Have graduates made themselves unemployable?

employing graduates57% of Graduates expect to stay in their first graduate role for less than a year …

Only 12% of new graduates expect to stay in their first role for longer than 2 years. This research by Step has got to be the most dispiriting and damaging poll I’ve seen this year. Dispiriting for employers, damaging for graduates.

Unfortunately, despite being a small employer I have had several experiences of graduates who come to learn, but fail to engage or commit to the business and then disappear within 12 or 18 months. The purpose behind publishing this poll is surely to encourage employers to do “more” but in hindsight, what could I have done more of? Absolutely nothing would be my thought. I did all I could to value, develop and include them.

But they each had their own agenda, ambitions and priorities and my business needs didn’t even feature. I can see that was merely a stepping stone to what they wanted next. And that’s despite us winning awards for our culture and leadership. One new employee recently said she’s had more training with us in her first 7 months than she’d had in 17 years in her previous job. I invest in her and others as I fully intend to be working with her for years to come. She’s worth it, as the ads go! But clearly lots of training simply isn’t sufficient for new grads.

So will I willingly invest my time and energy in graduates going forwards? It’s highly unlikely. The induction, training, then resignation is just too time consuming and distracting from the work that needs to be done to keep us profitable. Short term employees actually damage my business.

Also people who want to stay only a short time simply don’t act in the long term interests of the business. What they do and the decisions they make are inevitably all focused on the short term with no consideration of any longer term implications. This is very dangerous for both culture and profitability.

I could turn this around financially by treating recent graduate recruits like ‘slaves’ as some companies do, but that’s simply not in line with the culture of my business.

You can call me out on this but I believe my own experiences with graduates are mirrored by many employers.

My focus in the past year has instead been to recruit school leavers, who in my experience demonstrate greater staying power – they don’t seem to have the same desire to job hop for the sake of short-term reward. Ironically they have seem more focused on the long-term reward of training across a number of roles, developing important soft skills as well as business acumen on the way.

This switch away from graduate talent is why I say this poll is damaging to graduates. They already struggle to find good roles with employers who properly invest in them and don’t treat them like slave labour but who is going to want to take a punt when the odds against them being loyal are put so bluntly in black and white for all to see?

We’ve all for years now suspected the truth about graduates’ intentions, but now it’s in black and white how can business people ignore the reality about the value of recruiting graduates?

It’s simply not sound economics to recruit and invest when the majority have no intention to stay. Especially if you can recruit school leavers or otherwise focus on recruiting graduates with 3 years’ experience under their belt?

No parent or employer wants to feel that a whole group of people are unemployable. But who can change this state of affairs? Only graduates themselves is my view. Only graduates can change the situation. Until they start to understand their real value in the workplace (which has nothing usually to do with the certificate they’ve just collected) and what it takes to build relationships and demonstrate loyalty, sometimes putting others ahead of yourself, then nothing much will change.

But for those graduates who want to add value and change the current crazy short term approach to employment, here are a few of my thoughts…

  1. Job hopping each year might increase your salary rapidly but there will come a time when employers see you as not even worth interviewing . You’ve become a bad bet!
  2. Change your mind set about your employer … instead of I’ll take what I can, how about ‘how can I form a really strong partnership here’.
  3. Choose culture over company name or job title. Never join a company whose culture you don’t align with. Equally be realistic about the compromises that always have to be done to achieve a balance between focus on people and achievement of organisational goals.
  4. Every time you think ‘it’s my right to…’ consider also ‘and in asserting my rights the responsibilities I need to be aware of are…’. No society is sustainable if people assert their rights without being simultaneously mindful of their responsibilities to others.
  5. Don’t expect a professional salary and the respect of colleagues if your mindset is minimum wage hours and attitude. I don’t want you to work 50 or even 70 hour weeks as some graduates do, but be realistic about the pace of learning of a graduate who puts in 30 hours compared to one who consistently does 40 hours. More hours equals more experience/knowledge equals greater value/recognition.
  6. Get real about money. Businesses don’t work with Monopoly money or fake crypto currency. Every pound spent on your recruitment, induction and training has to be accounted for.
  7. The skills we need from graduates in business are: common sense, a can do attitude, an ability to accept and learn from criticism/feedback, enthusiasm for continuous learning, an ability to pick up the telephone when an exchange of emails has not resolved an issue, an understanding of how to develop workplace relationships, and an attitude of personal accountability (being responsible and taking ownership of issues without being asked). What we don’t need are: It’s all about me and every time I feel uncomfortable I’ll accuse someone of bullying me or lash out at the business.
  8. Be realistic. No person, organisation, relationship or manager is perfect. 100% simply doesn’t happen in life . You’ve got to be prepared to continually work towards … 75% is pretty damn good and 90% is a miracle!
  9. Your generation doesn’t have it cracked. In time your generation will prove to be just as flawed as every other generation. So be patient with others and learn to compromise.
  10. And finally, we live in a community and a community only flourishes if there is respect, a willingness to give to others and a sense of combined purpose or goals. Enjoy the community. Participate. It’s time to get off your individual little islands!

Questions, thoughts, opinions? Please leave them in the comments box below …

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