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4D Leadership

4D Leadership – Competitive Advantage Through Vertical Leadership Development

Twenty years ago the accumulation of skills, knowledge and experience (‘horizontal development’) was sufficient for business success. Today, it’s not. 4D Leadership – Competitive Advantage Through Vertical Leadership Development, offers a new approach of ‘vertical development’.

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Making graduate programmes fit for the future

Last year, University applications were down for the first time since 2012[1]. At the same time, apprenticeships have seen a dramatic increase[2]. It appears many young people are avoiding university debt and opting for apprenticeships instead. With the growing ‘gig’ economy and fewer ‘jobs for life’ [3], we’re left wondering whether degrees and graduate programmes are still relevant.

To help us answer that question, we invited nine leaders from different organisations to share their experiences and views of this rapidly changing topic. Here are the insights we gathered from the collective wisdom of the participants.

A job for life no longer exists

The leaders at our event said they saw the jobs market and worker expectations changing. Apparently, their workers rarely expect to stay in the same job, function, or even company for the whole of their career. Given this new flexible approach to careers, our leaders were concerned about investing significant amounts in graduate programmes for individuals who were very likely to leave and not deliver some of the longer-term benefits back to the organisation.  

Graduates or not, get everyone talking

The contributors said that with or without graduates there was a need to encourage interactions between people of differing ages and experience as much as possible. There was an acknowledgement that generations can learn a lot from each other and that more interactions might help to create more openness about expectations and boundaries. Reverse mentoring – which is an initiative where older executives are paired with and mentored by younger employees on topics such as technology, social media and current trends – was specifically suggested as a way for people to understand others’ motivations.

One participant shared an example of three younger direct reports reverse mentoring a more experienced manager on a regular basis, which improved communication and meant the younger direct reports felt valued and listened to.

Create a new way of working

The question about the relevance of graduates and graduate training expanded during the conversation and the participants wondered whether a new way of working would be needed for the future. The group challenged themselves to manage outcomes instead of people.

This approach was less about holding onto people as property but allowing them to come and go because the organisation has built a brand attractive enough to ensure that good talent will come back.

The discussion then moved to recruitment. How about we turn recruitment on its head? Imagine if companies did not ‘own’ their employees at all and instead we create an entirely flexible workforce.

These suggestions, combined with the fact that our participants saw their work places becoming a series of interdependent networks rather than traditional hierarchies, indicates that this graduate issue is much broader than we first thought. 

In short, the changing nature of graduate recruitment and the emergence of apprenticeships is just one symptom of a wider evolution in the world of work. We are all, graduates, non-graduates, millennials and baby boomers, knocking on the door of something much bigger.

We must conclude that traditional graduate programmes need a revamp. Modern organisations require more open, agile and dynamic ways of approaching the resourcing of their operations.

Please contact Ceri Stokes ( if you want to revamp your organisation’s graduate or early careers programme for today’s workplace.

[3] Skidelsky, W. (2017, April 21). A job for life: the ‘new economy’ and the rise of the artisan career. Financial Times
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Ceri Stokes

Ceri Stokes is dedicated to helping her clients define what makes the greatest difference in the shortest time frame, to deliver their commercial objectives. Ceri has a first class degree in Human Biology and began her career at a Sunday Times Fast track 100 company. Since joining Complete Coherence she has developed into a coach and facilitator, working with clients in academy, team and individual settings.

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