The Battle For Talent: Retaining Trainee Talent

Jul 10, 2023

In the second part of our series on the “Battle For Talent”, we look at the next phase of recruitment of Trainees. You’ve spent the time and effort in recruiting the best to your roles, but how do you retain Trainee talent? In this article, we take a deep dive into how to retain trainees in your company better, and more importantly, we have the research and data to back up what we’re saying. Read on.

Each trainee is an investment that your company makes.  You spend time and energy recruiting them, and need to ensure that the skills they develop through the traineeship remain in the company, adding their value to your workforce.

Talent Retention

The steps that you take as a young talent manager, or HR department in order to retain that valuable talent that you’ve recruited are just as important as the ones taken for recruitment.

Each year Best Traineeship chooses one topic to be our featured research, and in 2022 this topic was Recruitment: The Battle For Traineeship Talent.  We wanted to provide you with the insights in how the companies in our competition were selected by their trainees, and what kind of competition exists within the different traineeship programs.

Once the data from the company benchmark reports are complete, we then focus on the meta data – what it tells us overall,  regardless of company or industry.  This year, the data has uncovered a crucial element of Trainee recruitment success which is validated by additional research on the main reason to stay at a company.

40% of the reason why  trainees decide to choose a specific employer is the content of the L&D program.  

– Best Traineeship Benchmark Report, 2022

It seems to us that there is very strong message given by both Trainees and non-Trainee employees that learning and development programs are an essential reason to join and stay at the company.

Data Insights

But what else can the data show? Some crucial insights from our featured research into recruitment that we want to share with you about a strong learning and development program

  • Ensure that your company has the elements of a strong learning and development program. Set clear expectation management and learning pathways, ensure that your training is trainee led, listen and learn from your trainees, create effective and strong mentorships and support networks, celebrate their achievements, and keep those valuable trainees within your company.  
  • The most vital aspect of the program is communication – at every stage of the recruitment process communicate what the content is, what they will learn, how they will grow, and what benefits they will can expect from that growth.  With 42% of employees actively looking for jobs outside their existing role, and 41% open to a change if it presents (source: “What Job Seekers Wish Employers Knew” BCG, Jan 2023), it is vital that the role benefits are clear to them, and attractive enough to ensure they stay.

But how do we take this talent we’ve hired, and help them thrive in the workplace?  From our vast experience in traineeship programs, and the data we have collected, we’ve developed 6 crucial elements for you to use to strengthen your traineeships:

  1. Early expectation management and clear learning pathways
  2. Trainee-led learning and development
  3. Listen and learn
  4. Support Networks and Mentorship Programs
  5. Celebrate Achievements
  6. Keeping Your Talent.

Below we’ll go through these elements, and talk about ways that you can implement them in your traineeship program.

Element 1: Early Expectation Management and Clear Learning Pathways

When onboarding trainees, it’s important to set the expectations of their role and new duties straight away. They should also be aware of the resources available, mentorship programs, and training opportunities they can access in their roles. It’s also vital to ensure they’re aware of the progression of their position and potential career paths.

best traineeship retaining trainee talent listen and learn

Establishing early, transparent communication about their role and responsibilities, their future direction and the existing opportunities for growth means that trainees will have a clear path and feel connected to their roles better. Clear guidelines on processes and where to turn for support will ensure that they feel supported and valued as a team member.

Our key finding from this year’s survey was that trainees appreciate and value programs that not only create and display clear learning pathways, but also showcase the growth and development of the program is a critical factor for retaining trainee talent. 

Element 2: Trainee Led Learning and Development

In the 2022 trainee survey, we asked the question as to what motivated trainees to pick their current traineeship. Overwhelmingly, the response was clear – the content of the trainee program, and the opportunities to learn and develop were the most important factors they considered. Naturally, opportunities to grow and expand in any role are essential, and the ability to learn new skills is vital. But involving the trainees in their learning and development can also benefit them.

best traineeship retaining trainee talent learning and development

Creating portfolios of the different components of traineeships and making the trainees responsible for each aspect of their journey is one way. Through this, trainees have more input and influence on the content, impacting their learning and helping them develop their skills and knowledge base further.

Involving trainees and giving them a say in the aspects of their career that they want to learn and improve their skills can help them feel more connected to their role.

Element 3: Listen and Learn

It’s essential your trainees feel seen and heard – their input can help you build your traineeship further, but also it shows that they are valued members of the team with the opportunity to speak up and make change in their roles. Give them straightforward ways to give their feedback, and also regularly check in with them, but also ensure that their concerns are recorded and their feedback is acted on. 

best traineeship retaining trainee talent listen and learn

Encourage open communication between all employees about the traineeship program, and consult everyone involved for feedback regularly. Engaging everyone in the feedback process can, in turn, strengthen your team relationships and traineeship program.

Trainee voices can strengthen your traineeships even further, by highlighting critical needs and also the strengths of your program. This feedback can help you build and reshape the aspects of the program which are needed, and showcase the areas you are strong.

Element 4: Support Networks

We’ve discussed the need for mentorship programs previously, but we can’t emphasize enough that feeling supported in your role can help in trainee retention. Knowing that they have peers and experienced employees to turn to for questions and support can strengthen all employees through personal and professional development.

best traineeship retaining trainee talent support networks

As we’ve said before, a good mentor’s emotional support and guidance are as essential as the training aspects of a traineeship.  

Mentorship can also happen in parallel, with trainees supporting each other across the different stages of the program, but can also mean trainees can mentor the program managers in developing traineeships through feedback.  Creating the opportunities to learn from each other is a vital part of the mentoring process, and can lead to retaining trainee talent.

Element 5: Celebrate Achievements

Everyone likes to be celebrated and their achievements recognized. It’s as simple as recognizing the milestones achieved by trainees during their training through company bulletins, achievement certificates, and even a mention on social media. This creates the feeling of being included and valued as a team member.

best traineeship retaining trainee talent celebrate achievements

In a survey by the American Pyschological Association (APA), respondents said that their employers did do some degree of recognition for achievements by individuals. However, more than a third also reported that they didn’t receive any recognition in the past year.

Celebrating the achievements of the trainees can increase their confidence in their roles, and create more productive teams.  It shows that you value your trainees’ achievements, and want to showcase them to the wider community. It also shows the effectiveness that your program has in developing trainees, and preparing them for the workforce.

Element 6: Keeping Your Talent

While the previous elements we’ve talked about might seem easy enough to achieve, you still need to keep the talent that you’ve recruited. The battle for talent is fierce, and keeping the trainees that we’ve worked hard to recruit is another part of this.

Re-evaluate your program regularly, and use the feedback to make the necessary changes. Learn from your trainees, and take onboard the suggestions that are made from all team members.

Attracting the best of the best to our companies comes with challenges, and it’s important to recognize these and adapt our processes to make our lives easier through implementing these elements and get on the pathway to effectively retaining trainee talent in your company.

2022’s featured research in the Best Traineeship competition was Recruitment, and our Benchmark report gives valuable insights and information in you can implement this in your own traineeships. Get your blinded copy here.


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