Going after the best of the best

By Asha Tomlinson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/05/2003

Royal Bank is like a one-stop career shop for newly hired business grads. This is the second year the bank has offered a program they call the Graduate Leadership Program (GLP), which gives grads the chance to “shop around” by working in several areas of the RBC Financial Group. The program was specially designed to attract some of the most talented grads in the country.

“We try and make sure we’re getting the best of the best. That can be seen as the seeds for future leaders and that’s what the GLP is supposed to do,” says Blair Pollard, senior manager of HR strategy and technology. “We target some of the best schools and make a very focused effort to get some of the best students at those top schools.”

How do they do this? It goes beyond posting jobs on a university career board and promoting their program at career fairs. The bank goes on various campuses to do extensive presentations about the program and the company. They also bring senior leaders, right up to vice-chairs, to answer questions and discuss any concerns the students may have.

Since the program’s inception, there has been a lot of interest from students. Pollard says this year alone they’ve received 500 applications for one of the six to 10 spots available.

“In some cases, it’s almost the entire class of some MBA schools that apply.”

The GLP is popular among students, particularly business students, because of the diverse opportunities it has created. The successful candidates are hired for a two-year rotational period, and they work within four of the organization’s eight business platforms in six-month blocks.

“I think that our program stands out because it gives the opportunity to actually work within the different business lines, whereas the other programs (out there) have rotations within the business unit or one area,” says Christian Cook, recruitment strategy advisor.

She says the rotations give grads the chance to see what area they want to work in, and it gives them “enterprise-wide knowledge of how each platform works together for enterprise-wide success.”

The grads are hired on as permanent employees when they enter the GLP and at the end of their two-year term they move into a specific area within the company. They can decide what department they would like to work in, and while the choice is dependent on the jobs available it’s likely they’ll have more than one to choose from.

“Given the exposure they’re going to get and the fact that they are mentored by a senior executive...we’re pretty sure what’s going to happen is they will have multiple opportunities when they’re done,” says Pollard.

He says the biggest challenge is making sure managers working with the grads on a six-month basis will not hold onto them at the end of that rotation.

Royal Bank’s advertising strategy for the GLP is targeted specifically at Canadian MBA schools. Cook says one of the reasons they do this is because business students are guaranteed to know “business basics.”

“They’re all going to have that fundamental first year where they take finance and accounting, strategic management and organizational behaviour. They’ve all had the experience of working in a team, which is something we value very much,” she says.

The bank is also committed to building strong relationships with the schools they are working with, so their campus reputation stays consistent.

“It’s important for people to have a good image of what our bank is all about,” says Pollard. “It’s not just a bank anymore, it’s much bigger than that and it’s much more diversified. We constantly have to reiterate that...that’s a big part of the GLP as well because the experience is much broader than just working at a bank.”

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