Welfare and wellbeing: ensuring the best for your graduate trainees

For many of your NMT(s), this will be their first transition into the workplace. As such, there are number of things you may wish to consider in order to ease their transition into your organisation and ensure their ongoing wellbeing.


NMTs have highlighted the following as things they find important:

  • A manager who is interested in their personal development
  • Someone they feel confident contacting if they are struggling with their mental wellbeing (mentors and ‘buddies’)
  • Finding the work they are doing particularly interesting
  • They are able to keep up with financial pressures
  • They feel the council is proactive about promoting wellbeing
  • They feel included in work-related activities

COVID-19 Guidance: Working from home

This may be your NMT’s first job working full-time, which can be daunting in normal circumstances. However, with COVID-19 restrictions also in place, working from home can be isolating and may make your graduate feel less involved with the team. It is important to recognise this and try and find solutions to include them and feel welcome virtually, as you would in the office.

Helpful things to think about:

  • Stay connected

Be responsive and available to speak to your NMT(s), such as organising 1:1 meetings with them, especially when new. Also make sure that they are receiving all team communications and are in the loop about any wider team meetings. Speaking over a call, or on Microsoft Teams can sometimes be better than constant email communication and will help you and your NMT get to know each other.

  • Importance of team building

You can support team working by building more and new ways of communicating. Think of opportunities for staff to be creative, offer solutions to problems and agree new ways of working. Most importantly, allow time for small talk for teams. People may be feeling stressed and lonely working at home, and if you allow for time at the start of a meeting for non-work-related conversation, it will help your team’s productivity.

  • Focus on outcomes

Try to focus on goals and outcomes, not activity or time spent on activities. As an employer, think about the importance of creating a balance between maintaining

business as usual for getting work done while also recognising that the fact things are far from normal and this might affect employees’ ability to get that work done. It might help to have regular check-ins on your NMTs, which will also give them an opportunity to ask any questions about the work they have been set.

  • Ensure a work life balance – Fitness classes other colleagues attend (and could invite them along to)
  • – Council run social activities like clubs or groups
  • – Local Facebook or other social media groups they could join
  • – Drama, music, sport or other groups colleagues can share their passion for (and again, could invite them along to)

It’s important for managers to look after their own wellbeing so they can also be there to support their team. When speaking to NMTs about a work life balance, remember to encourage breaks throughout the day, going for walks and reminding your NMTs to have a clear end point to their day.

Also, it is important to make sure that NMTs can easily access and find additional support and guidance around mental and physical health and wellbeing. Promote the resources you have available to support people’s health and well-being generally and listen to NMTs concerns if they do feel anxious about remote working during their placement.

Loneliness can be a genuine concern, and this is important to be aware of, especially during the pandemic. There is some guidance from Mind on this here, including further links to advice about looking after wellbeing in the pandemic. Whilst the NMTs themselves can do a lot of to embed themselves in your organisation, you as the employer can also do your bit to play a supporting role.

Getting to know people

When starting their placement with you, your new NMT(s) may not know anyone else in the team or organisation, and it may feel daunting for them to know how to change that. This can be particularly key for councils who only take one graduate at a time and so do not create an obvious peer group.

This may be particularly challenging in a remote working environment, where it is difficult to form friendships with colleagues. It may be beneficial to schedule informal catch ups or ‘coffee breaks’ which are there to encourage talk about subjects outside of work. If you have groups already set up for example on Teams, make sure that you add your NMT(s) so that they feel able to join in with conversations happening daily.

When COVID restrictions are eased, it would be worth letting your NMT(s) know about the social opportunities open to them. Of course, the impetus is on them to say ‘yes!’ and get themselves out there, but it may benefit them to know about:

When the NMT is starting out, we also recommend setting up regular opportunities to ‘catch up’ in an informal way, not purely based on performance management. Everyone’s under a lot of time pressure, we know, but a virtual team lunch or cake and coffee can make such a big difference to someone’s wellbeing when they’re still finding their feet.

