The employer’s guide to onboarding a graduate

  • Recruitment
man and woman shaking hands
Kate Palmer FCIPD - Director of HR Advice and Consultancy at global employment law consultancy, Peninsula.

Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director

(Last updated )

One in four graduate employees quit in their first two months on the job, according to the Telegraph. Whether that’s because they don’t like the role, they don’t like the workplace culture or they just don’t know how to progress, we can often point the finger of blame at a bad onboarding experience.

Because if you’re looking to hire someone fresh out of university, preparation is key. Remember that most graduates will be applying for entry-level positions and won’t have a lot of work experience. For some, a job with you may be their first job ever.

Experience aside, there are lots of reasons why hiring a graduate is a great move. They’re cheaper, they’re eager, they bring fresh insights and they’re generally easy to mould.

But in order to help improve the likelihood of your graduates succeeding and progressing in your company, here are some important tips…

1.      Don’t forget your pre-boarding

Nothing looks worse on someone’s first day than disorganisation.

As soon as your graduate accepts your offer, you should start prepping. So, get the paperwork all sorted before their first day. (You have a legal obligation to provide an employment contract by your employee’s start date.)

And if your graduate has a desk, make sure it’s all set up before they arrive. Make sure their work computer (if they need one) is ready for them to use too, and they’re all set up on your system.

If you want to add an extra touch, you may want to create a welcome pack for your graduate. You could drop in some informative resources about your company and little gifts – like a free mug and keychain if you like.

Pre-boarding as much as possible will help you make the best first impression and save you wasting time on the day. It means that when your graduate arrives, you’re ready for them and they’ve got everything they need to get started.

2.      Assign them a mentor

According to HCI, 87% of businesses believe that giving new starters a mentor during onboarding helps accelerate their performance.

Assigning your graduate a mentor gives them someone to learn from and ask questions they might not feel comfortable asking management. A mentor might be a colleague; someone who knows the ins and outs of the company and the role. Alternatively, it might be a previous graduate who has gone on to achieve success.

This kind of shadowing can help ease your graduate into the job, and this support is especially important during the first few months.

Mentorships are particularly useful for graduates who are, for the most part, just starting their careers. They might not really know which direction they want to take. They might not have a lot of confidence in themselves. A mentor can offer one-to-one guidance and support in a way that you might just not have the time to do.

3.      Create a career pathway

Your graduate is more likely to succeed if they know the steps they need to take to progress. That’s why having a clear career pathway is vital. It gives your graduate a roadmap to how they can progress and it helps you manage their development.

Communication will be essential for creating a strong development plan. You and your employee will need to make sure you’re on the same page. In your plan, consider what it is you want your graduate to learn on the job i.e. the type of skills you want them to gain. You can then work on setting goals.

If you have a specific graduate scheme, set out where you want your graduates to be by the end of it.

You should regularly evaluate your graduate’s career pathway and arrange performance reviews to see how they’re getting along.

This will help you keep your graduate on the right track, whilst making sure they’re happy with everything they’re doing. It’s important to do this, because there’s every chance your graduate wants to explore a different path – and you should try to accommodate their preferences as much as possible.

4.      Set time aside for wellbeing chats

Whilst having chats about progression and goal setting is important, wellbeing chats are just as important. You might want to give your graduate the freedom to work independently but this doesn’t mean the communication stops.

You should give your graduate regular opportunities to open up about any issues or struggles they might be having. So, you can tackle their concerns before they develop into a bigger problem that affects their performance or attitude at work.

Your graduate should have a safe space to speak openly about their mental health (if they want to). And if you have an employee assistance programme (EAP), make sure they understand how to access it.

5.      Think about benefits

Graduates might be taking entry-level positions and less pay but in a cost of living crisis, financial worries are a growing concern.

If you’re not in a position to offer yearly pay rises, good company benefits can help remind your graduates why they’re working for you and not someone else. Work-life balance. Flexibility. Opportunities for growth.

What benefits can you offer that make working for you a positive experience?

Get advice from the UK’s top company for graduates

Peninsula was rated top company to work for by UK graduates in the graduate & apprenticeship job review guide, The Job Crowd.

We take pride in helping over 44,000 UK businesses set up effective HR processes to help retain their top talent.

You can read more about important things to include in your employee onboarding here. Alternatively, tap below to get a free advice call with an expert today.

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