, and if companies want to retain top young talent, there needs to be a shakeup.
When I first met Kerry Callenbach (People & Culture Specialist @ Mantel Group) through the Earlywork community, I was taken aback by her radical approach to early-career hiring:
No use of the word ‘graduate’. No university degrees required. No minimum timelines for promotion. Flexibility to rotate or specialise straight away. Traineeship programs for career switchers.
Having spent 10+ years in talent management across Deloitte, ANZ Bank, University of Melbourne, and Hawthorn Football Club, before making the move to tech, Kerry is one of the most progressive thinkers I’ve encountered in the people and talent space.
Here are the 8 biggest mistakes that she thinks employers make when hiring grads and interns:
#1: Not paying for internships 💸
I appreciate that this can be a tricky one between finding the balance between providing an opportunity to students and crunching the numbers.
But at the end of the day, hiring students for an internship brings a number of benefits to the employer; promotion of the company’s brand, fresh ideas & perspectives, and a filtered, future talent pipeline.
So paying an intern for the value they bring not only now, but the future, is the right thing to do.
If paying an intern is not something you're in a position to do right now, think about other legal alternatives where there are reciprocal benefits, such as:
- Registering for a Workplace Integration Program through a university
- Checking if the student can receive subject credit for the hours worked
- Signing up to support student learning projects through bootcamp providers
- Offering to mentor a student on a particular subject/course instead of an internship
#2: Requiring uni degrees to be in a graduate program 🎓
Don’t get me wrong, as a uni grad myself, I have experienced first-hand the benefits and breadth of learning that a degree provides.
However limiting applications for graduate programs to only those who have studied at university neglects to recognise the richness and diversity that learning through other pathways and life experiences brings:
- The resilience of working part-time whilst completing a BootCamp
- Self-teaching coding whilst working through the day
- Juggling working with the balance of family/personal commitments or bravery of moving to another state/country to pursue study or work
These paths all display attributes and capabilities that aren’t harnessed in a lecture theatre.
💡 Tip for Employers: Instead of using a degree as a screening tool, look to see how students have harnessed skills and attributes that enable success through self-learning, work or life. Look to set up supplementary learning programs that will build their “technical” skills.
#3: Boxing graduates into roles based on what they studied 📚
Without a doubt, there are some courses that are absolutely essential to study to commence a vocation, say, medicine or law.
However, in the world of business & tech, boxing new graduates into a role based on their degree inhibits their chance to build a broad skillset, and more importantly, their ability to choose a path that’s different to what they studied.
💡 Tip for Employers: Providing graduates with an opportunity to rotate through different roles, or gain exposure to different specialisations, will allow them to make an informed decision about their career and stay with your company, rather than leaving to try a different path.
#4: Including learning clawback clauses in graduate offers 🦀
I won’t lie, this one makes my blood boil! Recruiting early talent means that you are committing to invest in developing, growing and harnessing their potential to be amazing.
They chose you to begin their career journey and give them an incredible experience… but then you want them to pay for that if they choose to leave?!
Providing learning to graduates, or any employee for that matter, isn't a benefit. It’s an expectation and responsibility you have in helping people be the best they can be.
So instead of whacking in a clause to force someone to repay you for training costs if they realise that the role or company isn’t for them, take a moment to see what could you be doing differently to make your graduates want to continue their career journey with you.
#5: Failing to invest in developing interpersonal skills 🤝
Training around the human skills that enable someone to be great at their job is often under-invested in graduate programs, yet it is these things that are predominately used to determine performance and promotions.
We have all heard the adage of the brilliant toxic jerk (technically fantastic but lacking in everything else); the onus is on employers to cultivate employee attributes that will enable future role success.
💡 Tip for Employers: Set up situation workshops to practice skills in a safe environment, provide shadowing opportunities, allocate a mentor, or set up monthly brown bags for graduates to hear from experienced team members on topics such as client communications and nailing presentations
#6: Getting labelled as a graduate for 2 years 👶
When you finish a course, you are a graduate. When you start a job you get a role title that reflects what you do.
So why do we give roles titles based on what an individual was, not what they are when they begin a job, and what they are as they demonstrate their capability over the months thereafter?
Giving someone the role title ‘Graduate’ is like asking them to wear L plates around their neck in the office.
Whilst it might provide an unconscious alert to colleagues to say “Hey, they’re still learning here”, it can subconsciously cause others to pigeonhole them.
The term fails to treat early talent like adults (because they are!) with insights, curiosity and passion that benefit organisations.
I believe there is far more value and impact to building a culture where learning happens regardless of your role or level.
Feeling safe to grow and fail without highlighting that people are through a title or tenure is when you will see people develop and flourish.
#7: Arbitrary timeframes before promotion is considered ⏳
If people have the right skills, capability and knowledge, and are performing exceptionally well, then why hold them back by an arbitrary timeframe because internal processes say that “You must be in this role for 2 years”?
This is a sure way to demotivate someone and risk losing a high-potential employee.
Tenure doesn’t equate to role success.
💡 Tip for Employers:
- Spend time investing in understanding and communicating what good looks like from a skills, knowledge and attributes perspective
- Provide early-career talent with opportunities to grow & show these
- When an employee shows these in abundance celebrate their success with a promotion
#8: Not hiring for future potential 🔮
Having spent a number of years in the sporting industry, a very obvious approach to recruiting early talent emerged: sports clubs hire for future potential.
The basis of their recruitment wasn’t necessarily what the athlete could do now, but rather what emerging capabilities they had that, with coaching & training, could lead them to become top elite athletes.
So why don’t we take this same approach in business?
💡 Tip for Employers:
- Take time to identify the skills, attributes and capabilities needed to be successful in your company.
- Build support systems (training experiences, exposure opportunities, and career coaches) that enable early-career talent to grow and harness those skills over time.