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OSI Europe Graduate Program Attracts Young Talent, Grows Next Leaders

February 25, 2022

There is a so-called “war on talent” going on in Europe. Companies are trying to figure out ways to lure top talent straight out of university and help them grow through their organization. For OSI, it is not only important to attract top talent, but also that these young people have the opportunity to find a good fit for their skills and interests, so they can develop into the next generation of leaders at the company.

OSI Europe’s Graduate Program, which shares some similarities to OSI’s Rotational Management Training Program in North America, aims to attract young talent for the organization and ensure that participants undergo personal and professional development and decide to stay with the company. For OSI, this can help fill specialist and management positions internally in the medium and long term.

“It is a really great opportunity for young people to get a very broad view of the company and lots of experience in a short time,” said OSI HR Manager Training & Development Susanne Petersen. “For OSI, it helps us be attractive in the applicant market to develop our own talent in the company.”

Petersen was responsible for the concept of the program and implementation as well as recruiting the participants. She conducted the first development workshop, organized training for each graduate and was in regular contact with them. They started in September and October 2020, but already Petersen sees changes and growth. She said she hears good things about the program and participants from colleagues all the time. And the participants tell Petersen that they are learning and feel accepted as team members.

Over the course of the 18 month program, the participants rotate through different departments, countries and business units. They begin in their home department and are then sent to different rotations: one in the same country, one abroad, which might be in another business unit, and then back to the home department. They then spend time preparing for their intended positions once the program is completed.

During these trips, OSI offers participants comprehensive training on hard and soft skills like project management, communications, presentation and development. The company also works with the participants to set clear, shared objectives for the program, so it is not only easy to track progress, but so that each party is clear on the outcomes and journey. These objectives are tracked throughout the program with check ins in the middle and end of the program.

While each participant has unique objectives, they all will experience similar program components. They are assigned responsibility for important projects at OSI and undergo a comprehensive training program. OSI helps them build their own European, cross departmental networks and develop a big picture view of the entire company to help them understand the

value chain. They also work with the participants to expand on and reinforce their technical skills and their ability to apply methods and set them up with a mentor to design a customized plan that addresses their development and provides value to the company.

These participants experience OSI and its work in a very tangible way. They work on real OSI projects, ideally one at each rotation, and are expected to present their work to their respective business units. After the rotation, they get exposure to leadership by making a presentation to a bigger group of senior management. This experience is important for giving the participants visibility within the organization and across divisions and ultimately provides OSI with real value.

The soft skills the participants learn in the program are equally as important. They receive leadership and change management training. This provides them with theoretical knowledge combined with hands-on work. OSI looks for projects that can be worked on throughout the participants’ time in different departments.

Facilitating the Next Network of Leaders at OSI

One of the most important elements of the OSI Europe Graduate Program is providing participants with mentors. Each graduate is supported and encouraged in their development by a mentor. The primary goal of the mentors, who are not a direct superior, is to help, but not override. They are there to pass along their experience and knowledge and work to create favorable conditions for the graduate's development.

They do this through regular communications with the graduates as well as the mentor meetings that are held as part of two developmental workshops. Between the workshops, the mentors arrange regular appointments with their graduates to reflect on the experiences made so far, to pass on experiences and to reflect on the corporate culture experience. They can then identify areas for support that tie directly into each participant's experience and progress on objectives.

In addition to receiving mentorship and training from OSI management, OSI also offers participants the opportunity to work together and network with each other. This is important to create not just a network of young, fresh perspectives and resources, but also for building the familial culture that is so important to OSI.

Looking Beyond Your Plate

OSI is an industry leader with more than 100 years of experience. This experience means the company has developed best practices and systems that allow it to have continued success. While this experience is critical for future success, the company also knows that they have to obtain and incorporate fresh perspectives into their business, so they can continually learn, grow and remain relevant.

“You have to look over your plate,” said Petersen, using a German phrase that means going beyond what is immediately in front of you. “This is important to be successful as a company, especially if you want good products and the best productivity. It is necessary to be open to new things. It is necessary to get fresh perspectives everywhere in the company and combine that with people who know the business well.”

In early January, 2022 the participants made their first rotation, from their home department to another department. They are very excited about going abroad, many of them are already international and have experience with exchanges.

The different departments at OSI have been very open and supportive of this program. Many said that this is something they were waiting for. The feedback about the graduates and their good work shows that the program is working and can continue to be a success in the future. Based on the initial success of the first round of this program, it will continue with another search for graduate talent beginning early this year.

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