Delivering a successful Graduate Programme

  • November 19, 2020

HR Insights with Jessica Jones

We have been speaking to clients and candidates across the market and are seeing a number of organisations either halting or substantially reducing, their hiring in the graduate space due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. This is an alarming trend. Graduate Programmes are vital for many organisations, as they provide a future generation of talent and not hiring in this space could present longer term challenges. They also have a huge impact on employer brand, especially if they are delivered successfully. They offer a fresh perspective and innovative ideas which, in turn, allows organisations to grow and thrive. 

With this in mind, we have spoken to three Early Careers Specialists to gather their insights into how businesses can address the challenges around delivering Graduate Programmes in the current market.

We have spoken to 2 consultants, Jessica Jones (see below) and Samantha Ridgewell to get a holistic overview of their approach and potential solutions. Additionally, we have a deep focus interview with Kimberley Rowling, Graduate Programme Manager for the BT Group to get insight to what she is driving internally within BT.  

Below we hear from Jessica Jones, Director of Human Resources at Jessica Jones Consulting

Jessica is seasoned HR Professional with experience across the investment banking industry, retail finance, technology and pharma. She has 20 years’ experience focusing on developing and engaging Talent, including Early Careers. She is genuinely passionate about talent, and Early Careers in particular.

She believes that in the last 3+ years there has been a strong need to move online with graduate engagement initiatives, programme delivery and training alike. The Coronavirus pandemic has expedited this shift, meaning some organisations have been on the back foot with technology and the necessary internal skills to deliver programmes in this way.

Jessica believes there are some key elements that will ensure success in delivering a Graduate Programme in the current market:


The organisation will need leadership that embraces remote training. Leaders must believe in the product and see it as an opportunity to drive the talent agenda in an innovative way. 

“Successful grad programs present a strong and consistent brand message, irrespective of market conditions”.

Larger organisations will be able to utilise in house Talent Teams, but if you are smaller there are many external providers and consultants that will be able to design and deliver remote programs, upskill internal teams and support organisations in making this shift.


Jessica believes that the content of the Graduate Programme doesn’t necessarily have to change dramatically but as there will be a shift to online, organisations will need to upskill their Talent Managers or Graduate Program Managers to deliver online training in an engaging way.

“The delivery of the training will need to be adapted to reflect your audience. Short sharp content training for Graduates will be key to some organisations especially when looking at the younger tech savvy generation.” 

This generation is high touch and high tech, meaning organisations need to remember the personal touch and how they support their new hires in building relationships and strong networks.


“Organisations will need data to be able to adjust and pivot in the current market.”

Data will provide organisations with information on their new Graduates, including their mindset, motivations and engagement levels. This will ensure you can tailor your Graduate Programmes and ensure success in a remote environment.

Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and Inclusion is very topical right now. So should organisations refocus on this for their Graduate Programmes after the recruitment piece? 

“Inclusion is vital for any organisation, and strong inclusion methodologies will support diversity. But organisations shouldn’t be complacent. This is topical and we are all still learning. You will need to have a strong handle on your data to look at interventions to put into play”.  

Jessica advised that the data should stem from the beginning of the process from recruitment, onboarding through to 30 – 60-90-day plans.

“If you take it back to the recruitment and assessment processes these should identify the motivations and needs of the graduates so you can tailor the training and ensure all employees are engaged and feel included”.

Big thank you to Jessica for sharing her hints and tips for making your Graduate Programme a success in a virtual world.

Kara Feller
Principal Consultant - HR & Talent Management Recruitment
t: +44 (0)20 7422 9035

Other articles in this series:

  • "Early Careers are vital to the future of a business". Click here to hear from Kimberly Rowling, Graduate Programme Manager at BT Group.
  • "Don't abandon Early Careers - evolve and adapt!" Click here to hear from Samantha Ridgewell, Managing Director at Empower Development.