No matter what stage your graduate programme is at, there is an almost constant need to see if it is it delivering for the business in terms of attracting the right people and delivering the overall business objectives. We talked to Siobháin Scanlon, Early Careers Manager with food retailer Musgrave, who has spearheaded the transformation of their graduate programme, leading to considerable rewards for the business and recognition for what the programme has achieved. Musgrave currently hires between 15 and 20 graduates per year.
Siobháin has worked with Musgrave for over 12 years and came into the graduate recruitment role in 2014. At that time, Musgrave already had a graduate programme in place but there was a sense that the graduate attraction element of the company had to be looked at, shaping Musgrave as a brand in itself outside of its market-leading retail and wholesale brands.
“This meant looking at things like the overall objective of our graduate programme, what we could offer them in terms of career paths, our formal and informal development initiatives and the long-term career opportunities as a graduate in Musgrave”
“We decided to take a look at the overall structure of our graduate offering from the perspective of what the market perception was of Musgrave as a graduate employer, the actual offer and what we needed to change for graduates on our programme,” explained Siobháin. “This meant looking at things like the overall objective of our graduate programme, what career paths we could offer them, our formal and informal development initiatives and the long-term career opportunities as a graduate in Musgrave” she added.
“We started working with gradireland in 2014 and it has been extremely beneficial working with them in terms of accessing a graduate employer network to benchmark our programme against other companies, such as Glanbia or Kerry for example.”
When it came to reshaping their graduate offering, Musgrave decided to explore what was happening in the wider graduate recruitment market and see what methods they could adapt for their purposes or get inspiration from. “We started working with gradireland in 2014 and it has been extremely beneficial working with them to access a graduate employer network so we could benchmark our programme against other companies, such as Glanbia or Kerry for example. I also found going to the gradireland Graduate Recruitment Awards to be a real eye-opener in terms of what was involved in running a best-in-class graduate programme and helped us in understanding how best to hone our offer,” Siobháin explained.
Of course, as is the challenge with many companies, delivering an enhanced graduate recruitment programme can often be constrained by budget. Social media tools can, of course, help bridge the gap, but in Musgrave’s case, a real sense of forward momentum needed to be generated from the top down. “In 2016, Matt O’Callaghan took over as Chief HR Officer and focused on the graduate programme as a key enabler in establishing Musgrave as a destination place to work for early career talent. This meant taking a long hard look at how and why we were recruiting graduates. There was an understanding that the programme we had was good, but that we could do better,” said Siobháin. “So, we sat down to establish our vision for the future, which was to be the top graduate employer by 2020. We were optimistic! We then came up with a three-year strategy, underpinned by a phased roadmap to achieve this vision which was endorsed by our CEO and executive team.
“So, we sat down to establish our vision for the future, which was to be the top graduate employer by 2020. We were optimistic! We then came up with a three-year strategy, underpinned by a phased roadmap to achieve this vision which was endorsed by our CEO and executive team.”
One of the main challenges for us was establishing what the life cycle was for graduates in the business and where their careers could go with Musgrave once they had completed the graduate recruitment programme,” she added. Working with the business, Siobháin realised the immense potential that their graduates and managers could offer in shaping the graduate programme and brand. “We looked at the supports which we could put in place for graduates during their time on the graduate programme and how we also could support managers who would be working with graduates, it gave a far more cohesive structure when it came to what we were offering,” Siobháin explained. “Our graduates sharing their own experiences with students on campus and through social media brings an authentic voice as to what Musgrave can offer graduates from an experiential and formal development perspective and highlights a strong focus on personal development”.
The first sign of the success of the evolution of the programme came in 2018 when Musgrave landed the ‘Best Talent Development Initiative’ at the IITD Training Awards, which they then followed up at the gradireland Graduate Recruitment Awards by winning 2018 Graduate Employee of the Year award, with one of their graduate recruits, Ross Kerrigan, landing the prize. “Both those awards were a great boost for us and really underlined that we were building a best-in-class development programme for early-career talent to contribute to our business. It also illustrated the importance of having such great buy-in from senior management,” said Siobháin.
Musgrave followed this up with a host of awards in 2019 gradireland awards, landing Best Training & Development Programme for Business graduates, a silver award for Best Graduate Recruitment Website and the highly coveted Graduate Employer of the Year <40 intake, a host of recognition for a programme that has evolved rapidly and successfully.
Ask for help: “By and large the general graduate recruitment community is very supportive, so build a network and leverage it for advice and support and bounce ideas off others who may have insights or experience that could help you.”
Have a plan: “You need to be clear as to what it is you want from the graduate recruitment programme. Clearly plan out your objectives and think practically as to how you can put these plans into place.”
Get support from the top: “Make sure there is management buy-in at every stage of the programme, from concept to execution. It will make subsequent plans so much easier to put in place if you know you have support from key decision-makers in the business.”
Be prepared: “You always need to be prepared for new challenges. For us, when I started working on the programme in 2014, our challenge was finding the right people for the business. Now, in 2019, we are focusing on how best we keep them in our business for the long term”
Submissions are now open for the gradireland Graduate Recruitment Awards 2020. The deadline for entries is Friday 21 February 2020 and full details on awards categories can be found here.