Graduates: the 'Generation Y-stick-around'

More than half of new graduate recruits apparently plan to leave their job within two years. Are their managers to blame?

by James Taylor
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
According to research by the Institute of Leadership and Management and Ashridge Business School, 57% of new graduate recruits are planning to leave their current job within two years, while 40% intend to jump ship in the next 12 months and 16% plan to leave as soon as possible. We knew attention spans were supposedly getting shorter, but that's ridiculous. Haven't they noticed what's going on in the labour market at the moment?

At the root of this is a sense of disenchantment: 80% of new graduates are apparently unhappy with the chances of career advancement and salary in their current role. But it may not be their employer's fault: 31% of managers say the greatest challenge when working with graduates is managing their expectations. Which is not surprising, given that 56% of graduates expect to be appointed to a management role within three years of starting work, and 13% believe they'll be managing people within a year. A bit of a humility deficit there, you might argue.

These figures are all the more remarkable when you consider the odds facing graduates in the job market at the moment. Recent AGR figures revealed that 83 people were applying for every graduate vacancy - so it would be foolhardy for a recent recruit to assume that they'll just be able to find another job as soon as they want one.

Equally, there seems to be an implicit assumption among these graduates that companies will always be desperate for their services. But graduate recruitment is a dear do (costing ‘anything up to £3bn each year’, according to the ILM) - and given the increasing disquiet among employers about the employability of university leavers, they probably shouldn't take that for granted.

The survey also showed that graduates work in a different way from the managers whose jobs they hope to snaffle. While 63% of managers take work home once or twice a week, that’s true of only 38% of graduates; and 28% of managers take work home four or five times a week, compared to just 17% of graduates. A quarter of graduates said they never mix work with home life, whereas just 6% of managers said the same.

That's no bad thing in itself, of course; if they can get the work done on office time, so much the better. But it does point to cultural differences that will make life difficult for managers of new recruits. At the moment, they don't seem to be on the same wavelength: the survey found that while 75% of managers believe they are acting in a mentoring role, only 26% of graduates would agree. Until that changes, companies are going to keep losing new recruits - with all the disruption and wastage that entails.

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