Half of organisations lose graduates because of unmet career expectations

Graduates who began their career as interns are more likely to stay with a company for longer than those who didn’t, according to a report from the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR).

This emphasises the value of employers investing in work experience programmes for longer-term development, the AGR said.

According to the 191 organisations surveyed for AGR’s first annual development report, university leavers who were formerly interns stay with a company six months longer than those who were not, on average.

The report suggests that structured graduate development programmes are typically 24 months long and the average attendee to a scheme will remain with that company for an average of 4.4 years. Over a two-year development programme, an employer would invest around £2,500 in training and developing the graduate.

The majority (91 per cent) of graduates stay with their employer over the course of their programme, but nearly one in ten (8 per cent) leave the year after it ends.

Almost half (45 per cent) of employers have had graduates leave because of a career change, while almost all (92 per cent) of employers have had graduates leave for a higher salary with a competitor.

This is despite that fact that graduates on structured programmes earn a median of £8,000 more than graduates in other full-time work after three years, the report showed.

Stephen Isherwood, chief executive at the AGR, said: “These findings add weight to the anecdotal claim that candidates with work experience add more value to employers in the long run.”

But he warned employers need to take a more “rigorous and longer-term approach” to developing young talent, as the survey revealed that many graduates opted to leave companies because of unmet career expectations.

Only 53 per cent of employers measure the average rates of progression of their hires after five years, according to the development survey. And despite just 12 per cent of graduates having the ability to ‘manage up’, only half of employers (50 per cent) train graduates how to do this.

The report suggests a need to raise self-awareness amongst graduates and manage their expectations, and yet less than half (47 per cent) of organisations train managers on how to support graduates in the job role.

Nick White, graduate programme manager at Fujitsu, said retention and performance were two of the main reasons why the organisation runs internships every year.

“Candidates who have previously been interns are more likely to stay with us longer as they’ve made a conscious decision to join an organisation they already know,” he said.

“They join with an existing network in place, and are also more likely to be high performers as they’ve already developed some of the skills we’re looking for in new graduate recruits.”

Isherwood added: “Of course there are a variety of reasons that graduates decide to leave a company, but employers looking to improve retention need to be holistic in their approach and manage expectations. Ongoing communication about career paths would also be beneficial.”