Graduate Plus: How to profit from human investments

Employers are keen to appreciate assets, not just count costs. By Roger Trapp

It might not always appear that way, but Britain's employers are starting to acknowledge that their graduate recruits are an investment rather than a cost.

According to Hugh Smith, the Association of Graduate Recruiters' new vice-chairman, the organisation's forthcoming annual conference will be discussing ways in which companies can get more out of their investment.

Mr Smith, manager of graduate entry and external accreditation at BT, argues in his introduction to next month's conference that graduates - like other employees - are rather different from other targets of expenditure, such as equipment, systems and transport fleets.

This does not mean accepting the suggestion that investing in graduates is a bit like buying classic cars - "choose well and they make you some money, and you can put them to use while they do it". Though the well- selected graduate can certainly earn his or her organisation a return, this is directly linked to added value for both the individual and the organisation. "It is only the skills and capabilities of employees in which investment is made that increase their value with subsequent use. The others all result in a depreciation charge to the P&L account," he adds.

AGR members generally see graduates as a resource worth capturing and developing for the future, and recognise that this involves an investment, Mr Smith says. Though the costs of getting this right are considerable, "we should not forget that the recruits themselves have also put a large investment into the process of gaining their degrees and into their future."

The ideal is to obtain a "win-win" investment - and much of the conference will be devoted to achieving this. In particular, there will be opportunities for looking at ways of optimising investment and of making graduates feel that the outcome is in their best interests as well as those of the organisation.

Inevitably, perhaps, the conference will also take in the issue of personal development. But in addition to examining the links between recruitment, development and expectations and the strategies for encouraging "all-important self-reliance skills", the event will focus on the development needs of the recruiters themselves.

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