It is by no means a surprise to us that graduates crave, demand and in many cases expect, development opportunities when stepping into their first graduate job. But what are they actually looking for in terms of development? An article published earlier this year really gets to grips with one very key aspect of development that graduates are shouting out for. It is something that takes practice and can be a real challenge for employees, regardless of their status or position. Yet it should form a crucial part of any development programme, from our perspective as well as graduates themselves. So, what is it that I’m referring to…?


When a group of millennials were asked, 1,400 of them said they want more feedback from their managers.

They want feedback at least monthly.

Yet only 46% of managers are delivering on this.

So, the question is, what can be done to improve your ability to meet graduate’s expectations? Here are a few bits of advice from OPEN Programme Manager, Gemma.

Being an approachable manager

This sounds like quite an obvious starting point, but it can actually take some work. In the study, millennials specifically stated a desire to have an approachable manager. This starts with good, open conversations, which can be daunting initially, for both manager and graduate. It also requires time; a resource that is often hard to find. It is important to invest time in building a relationship with your team, to encourage trust, which will in turn promote honest and open conversations, where feedback can take place.

We find that during the early stages of their employment, graduates find it helpful to have a “rehearsal” conversation with our OPEN Programme leaders prior to opening up to their managers. Graduates relish the opportunity to bounce ideas off other people, to straighten out their thoughts and gather alternative perspectives, so they are able to enter a conversation with their manager feeling comfortable, confident and prepared. This can be equally beneficial for the manager, who experiences a productive, concise conversation rather than, what is sometimes, a muddled, lengthy chat. Holding these good conversations will help to build the relationship further.

It’s equally important for managers to share their experiences of the business too – their own struggles and challenges as well as their victories and successes. Good leaders need to be seen as real people and it is being honest, receptive and approachable that will engender this perception by millennials. Setting up mentoring partnerships is another way of giving graduates access to this sort of conversation, outside of the management line.

Establishing regular feedback sessions

Graduates want regular feedback, but in the fast paced environments in which so many of us work, this can easily be forgotten. A good way of allowing and encouraging feedback is to set up regular one-to-one developmental meetings. These meetings should be focused on the graduate and their own development, rather than targets and KPIs. Using simple tools can establish a solid foundation for managers who are more familiar with task-focused meetings. The Personal Effectiveness Wheel provides a framework for feedback, helping to focus the conversation on the strengths and areas of development that the graduate has highlighted and wishes to discuss. It is these discussions that will help you and your graduate build a strong development plan.

Involving a ‘third party’ can help to regulate and establish effective feedback sessions. In our experience, OPEN Programme support visits provide another useful opportunity for graduates to request feedback, from OPEN Programme leaders. For us, gathering feedback from managers and graduates helps us to support existing meetings and facilitate additional conversations where necessary.

The fruits of your labour

The impact of encouraging these interactions is actually rather phenomenal. Through opening up communication channels between graduates and managers and establishing regular feedback sessions, trust and integrity can be formed. Open communication provides clarity, and feedback sessions provide the reassurance that graduates often need when in a new job.

A strong support mechanism allows graduates to settle into a business. It helps them get up to speed quicker, especially if their manager has made themselves approachable through doing the above. Feedback encourages graduates to become more aware of how others perceive their behaviour and awareness of this is what will allow them develop into the high performers their businesses are looking for.

Millennials have requested regular feedback in order that they can be ‘more efficient and proficient’, and this is exactly the impact that feedback can have.

The more support and coaching that you can provide, the more effective a graduate can be in their role and the more likely they will be to focus their efforts on developing themselves in line with what is right for the business.