Training and development programmes may be resource-intensive ventures, but if done correctly they can deliver consistent benefits for a company over a long period of time, according to employment experts.
One of the most successful graduate programmes in Ireland, the Jameson International Graduate Programme, has been producing significant results for both the participants and the company for 25 years, according to Sinéad D'Arcy of Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard.
“With any graduate development programme, it’s a pipeline of talent for our company, hiring the right people to do the right jobs in the right markets, and that has helped Jameson grow from a domestic brand to the international success that it is today,” says D’Arcy, who manages the programme.
The three-year programme has a typical intake of between 25 and 30 graduates, and recruits are dispersed across the globe to help augment the foothold of the group’s flagship product in both emerging and existing markets.
Such has been the success of the initiative, Jameson has established a second programme in recent years which is aimed primarily at science and engineering graduates.
And the company cannot be accused of taking a myopic approach when it comes to appraising exciting talent for the future.
“We hire from all disciplines. Although the international programme is a marketing programme, we don’t expect that all of our applicants will come from a marketing or business background,” says D’Arcy.
“We’ve got physiotherapists, psychologists, law graduates and all kinds of graduates. We hire potential and people who know they want to work in the area of marketing.”
German retail giant Lidl has also won plaudits for its diverse range of graduate intake streams, which encompass everything from accounts and marketing to IT and human relations.
Talent acquisition manager Tara Cahill cites Jameson's international programme as a prime example of good practice, and concurs with D'Arcy's philosophy that the best candidates don't necessarily need to have the exact qualifications that match up to a specific job title. "We have a graduate who has been very successful in HR and she studied psychology," says Cahill.
“We like to see people have had some sort of work experience, even if it’s working in the local shop for a day. It helps them have a little bit more understanding for what we do.
“It’s about people that understand the business, that have the right skill-set and the right competencies to work in that area.”
They may come from a wide variety of disciplines, but every graduate entrant must spend a period in-store so they can gain a first-hand appreciation of Lidl’s retail operations, rather than being confined to head office.
This is an essential element of the education process, says Cahill.
“It’s a really, really phenomenal way to bring somebody in and create a talent pool of people who have had the time to learn how to do it over 18 months, who aren’t necessarily expected to be experts but they have grounded knowledge – they know a little bit about everything.”
Competition is fierce for sought-after internships and graduate opportunities in the pharmaceutical sector these days, and companies are diligently handpicking applicants who they think can potentially bring solutions and new ideas to the table.
AbbVie is a global pharmaceutical research and development firm with a significant Irish presence. Despite its strong current positioning in the market, AbbVie always has one eye on the future, as is evidenced by its Operations Development Programme.
Candidates for the company's "global leadership development effort", as it is described by AbbVie senior talent acquisition specialist Louise Clarke, must be "high achievers" with a minimum 2.1 grade requirement from third level.
Referred to as ODPs, programme participants receive guidance and mentoring from senior members of staff within the business and are set “challenging but achievable targets”, according to Clarke.
“ODPs are selected based on real business need with assignments and training to match. Each ODP is assigned a mentor while on the programme,” she says.
“Our members are given assignments that are meaningful and challenging but achievable and with quantifiable results.
“All our ODPs have a monthly one-to-one with their assignment manager, programme manager and mentor. They also conduct mid- and final-assignment assessments.
“The most important thing is that you can provide them with good work experience, professional and personal training and development, and you have the resources and support from their manager and the business as a whole.”
On the same point, Tara Cahill of Lidl says: “You shouldn’t take on 200 or 300 to just do the shredding”.
“What I would say is the most important thing to Generation Y right now is the opportunity to have responsibility and to explore things. The salary is important, but the most important thing for them is to feel that they’re doing something productive,” she adds.
All three recruitment experts agree that any company can set its sights on establishing an effective training and development programme for new recruits, but that such a move should only be taken if it promises to deliver real results.
“When you look at the millennials you’re targeting with your graduate programme, they are digital natives so they can add so much to any business that’s looking to grow either domestically or internationally,” says Sinéad D’Arcy of Pernod Ricard.
“So for any company – big, small or medium-sized – if it’s the right thing for their business then graduates can definitely add a very strong skill-set to their strategy.”