A BBC news article on 09/09/14 reported that “the UK has passed a significant milestone towards becoming a graduate economy, with more people now likely to have a degree than to have only reached school-level qualifications”. According to the report, UK now has 41% of working-age people with a degree-level qualification, up from 26% in 2000 – thanks to rising numbers of young people, particularly women, taking up university places. This means that “UK has the highest proportion of adults with graduate-level qualifications in the European Union and is only surpassed by a handful of countries including South Korea and Japan”.
This is excellent news for individuals, businesses and the economy. However, like all organisational change, it prevents bigger opportunities to build on this change for even more change. The challenge / question is: What must Organisations and Businesses need to change when graduates are no longer the minority?
A few suggestions immediately spring to mind.
Change the emphasis from graduate recruitment to graduate retention – especially of women
Every Organisation worth its salt in the UK has a first rate graduate recruitment programme and it wasn’t so long ago that we were told that there was a war of talent. This scarcity intensified the competition for organisations to get the best graduates whom they could develop, mould and induct into their business culture. The fast track processes for graduates were specifically designed to quickly attract, develop and promote the best graduates over and above long standing (non-graduate) employees and myself and most of my peers were grateful recipients of these frameworks. Now that there are so many more graduates to choose from than before, the change should shift to retaining them in the organisation. This is especially challenging for the women graduates because, as I observed in a previous blog, something seems to happen en-masse to women after a certain age. Women disappear. Is it any wonder then than even today, the dream of significant representations of women on boards seem to be just that – a dream?
Lateral career progression should be made as sexy or even more, as vertical career progression
HR systems in the workplace should be creatively designed to recognise and reward all employees in other ways other than just promotions along very narrowly defined vertical functional lines. Lateral career progressions used to be the perk for the very few chosen people in the Organisation’s talent pool – on a mission to higher positions. However, with the increase of the graduate population, who will already have higher salaries than were previously the norm, there is a significant opportunity to gain more ROI through a lateral career development which emphasis workplace coaching and on the job development across many of the organisations functions. This is excellent for developing the versatility and adaptability of graduates and also excellent for developing flexibility within the organisation structure and minimising resistance to change.
A change in leadership and management profile from Task Managers to People Managers
With more graduates in the workplace, there needs to a better class of managers, supervisors and/ or leaders who are better equipped at leading and managing change. I deliberately use these terms interchangeably because the sentiment is the same regardless. Organisations need to transform from the traditional micro management style to a situational type of leadership/ management where employees are not treated equally (because they will invariably have different needs) but fairly. This requires managers / leaders at every level to develop flexible and emotionally intelligent leadership skills that flexes itself according to the situation and needs of their people (hence “People Managers) as opposed to the robotic task management style which no doubt they were brought up on. The reason for this change is simple. No matter the problem at hand, it is always about people and failure to recognise this and develop practical tips for developing people and making this transformation renders the organisation ineffective and among the many in the UK which contributes to £19 billion loss annually from poor management style.
Develop a new meaning to “diversity in the workplace”
Finally Organisational cultures will need to change. For where the majority in the workplace are graduates, they are no longer special to be treated like demi- gods. Instead, the danger is that the culture and behaviours could shift to a situation where the minority non graduates are discriminated against, in various ways. This needs to be proactively looked into as it implies a broader meaning to the traditionally accepted definition of diversity in the workplace – one that goes beyond merely asking job applicants and potential employees to tick a box to indicate that they are a non-graduate minority.