Could graduate intake improve your team’s capability?

Could graduate intake improve your team’s capability?

July 22, 2019 by Reo Group

Shannon Davidson, Director Planning & Logistics at Arnott’s; takes pride that 25% of her total headcount in her supply chain team are graduates. Shannon brings to her leadership, authenticity, an understanding of the big picture,  and a passion for building high performing and motivated teams. A proven leader in both Supply Chain and Finance. Shannon has led major Supply Chain Strategic investment decisions and owned the reset of Integrated Business Planning within a large FMCG. Key Finance business partner to senior executives across Supply Chain, Sales, Marketing and R&D. 

Reo Group met with Shannon to gain an insight into why graduates make a great fit for business and culture.


When did you realise that graduates build capability in your team?  

I experienced the success of a formal University Co-op program (university students still studying) in the workplace while working in Finance.  Recruits were talented, enthusiastic and quick to learn. On moving into Supply Chain, I was keen to access a similar program. Although no formal Co-op program existed specific to Supply Chain within the Universities, we discovered a fantastic pool of graduates from the University of Wollongong and RMIT studying relevant undergraduate degrees.

With access to graduates with relevant backgrounds, we then recruited a mix of high calibre graduates and Co-ops into vacant roles. We also tweaked the structure of our existing team to accommodate the change in skill sets.


Why do some sectors see graduates as hard work but you seem to make it work? 

Some businesses prefer to employ individuals with previous experience.  We have found however that talented graduates have a thirst to learn, are ambitious and have wonderful energy. Graduates are highly adaptable and are capable of adding value at surprising speed. They also help build customer orientation, responsiveness and collaboration that complements the more experienced team members. I think this may be undervalued in some sectors.

The other key advantage provided by recruiting graduates, is the opportunity it provides to develop managers within the existing team. Across my Planning and Logistics team, just under 25%  of roles are currently filled by either recent graduates or Co-op students.

“Some businesses prefer to employ individuals with previous experience.  We have found however that talented graduates have a thirst to learn, are ambitious and have wonderful energy.”


The statistics show that graduates leave their role within 18months looking for the next big thing, how have you managed to keep them and help them? 

While we don’t have a formal graduate program, what we do have, are real roles.  I am a big believer that when you offer opportunity to talented individuals, with the appropriate level of support, they can achieve amazing results.  It’s important to stretch the individual and give accountability and interaction across functions.  The individual needs to see they can have real influence across the business.

We have examples of graduates that have moved through our organisation, some now in senior management roles. Their movement through the organisation has been purely based on merit, not as part of a rotation within a program.  When offered the right opportunity they have proven to thrive.


What hidden values do graduates bring that surprised you? 

Their contribution to team culture.  Having a good mix of new and experienced team members has been a positive add to the culture and workings of the team.  The mix works well. The graduates are curious and resilient and very good at coping with change.  They come in with fresh ideas that have resulted in efficiencies, particularly when they are tech-savvy.


What advice can you give leaders looking to bring more graduates into their team and how can they best make it work? 

Fill your next vacant role with a new graduate, give them support and training and you will be surprised at the value they can add, and quickly.    However, where possible embark on a program of more than one grad as they really thrive as a team.  I believe that this is key to engagement and in retaining talent over the longer term. Our current cohort also have a social life outside of work that brings with it a cohesiveness back into the workplace.  We love them 😊. 


At Reo Group we know that at their heart, businesses are simply groups of people and we absolutely love hearing from industry leaders who see their staff’s potential and create opportunity. We truly resonate with the sentiment that Shannon has left us with, how having the right people in your team will contribute to your organisation’s ability to deliver, regardless of their experience. Hiring from a baseline set of strengths, personality profile and culture fit can often be a very successful way to get the right people in your organisation. Be mindful, engagement needs to be nurtured and having evolved Learning & Development programs and planning will be crucial to your success. Invest in your people and see how they can create value that previously didn’t exist.

If you want to know more about how our team at Reo Group can help you be more strategic in your approach to hiring and to align the right people to the right roles; contact us today.

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