The end of the graduate milkround?

Posted 07 September 2011 by

The release of A-level results last month has highlighted a growing trend. Increasingly, employers are not only ‘acquiring’ talent among A-level students, but are also influencing the content of some degree courses. What can employers do to ensure they attract - and retain - talent that has been ‘acquired’ at such an early age?

All of the ‘big four’ accountancy and professional services firms now run school leaver programmes, with Ernst & Young launching its new initiative in August. While working in salaried roles at E&Y’s UK offices, successful candidates will study for a professional accountancy qualification, becoming certified before their graduate counterparts.

For individuals there is an often implicit ‘psychological contract’ that relates to how attached employees are to an organisation.

There are four broad ways in which someone is attached to an organisation. These are:

As an example, attracting A-level students at such an early stage in their career is likely to lead to a transactional nature of attachment, with possibly some influence from the vocational area. The more levels of attachment an employee has, the more likely they are to stay with an employer.

How can companies ensure they build the psychological contract and keep individuals engaged? Firstly, employers need to work on the relational and operational elements of the psychological contract. At a relational level, companies should have regular contact with individuals to keep them up to date with company developments, ensuring they feel part of the wider community. Online communities should be established so that individuals at different universities can keep in touch and communicate with each other about their roles, establishing relationships and sentiment for the company and people who work for it.

At an operational level, companies should ensure that undergraduates are invited to attend social events and, where possible, spend time in the offices working alongside the team to gain a sense of how the company works and how they would fit into the team.

Employers should consider carefully how they approach undergraduate and postgraduate recruitment. If they don’t handle this situation correctly to ensure individuals remain connected to the organisation, they will find they have invested time and money into individuals who they will quickly lose to their competitors.

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