The challenge of attracting the right people in a highly competitive recruitment market is leading many organisations to consider developing their own talent from within.
While formal graduate programmes are nothing new in larger organisations, such schemes are becoming more common at smaller companies.
Recruitment firm Fastnet, which has offices in Cork and Dublin, has been successful at developing its own talent rather than hiring from competitors over the past 15 or 20 years, according to managing partner Niamh O’ Driscoll. She said a formal graduate programme that brings people into the company at a very early stage was the next logical step.
The first two graduates- one with a psychology degree and the other with a biochemistry background- have been taken on for the two year rotational programme. After six months getting to grips with all aspects of Fastnet’s business, the new hires will work in the talent acquisition division, focused initially on quality and laboratory, and then on engineering.
“We have a very specific methodology and core values”, said O’ Driscoll. “The programme allows us to instil our values from the beginning and will help ensure there is a consistent pipeline of quality talent coming up”.
Portuguese pharmaceutical company Hovione, which has a contract manufacturing site in Cork that employs more than 200 people, has also been looking at innovative ways of developing talent.
“We’re quite a small company so we’re not going to have a huge internal mentoring or graduate recruitment programme” said human resources director Mary Hennessy. “We’ve tried to align with international programmes where we can facilitate one or two graduates.”
INOV Contacto, is an EU-funded scheme that enables young Portuguese workers to work abroad for six months as interns in multinational companies. In Hovione’s case, the candidates typically have a master’s degree or a PHD in chemistry.
“At the end of the placement it’s up to us if we want to offer a full-time position” said Hennessy. “Both of the participants so far have stayed with us and relocated to Cork as process engineers”.
The company also participates in the Ibec Global Graduates Programme, taking on two people through this route each year. The 12 month programme involves six months working with the Cork team and six months based in one of the other Hovione sites in Lisbon, New Jersey or Macau. The company has gone on to hire six graduates through this programme.
Irish Distillers has been running - and growing – an international graduates programme for its sales and marketing function since 1991. Some 94 Jameson brand ambassadors are currently working in 47 countries as part of the three year scheme, which generally involves two international rotations.
On the back of that programme’s success in creating a pipeline of talent within Irish Distilleries and the wider Pernod Ricard group, the company started looking at potential applications for a similar initiative outside sales and marketing.
“We knew we needed to grow the production side of the business in order to meet our ambitions for the growth of the brand”, said Sinead D’Arcy, head of the Jameson International Graduate Programme.
In 2012, the company introduced a two year graduate distiller placement scheme. Since then, the programme has taken on two science and engineering graduates each year. The graduates who are based either in the distillery in Midleton or at the company’s bottling, supply and logistics site in Dublin, work alongside the senior production management team for mentoring and training.
“The programme has offered us more than we would ever have thought”, said D’Arcy. “It really is delivering a pipeline of the leaders of our business for the future. For example, an alumnus from the programme is chief distiller at our new micro distillery in Midleton.”
The programme has managed to breakdown several barriers in the production side of the business, said D’Arcy. “In the first year, the two successful candidates were both female graduates, and one of them was the first woman to ever do a night shift in Midleton distillery.”
Of the 12 graduates who have come through the programme so far, 10 have been women. “The programme has added a more diverse pool in terms of gender and has brought fresh energy and thinking to the organisation” said D’Arcy.
At LinkedIn, the business leadership programme for graduates’ results in significantly higher performance levels, according to the company’s senior director, HR-EMEA, Wendy Murphy.
“Across Europe, the employees who are developed from within on this business leadership programme are 11% more productive and have higher attainment rates from a revenue perspective than those we hire directly into the same function.” She said. LinkedIn also has a number of schemes for developing people already working within the business, including its Women’s Initiative, which supports the company’s aim of increasing gender diversity in senior leadership roles.
“We pick out women who are high performing, have high potential and a passion and ambition to move forward and we invest significantly in them in various ways through mentoring and modularised training,” said Murphy. “As a result of that we’ve increased our leadership in women by 44% over the past couple of years.”
For many organisations, developing existing talent can also be the answer to specific skills requirements. For Irish Life, finding financial advisors with the right academic qualifications and the competencies and behaviours was a challenge for the business in recent years.
“One of the most important skill sets that was missing among candidates was the ability to build and maintain relationships,” said Shane O’ Toole, senior recruitment specialist at the company.
“We have a lot of good people internally with this skill set but they maybe didn’t have the confidence or knowhow to switch roles or perhaps didn’t have the qualified financial advisors accreditation”
The company launched the Advisor Academy programme in 2017. The nine month scheme offers participants- recruited internally and externally-blended learning with three months at the National College of Ireland, three months in-house on rotation with on-the job training, feedback and coaching.
Eleven people have achieved a Level 8 qualification after completing the programme. A further 10 candidates will be recruited in 2018.
Stuart Woods, head of talent acquisition and development at Irish Life, described the programme as a key part of its overall offering to its employees. “If you ask talent what they want, whether internal or external, it’s the opportunity to be invested in, self-develop and be more employable,” he said. That’s at the heart of our whole offer to our people-continuing to invest in them and give them the broadest range of career opportunities possible.
“We focus quite heavily on transferable skills, which will allow them to future prof their careers”
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