Think Graduate Schemes can't be measured? Find out how it is done.

Good Graduate schemes are important and they are expensive to run.  They are important as they are a major source of talent for critical roles and a pipeline for future leaders.  They are expensive as they involve creating a specific employee experience which is more than just a role.

They are also risky, as today’s best millennial talent is quicker than ever to move on to the next opportunity if they are not happy.

Because of their importance, their cost and their risk, it is business sense that the outcomes and progress of a graduate scheme are measured so that the organisation knows if the scheme is on track and if the investment they are putting in is likely to produce the results it needs.

But the measured graduate scheme is like the Loch Ness monster, often talked about and never seen. Graduate schemes are desperately under measured which causes all sorts of problems as the value of them is, therefore, not quantified and they fall prey to the dreaded 'decision by anecdote'.

In our expereince a well managed scheme can answer the following questions with confidence

  • Why do we have a graduate scheme?

  • How does our graduate scheme fit our business strategy?

  • How is the graduate scheme doing?

  • Is our graduate scheme getting better or worse?

  • How does it compare to other companies?

  • Are our graduates on track to hit the scheme objectives?

  • Which graduates are performing well?

  • What should we be focusing to improve the performance of our graduate scheme?

  • What is our investment?

  • What is the return?

The measures that lead to insight?

There are four levels of metrics that you need to measure to have a good view on the overall return on the investment in you scheme

4 levels of measurement for a graduate scheme

Level 1.  Is the scheme achieving the stated business objective?  

For this to be of value there needs to be a clear business objective that expresses what the scheme is there to accomplish and that ties in to the business strategy.    This is often framed as a specified target role or a target job level within a time period for a target % of the starters.  For example 30% of our grads will be level 22 managers in these three departments within 5 years.   If that time period is longer than the duration of the scheme, then there has to be an interim measure of a role specified for the end of the scheme.  The Level 1 objectives would typically include targets for retention and turnover.

Level 2.  How well are participants on the scheme performing?  

At the heart of this there needs to be either a robust role, scheme or project performance review system which is reliably telling you are the graduates performing to your expected standards.

Depending on the type of scheme this can be supplemented with further measures around

  • Engagement of the grads with the scheme and business

  • Speed to perform

  • Number of miss-hires

  • Progression through roles

  • Are the grads’ roles aligning to the talent priorities of the business

Level 3. Is the scheme running as an effective process, in other words does the scheme do what it says it does? 

To do this you need to have a predictive model of what you believe drives the effectiveness of the scheme and some benchmarks to know how well you are doing.  Or you can use one we have made earlier which looks at 5 factors that experience shows drive the effectiveness of most graduate schemes. 

These are

  1. Are the objectives of the scheme clearly understood?

  2.  Are you hiring the right grads?

  3. Do the key people in the business buy in to the scheme and their role in it?

  4. Is the learning journey appropriate?

  5.  Are the graduates motivated, both intrinsically and extrinsically?

By tracking these factors over time you can clearly see three things: where do you need to focus, are you improving the process or not since last year and how are you doing against other similar firms.

Level 4. How much is it costing the business to have this scheme in place? 

This includes the total end to end costs from recruitment through to scheme management costs and salary premiums versus the job done. The cost can then usefully be looked at as a total, a cost per head or a cost per remaining head all of which are useful.

Working out a return on investment

This takes a little extra work but if you have the above information you can calculate a sensible view on ROI and payback.  Most grad schemes have high ROI but long paybacks so you need both.

Concluding thoughts

Measuring the effectiveness and impact of graduate entry schemes makes good business sense and is vital for you to make decisions on what is working and what you need to change.

Good measurement is accurate, reliable and timely. And, ideally, allows you to look at time series and external benchmarks.

To measure a scheme requires collecting data at the four levels of

  1. The Objectives
  2. The Performance of graduates through the scheme
  3. The delivery of the Process that supports the scheme
  4. The Costs

Once you have this measurement in place you will be able to answer the critical questions your business team asks with confidence, change your scheme with confidence and move away from management by anecdote