According to a recent study by LinkedIn, competition in the job market has turned today’s graduates into a swarm of ‘yes workers’.

The research reveals that two thirds (64%) of 18-24 year olds and over half (56%) of 25-34 year olds now describe themselves as ‘yes’ men and women – unwilling to offer a contradictory opinion.

Let’s consider the impact of this…companies often turn to graduate recruitment when they’re looking for fresh ideas, an injection of innovation and a way to build their next future leaders into the business. So if a group of nodding heads enter your business then they’re not going to be helping you achieve your objectives.

This shines a light on a growing need to build a diverse workforce. Firstly, what do we mean by ‘diverse’? Often in business the word ‘diverse’ is associated with race, gender and age but here we are referring to personality, behaviour, opinion and culture. A business needs people of all varieties in order to thrive and it is important that this is put on the recruitment agenda.

In some cases, it may be that the new recruit just needs to build more confidence to feel comfortable in expressing their opinions and ideas. The LinkedIn study also revealed that 54% of employees feel more comfortable challenging their boss now than when they started their careers. This is natural of course, but in order for you to get the most out of your graduates as soon as possible, you may need to take action in order to progress them to this ‘comfort’ stage more quickly.

Here are a couple of suggestions as to how you can help your graduate recruits be the forward thinking, fresh injection of talent that you want them to be:

Ask the right questions

Even the simplest of questions can encourage graduates to start thinking about things from alternative perspectives; “If you had the chance to do this again, what would you do differently? Is there a more effective way we could be doing this? What do you think the strengths and weaknesses are of this process? Is there anything you would change immediately; in the short-medium term or long term?” Enabling employees to reflect on current processes and projects early on in their career will help them understand that change and development in business is possible and that their opinions are valued.

Naturally, we don’t expect graduates to come in and challenge anything and everything – there is of course a ‘getting to know the business’ stage when acceptance is likely to be high. If graduates do agree, or are happy with a particular process, then ask them to clarify why – in justifying their reasoning, this will help them as they develop their career within your business.

Project management

Entry level employees are likely to be on the first rungs of the ladder in the first few roles they have within your organisation so it is important to explore how you can put a graduate in a position of responsibility early on. One way to get them exploring, putting forward and implementing new ideas is by assigning them a project to work on.

Perhaps this is that CSR project that you’ve wanted to execute for months but never quite got round to? Or perhaps you’re looking to a change a supplier? These may be the perfect projects for a junior person to manage. Allow them to be accountable for the task and just gently guide them when necessary. Encouraging them to set up regular project review sessions will complement their continual development and ensure they are consistently thinking, ‘What could be done to improve this?’ ‘How will I learn from this problem?’ ‘What could I do differently next time?’

Networking opportunities

Attending networking events is a great way for your graduate to build their confidence in communicating your business proposition. Liaising with business leaders within the industry or local area is also an excellent way for them to learn about other businesses and expand their knowledge. It gets them used to communicating and speaking with business professionals and it may incite some ideas that could be implemented in your workplace. When you ask the question ‘How was last night’s networking event?’ don’t allow the answer to simply be ‘good’ or ‘poor’. Expansion is key: Why was it good? Why was it poor? Did you learn anything from it? Would you go to a similar event again? If yes, why?

These are just a few ways to ensure your graduates are constantly challenging and engaging with your business and your business community, not simply accepting things and plodding along. Train graduates to question things and to be involved in business change and innovation – after all, they are your future leaders and so should play a significant part in how the business is shaped.

For further insight, have a read of some of our other blog posts