In 1982 I started my career as a trainee. Philips Electronics wanted to hire some fresh forces for the personnel department and they thought a traineeship was the solution. After a tough selection process four eager high potentials were selected, and I was one of the lucky four. In 1994 I was the last of the four musketeers to leave this big multinational.
Many big companies think a traineeship is necessary to hire high potentials. Not many companies are able to successfully design and sustain traineeships. Often the pattern is as follows. It starts with a big campaign. “We are looking for the future top!”. Out of a large group of candidates four to ten trainees are selected. The main ingredients of the traineeship: training, job rotation and coaching. As the expectations of the trainees are very high, the reality of the working life in the big company is often disappointing. Sometimes the trainees are not so welcome. Departments are not very keen to have a trainee, as they know they will leave after a couple of months. The promised frequent contact with top managers turns out to be an annual Q&A with one of the board members, often not the CEO, as he is busy busy busy. Often it is not clear who feels responsible for the trainees. As a result many traineeships start with a lot of poeha, and after a couple of years they starve a natural death. If the organization is lucky, a few trainees stay and have a good career. The exception: organizations where nearly all new employees start as trainees, mainly in professional services (consultancy, law firms).
It is time to redesign traineeships. Seven elements to take into account:
- Make the selection process more open and transparent. Be clear about the criteria, and open up application for everybody who qualifies. Also encourage people who already work in your organization to apply.
- Extend the time horizon. Do not stop the trainee program after two-three years. People can be a trainee as long as they qualify and perform.
- Tailor the program to the individual needs of the trainees. The more you are able to offer developmental opportunities that fit the needs of the trainees, the better you will be able to keep them connected to your organization.
- Focus the training on on-the-job training, supported by e-learning. This is connected to point 3.
- Change the focus from “What should we learn the trainees?” to “What can we learn from the trainees?”.
- Give the trainees real jobs and real assignments. To frequent job rotations are not very helpful, as it does not help the trainees to be able to deliver real results.
- Make one of the senior managers responsible for the traineeship. For HR it is often difficult to pull the right levers.
Traineeships can be successful if organizations are willing to take a new approach. Key words: open, transparent, not exclusive, tailor made and result oriented.
The HR Trend Institute detects, follows and encourages smart and creative use of trends in the field of people and organisations, and also in adjacent areas.
Tom has a keen interest in organisations and service providers that use trends in a creative and innovative way. He advices organisations on how to get more focus in their HR interventions and how use trends to increase the impact of HR.
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Tom Haak can conduct inspiring presentations and workshops about trends in HR and how organisations can benefit. The HR Trend Institute can also conduct the HR Trend Scan.