Getting Loyalty from Graduates

Loyalty from GraduatesThere’s this idea that getting loyalty from graduates in smaller businesses is difficult. It’s seen by some as a reason not to take on a graduate.

I’ll seek to challenge that view and in doing so perhaps also provoke some thought on the flexibility of working full or part time and the choice of employed v contracted.

Job for Life

a job for life is a thing of the past

Your Grandfather may have had a job for life. But the fast changing world we now live in and flexible employment laws mean a job for life is a thing of the past.

In traditional industries such as engineering, many older employees have often only been with that company. The flip side is that the average age keeps increasing and the company becomes out of touch with current work practices.

Taking on and training apprentices for 3 – 4 years can counter the problem. When performing a skilled role in a niche industry, as often happens in engineering, the only other options for work are the competitors in the same industry. A company in this position will find it easier than most to retain the apprentices they trained, often for life.

But such niche businesses are the exception rather than the rule.

Acting as a Stepping Stone

There’s no shame in recognising that as a small business, you’ll be used as a stepping stone in a graduates career. I began my career with a 2 partner accountancy firm for 3 years then spent a year in both Ernst & Young and an Internal Audit role with a blue chip food company before getting my first hands-on role in industry.

Small businesses have limited opportunities to retain graduates. It’s often not the money but the challenge and career development that will persuade the graduate to move on.

Perhaps its worth grasping the issue and being up front when recruiting a graduate? You accept this may be a stepping stone for them. However you expect them to remain at least a year or two and show total loyalty whilst in the job. But keep you informed if they intend to move on.

Learn and Refresh

assume and accept graduates “churn” every 1 to 2 years

If you assume and accept graduates “churn” every 1 to 2 years, it makes life easier when planning ahead. Each graduate will bring different skills and the business can evolve seeking new graduates with slightly different skills each time.

Not all will leave. Some will stay. I recently surveyed 12 graduates who attended my “business ready” workshop in November 2013. Roughly a third felt if they joined a smaller dynamic business they’d stay. Of the others, a third would use it as a stepping stone to self employment and the other third as a stepping stone to a larger company.

Part time or Contract work

Many graduates will have done part time work or summer jobs, often more than one job at a time. They have the workplace flexibility which many older employees lack. If you can’t afford a graduate on a full time basis then take them on part time or for a set contract.

Working part time, expect loyalty from graduates whilst they work for you. However this is split with the loyalty they will give to any other employer they also work for.

Why Employ?

It makes sense to employ when fulfilling core “production” or “sales” roles – people directly involved in the routine sale and purchase of products or services.

Beyond that core, it is possible to outsource specialist services such as legal, HR, finance, stores, IT & maintenance.

It is arguable you can also contract out the non routine roles involved in developing and improving the business. Some of these may be required for a set period which lend themselves to fixed term projects. If you had an employee, they would have to be laid off at the end of the project.

Graduates are ideally suited to working on fixed term contracts

Graduates are ideally suited to working on fixed term contracts. It mirrors the way they work in University. It also showcases their skills in bringing something new to the business. Give them a challenging project with your full support and loyalty is guaranteed for the length of the contract.

If managing a project or mentoring the graduate seems daunting, I can help through my Mentored Graduate Programme.

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