Young Professional Development Programmes

Coaching and mentoring, HR Management, Talent Management | 2 comments

The older you get the more likely you are to be attracted by nostalgia and the belief that things used to be better.

Whether this is really the case is not the subject of this blog, but there is one subject on which almost all companies, whether in Russia, Europe or America, seem to agree.

That engineers – process, chemical, mechanical, electrical for example – joining companies from universities do not know as much as their predecessors from previous generations.

Again I have no measurement or research that proves this is the case (I would expect them to at least be more computer and IT literate than their predecessors), but the good thing is that companies are not merely bemoaning the ‘fact’ but are taking action to address this issue.

The programmes these companies have, are refreshing or are putting in place for their new engineers might be called different things – Young Professionals, Young Specialists, Technical Professional Development, even Young Promises – but international best practice programmes have a number of common characteristics.

A friend of mine (and with whom I worked to refresh the programme for Russia’s biggest chemical company) was the person who first developed and introduced the programme to Shell in the US before it was extended globally. Together she and I looked at a number of large international oil, gas and chemical companies and other engineering-type technical organisations, and identified a list of key elements in the best programmes and success factors that require consideration.

Key elements in the best programmes:

  • Duration is 2-3 years (and cohorts may start every 6-12 months dependent on the rate of recruitment, which will mean running parallel programmes)
  • Effective onboarding (may be the first part of the (Young Professional) YP programme or separate)
  • Line Manager/Supervisor role important in supporting development
  • Technical Coach/Mentor role (in addition to the line manager/supervisor) to support the Young Professional (in liaison with Supervisor and YP)
  • Clear technical competence expectations required from a YP (all technical competences and level of skill) together with an extremely strong emphasis on HSSE; assessment in addition to development
  • Access to structured and business managed communities of practice / technical networks in the company to aid knowledge sharing
  • Job rotation: at least two roles for each YP during the YP programme: business managed (HR supported) job rotation in order to give access to new activities and build competences
  • Standard non-technical curricula to be followed (personal/leadership competences, communication/reporting, financial, business and industry overviews and developments)
  • Blended Learning Approach (On the job, classroom, virtual, technical networks, coaching, self directed learning)
  • Team building, community building and social events included in the YP programme
  • A YP Development Programme Manager role (usuallya senior HR professional with a credible technical background) to drive the change management required throughout the organisation. during implementation/transition phase

Key Success Factors:

These were some of the key success factors behind the successful introduction of the Shell New Technical Professional (Graduate) Development Programme in its worldwide rollout. From our industry benchmarking work these are also common across all major international companies.

  • The YP programme is a priority for the organisation that is actively seen to be supported by the CEO and their leadership team
  • All industry major international organisations have evolved responsibility for the development and success of their YP Programmes firmly into the hands of the business (not HR; HR supports/facilitates the process). This is where the key technical skills and knowledge reside and unless the business is fully engaged in the development of the YP, the success of the programme will be sub-optimal.
  • Line Manager readiness and willingness to embrace and own the programme
  • Role model Technical Coaches identified – coaches selected – culture adopted where it is considered a honour to be asked to coach new graduate talent, recognition (non-financial) to be given to coaches demonstrating pro-activeness and achieving results
  • The training line managers/supervisors and technical coaches/mentors (the aims and process of the programme; assessing performance (and even potential)
  • Resource capability to coach guide and support the organisation in how to successfully implement the programme and ensure leadership team are fully engaged including risk awareness (risk significant reputation damage if we fail to deliver again our programme promise)
  • Organisational capability (and commitment) to manage 2-3 meaningful stretch development positions – rotation basis over 2-3 year period for new graduate intake
  • Budget to support the programme (eg. Salary/benefits, training, professional study, travel)
  • Core (technical) Competency profiles developed/in place
  • Competence development to be owned by the business (not HR)
  • The growth of knowledge sharing and peer-to-peer coaching via communities of practice /discipline networks etc., and the enabling (digitization, IT) structures will lessen the need for the one-on-one YP to Technical Coach role (many available resources in place of one)
  • Strong change management, organisational and governance support from HR during transition/implementation period (and even when the programme is up-and-running).This is the initial priority purpose of YP Development Programme Manager. Once embedded into the organisation. (The role may be retired or alternatively a different level of personnel appointed to run and maintain, instead of implement and embed, in the organisation)
  • Initial development discussion with the YP, Supervisor and Technical Coach (every 3 months in first year) to be facilitated by the YP Development Programme Manager (effectively coaching the organisation how to hold effective development discussions and holding all parties accountable for the success of the programme)
  • Individuals are expected to be individually accountable for managing their development and career progression, and recognise that whilst their supervisor, coach and the YP Programme Manager will support, encourage and advise them it is up to the individual to drive their own development and manage their career.
  • Monthly report out to leadership team on progress (any road blocks / issue to be address promptly)

There are also differences of course, often linked to the company’s talent strategy. Does it cover all staff or is a selection made? Is it purely technical (and soft skills) development and onboarding, or is there also an element of assessment in terms of potential leadership talent whilst on the programme? Both of these require a different positioning of the programme itself and additional responsibilities for line managers and mentors. But the basics remain the same: how do you bridge the gap between university and becoming a fully-fledged, recognised professional in the business.

If you are interested in benchmarking or refreshing your current system – or even need to introduce a programme – get in touch with us and we can help you! (


  1. Amy Suhl

    You should check out RCEL(Rice Center for Engineering Leadership). Great program at Rice University to teach engineers more than just the technical aspects. I’ve been a visiting professor there. A few other schools like MIT have similar programs. I wish more schools did this.

  2. Marian Crone

    Great summary Gary


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