6 Nov 2019 04:09pm

Why nurturing your new graduates is non-negotiable

Each year’s new influx of graduates represents an organisation’s secret weapon. Look after them well and you – and your clients – will reap the benefits for the long-term

As head of our consulting practice, it’s my privilege to oversee these newcomers as we welcome them into our firm. I am always inspired by their eagerness to dive into their career and the potential that’s there, ready to be unlocked on behalf of our clients.

Yet it’s easy for those of us on the inside to forget how starting out in a premier firm can be a daunting experience for graduates: from acclimatising to the people, to settling into the technical role, to understanding what we – and, above all, our clients – expect from them.

It’s essential to make this transition as seamless as it can be: ensuring that the building blocks are in place to give new entrants the best possible start and fully equipping them to help clients with today’s most challenging business issues.

As consultants, we work with our clients to solve their most complex issues, often during hugely disruptive periods of change. That experience is invaluable in developing our people, and this will continue to be the case for this year’s cohort of graduates. We help them prepare for their new roles by providing a broad induction, helping them to build their Consultant’s ‘kit bag’ in a way that is always 100% client-focused.

To me, working in Consulting has never looked more exciting, with profound changes set to sweep across global sectors and industries over the next three years, thanks to disruptive technologies such as AI, advanced analytics and the cloud. It takes very specific skills and expertise to help clients navigate these challenges successfully – exactly the qualities we set out to instill in those starting their career with us.

That’s why, earlier this year, I asked our in-house Learning team to create a market leading student induction programme that would boost our graduates’ skills and hone their delivery techniques so that they could hit the ground running with clients.

Our priorities were just as you would expect: ensuring that they received the right technical specialism needed to become excellent consultants, enhancing their professional judgement so that they feel fully confident managing risk and spotting new opportunities, and developing the unique insights that would set them apart as experts in their chosen field.

Our new Consulting University learning curriculum fits that brief. The sessions encompass a variety of educational styles, including learning labs, a data museum (incorporating interactive features such as Surface Hubs and Hololens), and simulated client situations and discussion forums that keep our graduates ahead of the curve in terms of the technologies and issues impacting our clients and their markets.

The new induction sessions also draw on innovative learning techniques, experimenting with music playlists, lighting colours, scents and kinaesthetic techniques, to enhance memory, group dynamics and learning retention. Our graduates are fully immersed in situational exercises to prepare them for what will soon be everyday client interactions. And consulting graduates from previous cohorts work with the new starters to build their networks and provide them with support and validation.

When I spent time with the 250 new consulting graduates from KPMG in the UK and Ireland at the start of our recent induction week, I was seriously impressed by their appetite to learn and excel. I was also delighted with the feedback they delivered, further proof that our dynamic approach to learning and development within the firm, no matter how new or experienced the colleagues involved, is paying dividends – above all, for the clients we support.

By David Rowlands, KPMG UK head of consulting