By Glyn Heath, managing director, Centiq Ltd

Many businesses are mindful in spending on recruiting and not surprisingly given the cautious and challenging start to 2011. But I would argue that companies should be savvier to the qualities that graduates can bring to the workplace rather than shy away from the perceived costs associated with training up fresh blood over a period of time. Having recently taken on six new graduates as part of our new recruitment programme, it is noticeable how these new starters have such raw ambition, drive and determination to give to the business. This is leading them not only to help energise our existing activities but to bring some fresh ideas to areas such as sales prospecting, making the investment doubly worthwhile.

Research from the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (HESCU) reported last year that unemployment among Britain’s graduates is at its highest level for nearly 20 years. Even though the job market is fiercely competitive for graduates, it can prove both time-consuming and risky to try and reach out directly to even those who at first sight seem to be the most suitable candidates for an organisation. By using a specialist recruitment company to filter hundreds of applicants, as our company decided to do, it is possible to simplify matters and choose from a shortlist of the strongest and best-motivated new talent.

From our experience, a specially-designed and formalised graduate recruitment programme is crucial to success. Companies are just playing a numbers game if they hire and expect new starters to go straight into professions such as sales and learn the hard way on the job. The most effective route has to be the creation of a rigorous long-term training programme which has the support and input from a broad cross-section of the whole company’s personnel. In our case, we consciously took the decision not to set targets for the first nine months of the programme because we didn’t want to set unreasonable expectations on what the graduates could deliver.

It is critical to develop the graduates’ sales skills without exerting too much pressure. It’s undeniable too, that our recruits’ facility with social media has given us new options on researching and better targeting potential market opportunities or particular prospects. It has restored my faith in people — both new recruits and experienced personnel - having seen enhanced commitment to the business generated so quickly.

In our own chosen field of IT consultancy for large and mid-range organisations, our new starters have brought a different atmosphere into the workplace. They’ve brought a new and younger outlook with optimism and energy. I don’t think I’d upset existing colleagues too much by saying they have created a greater excitement in the office and in different meetings.

More than that, the development of different elements of our formal training programme has made our existing personnel in different disciplines quietly rethink some of their approaches to daily operations. For example, it has been critical to develop the graduates’ sales skills without undue pressure. As a result, we have tasked them with carefully researching market sectors with colleagues before developing sales strategies, rather than simply throwing them in at the deep end. We haven’t set expectations beyond what they could realistically achieve so no-one has been disappointed.

The formal graduate training route can be a vital part of a company’s continuing growth strategy and by enlisting graduate talent, it can give businesses another approach to not only help grow but to re-energise their business.