Align, engage, empower: Redefining early careers development in a hybrid world

by | May 1, 2024

Employee Experience and Engagement
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Align, engage, empower: Redefining early careers development in a hybrid world

For years, graduate and early careers development have increasingly become important for companies as they are seen as great opportunities for meeting immediate and long-term business needs. However, more recently, examples (like this recent article in The Times) suggest that graduate and early careers schemes are no longer meeting the needs of their intended audiences and providing the employee experience and value proposition they once did.

Having always recruited “junior talent” here at LACE, formalising and developing an early careers programme has always been more than just filling roles. It’s about providing a great employee experience and nurturing the next generation of employees and future leaders. However, creating this programme against the backdrop of a post-pandemic and digital world for a new generation of employees means that for many businesses (ours included), there must be a more intentional and thoughtful approach to getting it right. In today’s blog, we thought we’d explore the core components of our programme, showcasing our approach to delivering a positive experience for both the graduates and the business. For further reading, check out our blog, where we looked at some insights from a Gen Z experience perspective.


Aligning to business needs and transparency

Identifying the programme’s aim for the business and being transparent with the graduates has been critical in its successful delivery. Collaborating with key stakeholders such as senior leadership and those responsible for their day-to-day development allowed us to identify the behaviours, skills and competencies needed for them to succeed in their roles and embed them into their training and development. This approach, combined with being transparent with the graduates about the realities and expectations of the programme and holding ourselves accountable for delivering on what we promise, has contributed to providing a meaningful and positive experience for the graduates.


Office culture and engagement

Feeling a sense of belonging is crucial for any new employee. Still, extra attention and consideration are needed for early career professionals (who spent most of their university time behind a screen and working remotely) as they transition into the workplace. For us, how we welcomed and integrated our graduates into the business was just as important as what they learned and what was delivered. Pre-boarding meet and greets with each other, introducing them to their people managers and inviting them to visit the office not only helped ease nerves and build connections but also created a culture and expectation of being in the office, which continued into their onboarding and beyond. Despite the ongoing debates around office working, we have seen the positive impact of this for our early careers cohort, as it has provided them with invaluable in-person learning experience, the opportunity to build connections, and, most importantly, feel included and integrated into the company.


Responsibilities and opportunities

It is known that Gen Z wants to feel like they are making an impact (see The Times article). Our programme was designed to provide our early careers cohort with meaningful work. From onboarding to internal and external projects, our early careers cohort was entrusted with work and responsibilities, alongside the relevant training, that directly impacted our business.

The feeling that I was actually making a positive impact somewhere was quite comfortably the key driver behind my decision to join LACE. It’s a good look for LACE, but not such a good look for the graduate job market, that they were the first company that I can truly say I didn’t have to lie to myself about why I wanted to join. It’s a great company that does good both within and outside its own walls. Feeling like you’re providing positive value in your work makes it so much more enjoyable and easier to do. I’ve found so far that LACE have been great at ensuring that, despite our young age and comparatively minimal experience, you are given opportunities at every level of the business to make a difference. Your work always precedes outspoken appreciation and applause, and it provides a sense of accomplishment that I don’t believe you get at many other places.

Additionally, our programme encourages and empowers our early careers cohort members to get involved in areas of the business that are of personal interest to them, with many being critical and influential members of our CSR and DEI teams, areas of the company that play an important role in employee engagement.

Joining the DEI team was of particular importance to me, and as an analyst, it’s a chance to have a say and influence in the wider business since I wanted to play a part in creating and sustaining this incredibly inclusive culture at LACE. As someone in the early stages of their career, the ability to create some meaningful and relevant content or events for the LACE employees to get involved in is a great opportunity to have more impact. Working with a team that doesn’t make it feel like your ‘run-of-the-mill’ DEI initiatives but is profoundly personal and attuned to the employees’ interests and identities, as well as creating such a positive working experience, is an excellent and unique learning opportunity for me.


Flexibility and learning

Adopting a blended learning experience was integral to the delivery of the programme. From the offset, we created a culture of continuous professional development in the programme. Through structured training modules, on-the-job learning experience and access to activities such as ‘lunch and learns’, our programme members prioritised their development and set them up for success. This, in turn, contributed to their positive experience. Moreover, by building flexibility into the programme and actively seeking feedback from our cohort, we have identified areas for improvement in real-time and adapted the programme design as we go, ensuring that it had maximum relevance and was effective for them.

Although there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to the ongoing challenges of graduate programmes, the steps we have taken to design and deliver our programme have contributed towards our early careers cohort having a positive experience. Aligning it to business needs and recognising that they are our company’s future, we helped ensure that we provide them with a fulfilling and meaningful employee experience from day one.

If you’d like to learn more about what it’s like to work at LACE, visit our ‘Work at LACE’ page or find out more about our approach to CSR and ESG.