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Early career development – 7 critical success factors

Updated: Jul 6, 2022

A new organisation can be a daunting place for graduates and early career talent. They not only need to learn about their new role, they also need to get to know organisational life too. Graduate recruits and those in the early stages of their careers have a steep learning curve ahead of them.

To help you set up your early career talent for success, here are Talupp’s critical success factors for early career development:

  1. Use career goals to motivate development: If your organisation has a clear understanding of the career aspirations of your early career talent you are in the ideal place to be able to motivate development. Everyone wants development but when the realities of long days and project deadlines hit, it can quickly fall off the to-do list. If you can show your early career talent a career path, that is aligned to their own aspirations, then development is not a 'have to do' but becomes a 'want to do'.

  2. Learn by doing: Recent graduates cited ‘on-the-job learning’ as the most popular type of development in a recent survey conducted by Talupp. However, this kind of learning, or experiential development as it is often known, is frequently ad hoc and not integrated into formal graduate programmes. Learning by doing is a great way to embed new skills too. Up to 80% of new knowledge can be forgotten in just seven days if it is not applied. When learners are able to use their new skills, experiment with them and make sense of them, the learning is embedded for the long-term. Having a series of small, learning activities and mini projects to complete as part of a graduate’s job is a great way to achieve learning by doing. New assignments are particularly beneficial at graduate level because the potential impact of failure is lower due to lower levels of responsibility. This means you can afford to be creative about placement opportunities and think outside the traditional career paths. New experiences can also help early career talent expand their contacts as well as their job skills. This enables not only better organisational understanding for graduates, but also enables managers and others in the organisation to see new and yet unproven talent in different situations and spot talent early

  3. Instil the practice of reflection: Regular reflections turn everyday tasks into learning opportunities and turn new theoretical knowledge into effective skills. Early career talent learns so much every week simply by taking on new tasks. However, they are rarely even aware of this learning. The power of reflection is often underestimated, but it is a critical part of the development of a growth mindset in young talent. Reflecting on the assignment and what has been learned helps to embed new skills and make experiences as developmental as possible. When instilled early, this practice can become a positive lifelong habit that will benefit employees throughout their careers.

  4. Accelerate development through feedback: Those in the early stages of their career are eager to do a good job, but they may be unsure about how they are performing at work. Rich feedback, in the moment and project based, is a great way to accelerate your early career talent’s development. Pulse surveys or full 360 surveys can be used to facilitate this process and they can be tailored to your organisation’s requirements to ensure you’re driving that essential learning and feedback culture.

  5. Build in socialisation and positive reinforcement: We all know how important positive reinforcement and socialisation are to ensuring the continued engagement of programme participants, but they are too often forgotten. Build in opportunities for in-person social gatherings for your graduate cohort, as well as opportunities during the workday to connect, share and discuss learning. When people are able to share their personal reflections with others they trust, learning is deepened and embedded. Managers have an important role here too, by sharing feedback and recognition. All of these steps will create the valuable ‘chatter’ around new experiences that helps to embed the learning for this important young cohort.

  6. Make it easy for young talent to know what is relevant: If early career talent can see learning paths and the ‘playlists’ of development content available to them, they can self-select learning opportunities and fix knowledge gaps before anyone in HR is even aware of them. It’s important not to overwhelm the user, so set up different skills profiles for different talent groups to guide their selections and ensure you’re building the right skills and ultimately performance improvements. Make learning content easy to find. All in one place rather than separate emails, documents and log in details. And this doesn’t only apply to learning videos and document but the programme outline, too.

  7. Keep programme content dynamic and stretch superstars: To keep that initial engagement, you need to have the flexibility to stretch your top performers. Keep learning content as fresh as you can and ensure that your talent has visibility of what’s available to them. If you can, provide your talent with guided suggestions to broaden their skills further, based on their career goals, their current skills and also their past experiences.

The above steps might be great in theory, but we know that consistent best practice can be harder to achieve. We also know that traditional graduate programmes are both costly and time intensive for HR teams. That’s where technology can help. In fact, the best technology solutions deliver on all of the above critical success factors for early career development.

Technology can make it happen and keep it consistent

AI-infused platforms now offer solutions that engage recruits from day one and offer them a way to guide their own development in a format and at a time that suits them. And you don’t need many graduates to make it worthwhile investing in light touch, nimble solutions.

Young person holding a growth graphic in their hand - demonstrating success

Furthermore, the right technology can encourage ‘socialisation’ of learning, making it easier for users to motivate and keep each other on track. Notifications and reminders will also drive the action that you’re looking for. It’s not just about the graduate experience either, technology can streamline the HR view of your early career talent development. Managers get AI-enabled development suggestions for their teams. HR teams can track engagement and development journey progress, usage, behavioural change, development activity, organisation-wide strengths and development needs and much more in real time.

Technology has the potential to create a cohort of people who, in time, can almost look after their own development – making it incredibly cost effective. It not only works in the short term, but your graduates will benefit from their adoption of a learning mindset that sets them up for an exciting career full of development, rather than disappointment.

Contact Talupp to find out more about technology solutions that could automate your early career programmes and inspire your talent.


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