September is the peak time for new graduates starting work (especially on grad schemes). And although recruitment is about welcoming new talent to your company, it is only the beginning. A successful employee onboarding experience sets the bar high and helps you keep employees for longer.

And while HR does the recruiting, an excellent employee onboarding experience can only be achieved with a stronger HR-internal comms relationship. Your HR team and good reputation will help you attract new talent; great onboarding will help you retain great employees.

When recruiting the next generation, it seems like it will last forever; they’re keen and you’re sure the future is bright, but a year late it’s all changed. Your graduate is disillusioned and wants to leave and you’re back to square one. Where did it all go wrong? Why do they stay, and why do they leave? We asked the graduate recruitment experts Give A Grad A Go.

Some stats

Around 20 per cent of graduates leave within a year of finishing a graduate development programme. Graduates who leave in the first three years of employment cite reasons including career change, better pay and lack of career progression.

Milkround’s Candidate Compass report 2018 shows that more than half of new graduates plan to stay in their first role for less than two years, but 76 per cent say they’d be encouraged to stay longer with training and mentorship and 63 per cent with flexible hours.

So don’t just accept that your graduates will move on quickly, try to make yours a business they’ll want to stay with. How?

It starts with a positive and thorough introduction to work – onboarding. It’s not enough to introduce your new graduate to the team and give them a copy of your staff handbook. Many organisations have well-defined graduate development programmes but even if you do, take a fresh look at it. What was right for your graduates three years ago may not be perfect for today’s new intake.

Introducing a graduate to your business is very different from onboarding someone who has been working for years. Your graduates will need time to settle into the work environment and get to grips with timekeeping and possibly commuting.

In a smaller organisation there may be no formal graduate development programme but the same things are important: make your graduates feel valued, show them how they can use their skills and learn new ones and make sure they enjoy coming to work.

Progression is key

According to research, money isn’t everything – for most graduates, career progression is more important. They like to be supported and recognised, and have interesting projects to work on. Benefits like gym membership and mobile phones will please them, but they’re by no means essential. The chance to progress and learn is vital for most graduates and flexi-time can be appealing. 


Progression is important


It’s very important for them to see clear progression.”
Penny Newson


A PWC survey revealed that career progression is the most important factor for more than half of graduates, so review it regularly. As an internal communicator, do you have a clear career progression strategy in place to actively engage new starters? If yes, when’s the last time you reviewed your onboarding collateral?

Penny Newson, Account Manager at graduate recruitment experts Give A Grad A Go, says clear career progression and opportunities for professional development are high priorities for graduates.

“It’s a faster moving market out there and graduates are more inclined to move on. Platforms like LinkedIn mean they are always aware of new opportunities and they can be hard to ignore,” says Penny.

“It’s very important for them to see clear progression. Companies like Brainlabs realise the importance of onboarding. They give each graduate a personalised handbook setting out their progression, salary scales and career path through the company. It’s constantly updated. Not everyone can do that but all graduates want to know about opportunities.”

Get it right from the start

Onboarding makes it clear to your recruits that they won’t be dropped in at the deep end but will be supported and valued right from the start.
A great onboarding pack should be informative, concise, and don’t forget a little fun too. New starters want to work in a happy, positive place with great company culture.
Onboarding varies from company to company but typically covers:
 welcoming the new employee into the team and the wider compan.
 setting up a support network for the starter – and making sure they know who to ask about any issues
 creating a ‘buddy’ scheme with last year’s graduate entrant who knows the kind of issues the starter will have
 if you use various tools such as Office365, Workplace by Facebook, or bespoke systems, making sure you include a brief and easy to understand manual to introduce what they do and how to use them
 setting out a clear path for training and possible progression making sure to understand the new starter’s skills and helping them fulfil their potential
 introducing a regular review process where the graduate can ask questions and receive feedback
 creating a memorable onboarding package: from informative, attractive how to guides, to team meals, or desk side flower pots or office gardening trends to stimulate wellbeing (the choice is infinite, all you need is creativity!).




I was introduced on the first day and I was assigned a mentor but I could tell she didn’t really want to do it: she was just too busy.”



As part of the onboarding process, talk about job swaps, secondments and working in other locations. Giving your graduates as many opportunities and experiences as possible will help keep them interested and committed. Make sure that mentors and buddies are keen and have time to do it properly.
Give A Grad A Go uses personalised tick lists for its graduates so they can keep track of skills they’ve mastered, tasks completed and milestones reached.
One high-achieving maths graduate hired by a firm of accountants left within a year of securing the highly sought-after role.
‘The work was OK but no one took any notice of me,’ he says. ’I was introduced on the first day and I was assigned a mentor but I could tell she didn’t really want to do it: she was just too busy. I was in an office with loads of other people but everyone kept their heads down working and I felt lonely.’
He joined a start-up company with five people and loves it.
Some ways to make your graduates feel valued and excited about the future:
 they may worry that they’ll start with mundane work so show them that they’ll use their expertise from the start
 tell graduates about your organisation’s purpose and its ethical credentials
 explain how their role benefits the business and how they can make a difference
 appoint a mentor who has the time and enthusiasm to help; they must be able to keep the graduate engaged
 arrange team outings to help your graduates make friends with their colleagues
 set up meetings outside your graduate’s new team; the more people they meet the more they’ll understand your business and feel part of it
 appoint an onboarding buddy – preferably someone who was a graduate entrant themselves and can talk about practicalities. Has the graduate found somewhere decent to live? Is the journey to work OK?

It’s a good idea to pair your graduate with a colleague to work on a project together. And try to make sure that the first project they work on can be finished quickly and has clear results.
As your graduate settles in, have regular evaluation meetings. Are they happy? Is the work interesting? Is it what they expected?
Penny Newson recommends meetings every week or two for the first six months. “It’s a chance for the graduate to review what they’ve been doing and what they’d like to achieve, and for their manager to talk it through. It is a bit time consuming but it’s really important for managers to build rapport with their graduates. It helps keep people for longer and makes it a better place to work for everyone.”

We’re not HR practitioners, but we are experts in engaging people, crafting key messages and creating effective communications that work with your existing HR processes to create a better employee experience, and that’s why we are supporting clients to deliver really effective onboarding. It starts before your new employee walks in the door, creating the right first impression, then follows them through their first 100+ days.

Talk to us about creating a more effective employee onboarding experience by emailing