Relocating

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, your NMT(s) may have delayed relocating for the role and may be working from home in a different area of the country. This may impact how they feel about being part of the council, and it is important to try and make them feel included even if they are not physically nearby

In situations where NMTs have relocated, whilst they have made the decision themselves, it’s worth remembering that this will be a new experience for them. Whilst it’s likely they would have moved away from home before to go to university, this will be a different scenario for them – at university everyone is ‘new’. Additionally, under the current restrictions, NMTs will not have had the opportunity to network or explore the area as they usually would.

Things to think about:

  • Helping them understand the local housing market, particularly the rental sector, and which areas might be best to look at. Information they might find helpful could be a breakdown of the different areas in the borough, and the average prices. It can be hard to get a true sense of things just from googling! A ‘buddy’ from the council who’s been through the process themselves may also offer a helpful sounding board.
  • You could provide some information about the area which would help a person learn more about their new home and also feel part of the community, such as videos about the local area. Could you provide a guide to: ▪ Council hosted events
  • ▪ Heritage and history
  • ▪ Theatres, museums and galleries
  • ▪ Leisure and fun
  • ▪ Restaurants, bars and nightlife
  • ▪ Countryside/beauty spots or coastlines/beaches
  • ▪ Shopping

Commuting

Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, it is unlikely that your NMT will be commuting to and from the office. However, it is still important to offer flexible working hours even when your NMT is working remotely, to ensure they can keep a work-life balance.

When office working can happen safely again, it is worth considering how you can help your NMTs with their commute. We know that some councils on the scheme offer subsidised rail passes or parking, as they do to all staff. Flexible working can also help with this. It might also be helpful to talk to them early about how feasible the options they’re considering are.

Making the most of their NGDP network

One of the benefits of NGDP is that NMT(s) have access to entire network of people on the scheme. Encourage your NMT(s) to tap into that network, whether that’s within or outside of your own council or area. Whether it’s sharing knowledge on a particular project they’re working on, or just generally sharing their experiences on the scheme; encouraging NMT(s) to capitalise on this network can therefore help them, both personally and professionally, and will remind them that there is invaluable support on the scheme.

We will also create a photo contact book for each Cohort, which will allow NMTs to access a directory of their colleagues, even if they cannot meet in person. It is also worth reminding NMTs to read our monthly newsletters, which include information about a range of networks that they may be interested in getting involved with, as well as any upcoming events that may be of interest.

Staying on

We know there is a lot of concern about retaining graduates as the formal programme ends. Partly, getting the above right, and making your NMT(s) feel welcomed will be a big factor.

COVID-19 has made it incredibly difficult to promise a job at the end of the programme for NMTs. However, councils can still help NMTs find roles, and help them to apply if that is necessary. Of course this depends on internal capacity of your organisation, but the NMT(s) will understandably want start thinking about their futures, if they’re not sure they have one with you. So, have that conversation early, and be transparent about the opportunities that are and are not available.

Sharing ideas: Staying on

One council on the scheme have an 80% level of retention after the programme. They allow graduates to start applying for internal vacancies from their second year, and encourage them to aim high. However, they also offer an optional ‘third year’ of placement rotations until they manage to secure one.

Sharing ideas: Staying on

One council said: “We encourage our NMTs to attend standard recruitment training during Q4 (either as a recruiter or as a role-playing participant) and we offer a 1:1 coaching session on interview techniques with an experienced Workforce & Organisational Development Officer.Indeed the Council is currently exploring a ‘recruitment on potential’ approach and the NMT experience will be included in its design. NMTs are encouraged to be proactive about discussing their employment aspirations during Q4, and this may have led to the availability of a FTC. Indeed over our 3 Cohorts our 6 NMTs have raised their profile with senior managers as a resource, shown in the increase of placement offers.”