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Work experience lets candidates try governance for size

15 May 2018 by Charis Evans

Work experience lets candidates try governance for size - Read more

ICSA has developed guidance to help support companies to offer work experience

Governance has never been higher on the public and political agenda, yet the profile of the company secretary is still relatively low amongst graduates and those at the beginning of their careers.

ICSA is working to change this. We want to raise the profession’s profile and encourage more people to choose to qualify as a company secretary or governance professional, with the many opportunities that this will give them.

But we cannot do this alone and we are grateful for the incredible support of our members who already collaborate with us to offer a range of taster experiences. These are designed to give young people a practical appreciation of what governance is, how it works, what they could bring to it and how to get started on the career path.

We are always looking for more volunteers to join us in this endeavour and to support those who want to set up a work experience scheme – but are not sure where to start – we have published a new guide to offering work experience in company secretarial teams.

The guide draws upon the wisdom and experience of ICSA members who run successful schemes, setting out what is involved in offering work experience, providing a framework for deciding what kind of scheme is right for your organisation and tips for how to design and run it.

The advantages

Many of us benefit from having an extra pair of hands available – particularly for routine activities at busy times. However, a considered work experience scheme can offer so much more to both the employer and the candidate.

Work experience is an opportunity for organisations to give and receive in many different ways, and can create benefits on a commercial, cultural, reputational and industry-wide level.

Recruitment

The most common reason why organisations value work experience schemes is recruitment – as an early way of getting to know the talent pool.

Although there is a clear ‘try before you buy’ benefit in seeing how candidates adapt to your working environment, the very process of receiving applications, and interviewing candidates, also gives you a good sense of the broad spread of available talent.

“Work experience is an empirical, proactive, first-hand opportunity to find good people”

Financially, this translates into tangible savings. Recruitment costs can be around 15–20% of salary. Quality is also important and the best person for a job in practice may not always be the one who presents best in theory.

Work experience can therefore provide an empirical, proactive, first-hand opportunity to find good people.

Challenge your norm

Work experience is not necessarily a one-way flow of knowledge. Candidates are typically young, newly qualified and with different cultural knowledge and experience.

This may be from being ‘digital natives’ or their awareness of the latest thinking and emerging practice from their recent studies. This can offer challenge and innovation in how you work.

Boost to reputation

Your organisation’s reputation can be enhanced by a positive candidate experience. If they are already considering company secretarial work, they may be in contact with others in a similar situation – particularly if they are also attending a course.

Whether it is what they have to say about you or the fact that your candidates go on to achieve good results, it can benefit how your organisation is perceived.

The industry case

As an industry, we all benefit. Company secretarial work may be unfamiliar to many potential good candidates, while others may be put off without an opportunity to find out more about it. Work experience schemes help increase the talent that’s available when we all seek to recruit.

Designing your scheme

Work experience takes many different forms. A key decision in planning a work experience scheme is deciding what to offer. Although there are few rigid definitions, a rough guide is:

  • Shadowing: Very short duration (for example, one day), attachment to a specific person or role, with no formal employment contract.
  • Work experience: Limited-duration (of any length) with broader experience of working in an organisation, potentially in different roles/functions, and possibly under a temporary contract.
  • Traineeship: Limited-duration period, including a structured learning process, to prepare the trainee for permanent work in an organisation, whether generally or in a specific role.

The best way to choose what kind of scheme you want to offer is to balance the costs with the benefits. Direct costs are generally low and typically limited to expenses and a nominal, short-term wage.

The main indirect cost can be the time and effort of those involved in the scheme, whether in setting it up, supervising or running it, or in being shadowed. The real extent of these costs will depend very much on the type and scale of scheme you choose.

However, the ‘perceived’ extent may be much higher, which is a common cause of resistance to such programmes.

“Choosing the right areas of work to experience is an essential, with several factors to balance”

The right balance between the benefits of a scheme and its costs will be different for each organisation – based on what it wants to achieve – and will typically reflect your staffing levels and overall company size.

Whatever the form of scheme, the other broad consideration is its scale: its size, duration and intensity. An intensive scheme may need greater resourcing to plan and deliver, but can give candidates a well-focused range of experience and learning in a short time.

These might take longer to gain where the candidate is helping with the team’s workload and left to make their own discoveries.

Choosing the right areas of work to experience is an essential, with several factors to balance: how to create the richest learning experience, how to minimise supervisory overhead at busy times and how to ensure confidentiality is protected.

The champion

For work experience to deliver the broadest benefit, you need a broad range of people involved. A champion of the scheme is essential in bringing those people together to make it happen. That champion might be you.

The champion for the scheme should have the vision to understand its value and how the organisation can benefit.

They need the energy to seek high-level sponsorship and commitment, not only for organisational approval, but to ensure that those in senior roles are enthusiastic about having work shadowed or observed. They also need the commitment to see the scheme through to realisation.

Key to championing a scheme is to ensure that everyone appreciates the overall opportunity and benefit, without becoming resistant to the extra work they fear it might involve.

Although it is useful to think of it as an overall scheme in the advocacy, in the planning you can identify the specific asks of any individual or function. Requesting a clear and well-defined commitment makes it easier to get agreement.

To discover more about the experiences that ICSA promotes to graduates, visit the Graduate Hub.

Work experience checklist

  • What kind of scheme would work best for you and what would you call it?
  • How many candidates do you want to support?
  • How long should your scheme be?
  • What are the goals of your team – what are you trying to achieve for the candidate and for the organisation?
  • What will be the balance between active learning and routine work in your scheme?
  • Are there any ‘no-go areas’ for work experience or a requirement to manage client confidentiality?
  • How far will the candidate’s learning be driven by the scheme, or their own curiosity?
  • What timing will best balance supervisory, resourcing and learning priorities?
  • What timing will best suit the availability and interest of candidates?
  • Can you see your function from an outsider’s point of view?
  • How much recruitment time and effort will our scheme merit or require?
  • What will happen to the candidate at the scheme’s end?

Charis Evans is business development director at ICSA: The Governance Institute

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