ATTRACTING AND KEEPING THE BEST PEOPLE
Category : Human Resource Management Essays
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ATTRACTING AND KEEPING THE
Competition for the cream of the graduates increases by leaps and bounds every year. Consequently, the
more innovative top managers are looking at all aspects of their offers to potential employees. One of the
most significant benefits a company can give its future executives is the quality of training and experience
Those companies embarking on the Spring Term "Milk Round" tour of universities, when over 60 per cent
of graduates are recruited, will all be stressing the quality of the training they provide. It seems that those
with the highest quality of training programme are likely to attract the best graduates. The Cotton and Allied
Textiles Economic Development Committee recently asked undergraduates what they looked for in a job. The
students rated good training as second only to career prospects.
Lynn Beaumont, Managing Director of Graduate
Appointments, confirms that training is high on the list
of a graduate's priorities. Only the status of the company
and the career opportunities within it rate higher — with
other elements, such as high starting salaries, rating
well below training. Beaumont also believes that
graduates' expectations of training have increased
dramatically of late, as business has become more
sophisticated and the use of technology is much more
a feature of the work environment.
Most large companies offer good basic training
programmes, especially in the financial and legal
sectors, but it is those who think further down the line
that have the edge in their graduate offer. The more
innovative firms are already extending their training
responsibilities to take in postgraduate courses. Law
practice Richard Butler were one of the first to offer
finance towards postgraduate study — offering an
annual allowance of up to £5,000.
All the accountancy
firms fund the cost
of their employees'
training. . .
All the accountancy firms fund the cost of their
employees' training and it has long been recognised that
this is an important element in a partnership's drive for
the best recruits. One of the large eight practices has
gone a step further. Arthur Young not only take on and
train 220 of the year's best graduates, but the top 10
per cent of these are offered the opportunity to take
MBAs, with all costs met.
Andrew Darnill, a Partner from Arthur Young's national
office, views the MBA programme as in the best
interests of staff, the partnership and clients. As well
as attracting a high calibre of graduate, the programme
results in professional auditors who understand, more
fully than most, management needs and the
commercial environment in which clients operate. Since
Arthur Young introduced the MBA scheme, they have
seen a 200 per cent increase in applications from thirdyear
Proper training not only helps to attract high calibre
graduates, it also helps employers with one of their
biggest problems — staff turnover. The argument often
put forward, especially by those paying out large "City"
salaries, is that they invest a great deal of time and
money training their graduates who then move on very
This problem would be lessened if there was greater
recognition of a fundamental principle of human
resource development — it is a continuous process. Too
many companies allow the employee "learning curve"
to drop off after a honeymoon period of about 18
months, which is perhaps why so many graduates view
their first job as merely a launchpad to higher things
and with finite educational value.
It is intelligent practice for top management wishing to
retain graduates to view training and human resource
and career development as on-going programmes. Even
among the companies with a reasonable reputation for
training, it appears that such programmes are not being
carried through the career development structure to a
great enough extent.
A degree of employee movement is inevitable. However,
if an organisation provides a good career structure,
including an ongoing training programme "to the top",
the evidence suggests that this will not only attract good
graduates, but limit the number that move from that
company after a short time.
One organisation that carries training beyond the initial
18 months, to the highest levels, is the Stock Exchange.
It has taken on 36 graduates in the last three years, and
only lost two. Sam Thompson, Head of Training and
Staff Development, relates this impressively low
graduate turnover directly to the sophisticated careeroriented
training that the Stock Exchange offers. This
includes a "fastrack" training programme for the very
best graduates and opportunities in management
training for those from such diverse disciplines as
computer programming and engineering design.
The Institute of Training and Development believes that
companies with the most intelligent and comprehensive
training programmes will attract the best graduates in
the future. The well-documented lack of graduate
supply and increasing employer demand may well
ensure that companies will at least begin to examine
their training activities more closely.
Getting the training offer
right is mostly common sense,
allied with professional
Getting the training offer right is mostly common sense,
allied with professional training advice. Beyond basic
training there is little benefit in training each graduate
in exactly the same way, or sending them on identical
programmes. Regular assessments of individual skills
and aspirations should ensure that the right training is
fitted to the right graduate. One of the main complaints
in the past has been inappropriate training on a personal
level in the middle to upper echelons of management.
It should be made clear that graduates will be able to
use their newly acquired skills to the benefit of the
company and themselves. Too often personal and,
indeed, corporate development is arrested by upper
management levels not giving younger staff the chance
to put what they have learnt into action. The acquisition
of skills must also be reflected in the employee's position
Huge resources go towards attracting the best
graduates. Lorna Cooksey's recent study of recruitment
brochures shows that whilst vast sums of money were
spent on design and print, only 62.1 per cent of those
students questioned, found them "informative". Given
that she also found that the largest influences on
decision making among final year students were the
provision of training and identified career paths, perhaps
more time should have been spent giving detailed
information on training offers.
Companies spend vast sums on "attracting" graduates
through promotional material, promises of speedy
advancement and large salaries, without giving
sufficient priority to the real desire of graduate trainees
to be trained properly. Where companies can really gain
the edge is in making it clear to potential graduate
employees that they will consider the needs of their
personal training and career development long after the
first two years — that they are worth "training to the
This attitude will also improve the chances of keeping
valuable individuals long enough for the training
investment to show a profit. People will always leave
and, of course, the most attractive employees are the
ones that will be tempted the most. Good training and
career development is one of the best ways to achieve
low staff turnover, increase skill level and contribute to
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