This website uses cookies to store information on your computer. Some of these cookies are used for visitor analysis, others are essential to making our site function properly and improve the user experience. By using this site, you consent to the placement of these cookies. Click Accept to consent and dismiss this message or Deny to leave this website. Read our Privacy Statement for more.
ISE blog

Creative tactics for engaging managers in graduate development

10 December 2018

Graduate Development Tactics

Our Annual Student Development Survey reported that engaging managers is one of the biggest challenges facing development professionals. Anne Hamill, Founder of Talent & Potential offers some advice.

In the autumn issue of The Student Employer we outlined some ideas about how to engage managers in graduate development by reverse engineering your approach. Here are some further suggestions you can use to tackle this challenge.

The challenge - recap

In rotational schemes (83% of all schemes), one graduate can have four managers over time – Thus a 100-person, two-year placement scheme involves 200 graduates and 800 managers!
There is often no budget for working with the managers – even though they deliver 200 days of the graduates’ on-the-job development each year
74% of managers are assigned by business units; this can introduce a disconnect with the HR team 
Although 80% of organisations train managers, the ISE Development Survey suggests survey suggests one in five managers don’t attend

What are common ways of engaging managers?

The ISE Development Survey reports that:
47% produce a manager guidebook
31% are using regular group forums, update calls, feedback sessions
64% are moving from classroom training or eLearning to on-the-job briefings of managers – to connect directly with managers at their workplace
18% are working on selection of managers – to get good, committed people.

Creative solutions


Do you have a budget specifically for supporting and developing graduates during the 200 working days? Think creatively - can this be funded from the management development budget or the apprentice levy?

Draw managers in:

Make every communication bite-sized.
Outreach – send teaser emails - a few lines that intrigue the manager into clicking. These might ask a question: ‘What is the biggest challenge graduates have?’ or ‘How would you deal with…’ and link to short answers.
Just-in-time information – e.g. ‘three things to do now before your new graduate arrives’.
Increase ‘What’s in it for me?’. Make being a manager of graduates desirable because it brings extra personal development, opportunities and visibility – aimed at helping THEIR career, not just the graduates. Can you offer psychometrics, access to senior people, visibility? Make links to their career: e.g. ‘Managing a graduate can raise your visibility – five actions to take’.

Make development important: 

Create a template for what a placement must offer, and ask managers to bid for a graduate, or prepare pitches which graduates choose from. 
Create a gold standard for key aspects of graduate support – e.g. a weekly one-hour review meeting, response time for emails, the development days they’ll be released for. Share the gold standard with business unit leaders; ask line managers to sign it or email acceptance for more commitment. 
Make line managers accountable: get graduates to supply end of placement factual data based on the gold standard (NOT rate their manager), and share this with business unit leaders. 
Help managers see where they stand as a graduate manager. In teaser emails, report ‘72% of managers have completed…’ to encourage those who haven’t. Consider leader boards: show graduate/manager pairs in order of graduate development items completed.
Celebrate success – make your top performing graduate managers visible to senior managers and offer rewards. Can those who deliver Gold Standard engagement be recognised? Can it help their career?

You can read more from Talent & Potential on engaging managers in the autumn issue of The Student Employer