Keeping your early stage talent engaged

While talent attraction and retention are two of the most common challenges facing graduate recruiters today, employee engagement is another growing imperative in terms of both helping to guarantee retention and improve productivity. So, what are some of the most successful tactics in keeping early-stage employees engaged and motivated in their work?


For graduate recruits, knowing that someone has their back and is willing to mentor and coach them through the early stages of their career is vitally important. Supportive mentors, coaches and managers work closely with recruits and collaborate with them in the course of their work rather than just supervising them. Encourage them to take ownership of their work by demonstrating your own levels of accountability and responsibility, how you deliver your work and report on it. Make sure that your induction plan is very practical in terms of explaining the development opportunities that are open to graduate recruits and how they can take ownership of their career from an early stage. 


Good communication is at the heart of a successful working environment, being able to provide verbal and written feedback in a way that is concise and constructive is vital. Encourage the sharing of ideas and information, which gives graduate recruits the ability to see that they are making a valued contribution and it also gives them the confidence to speak their own minds and express themselves in a welcoming culture. However, there will be times when strong direction is needed, and how you communicate that, and criticism is very important. Graduate recruits need to learn how to accept and implement constructive feedback so adopt a tone that is direct but also facilitates questions and allows the recipient to feel supported in terms of learning from any failings or mistakes rather than feel like they are being punished or blamed for them. 

Set goals 

A good goal-setting strategy is a great way to ensure graduate recruits can reach attainable targets, while at the same time developing their skills, confidence, communication, initiative and leadership. Some companies use OKR (Objectives and Key Results) metrics, others use SMART Goals, and there are plenty of others to choose from. Whatever metric you use, make sure it’s suitable for the projects you need to deliver. 

Encourage teamwork and a growth mindset

Collaboration is key for a happy place, both as a way of reassuring early-stage employees within a peer group and of generating fresh ideas to deliver a particular project or solve a particular conundrum. Having a growth mindset means that personal development is at the heart of the company’s employee strategy and that all employees are treated as potential future leaders. If you create a dynamic and fun environment to work in. A graduate is a whole lot more than just the skillset that you may have hired them for, try to engage as much of that person as you can to unlock their full personality and find out as much about them as possible. As well as helping them develop and deliver for the organisation, it will also arm you with the knowledge which may help offset any future problems that person may have. 

Ask for feedback 

Any graduate starting out on their career is taking a lot of information on board, they have a lot of concerns and pressure to deal with, but they are also forming valuable impressions of your organisation and how it functions and their place in it. This is all valuable feedback. How you harness this is important. If you make a meeting to assess their feedback too formal, then you could limit the likelihood of getting the information that you need. Set up a casual chat over a coffee and has them how they feel about their job and how they feel they are getting on, what do they like and what do they not like? This allows you to take the pulse of how early career graduates in your organisation feel about it. They may feel concerned after their onboarding and induction that they might forget some important information or processes so make sure you reassure them that they have support to help them with any concerns or queries. This will make them more likely to initiate a channel of feedback in your direction and help you refine how you induct and onboard graduates into your organisation. 

Today’s graduate hires are aspirational and dynamic, they can also be demanding and challenging, just like many generations before them. Harnessing their ability to see new ways of addressing old problems is one of the most rewarding aspects of seeing them grow within your organisation, by creating an environment in which they feel comfortable of thinking creatively, and collaborating openly, you will help keep them engaged and productive. 

For more advice on keeping early stage talent engaged, get in touch with the gradireland team on 01 645 1500 or email

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