Internships and graduate programs are about more than getting someone to make your coffee. Sometimes they’re about getting someone to make your wine.
Sending 25 young graduates to promote alcohol in 14 different countries – including Thailand, Vietnam, Russia and Poland – sounds like a graduate’s dream and an HR professional’s potential nightmare.
But Pernod Ricard Winemakers’ HR director, Christian Campanella, says the Graduate Wine Ambassador Program has been great for the business, with 88 per cent of participants going on to secure permanent positions with the company.
“We get a lot of people applying and we end up with a good pick of highly creative, motivated and passionate individuals,” he says. “When somebody like that goes into a market, it becomes very infectious – they really lift the brand.”
In the bid to attract top talent, it helps that Pernod Ricard has a rather glamorous offering, with graduates receiving four months’ training at wineries and vineyards across Australia, New Zealand, Spain and the United States.
“We were exposed to everyone from grape growers working in the field, to people managing sales accounts in Madrid, and even the CEO,” says 2015-16 vintage ambassador Liepa Olsauskaite.
The second stage of the program includes a two-year posting. Kate Bedwell, a 2016-17 vintage ambassador, was lucky enough to score London. “The pinch-yourself moment was coordinating a wine tasting with our Jacob’s Creek chief winemaker and a significant UK wine critic,” says Bedwell.
“There I was, having trained for a short time and in the market for just 18 months, and I was already meeting the UK’s top wine critics and inviting our chief winemaker to host a meeting.”
A Sydney-based graduate program manager has overall responsibility for the ambassadors, including performing a pastoral care role, while Pernod Ricard’s market-based companies play an important role inducting ambassadors into their host country.
Campanella says there are two reasons why Pernod Ricard invests so heavily in the program. “The first is developing a pipeline for the future – we can bring in graduates, give them great experiences and then build them into bigger and brighter roles,” he says.
“Secondly, our vision is to open up a world of wines – to win hearts and minds for wine. When you’ve got these guys and girls going out and working with local teams to amplify wine in those countries, it’s a great thing.”
On the ground
Pernod Ricard also obtains excellent marketing intelligence from its ambassadors, says Campanella. “The intelligence [we receive] on what’s happening on the ground, that we can build into our brand planning and activation, is priceless.”
It’s this clear link between graduate development and business strategy that makes the program so successful. “Sometimes people think, ‘We need a grad program, let’s put one in place’. But you need to have a strategic view as to what you’re trying to achieve and the reasons why.”
“If you’re going to do it, do it properly. I’ve seen things that are called grad programs, but really, they’re just recruiting a graduate profile into a permanent or fixed-term role. That’s where you can sometimes come undone because it doesn’t deliver on what the person’s looking for.”
And for businesses that don’t have the advantage of luring graduates with the prospect of marketing wine, Campanella has some advice for attracting top talent. “It’s a bit of marketing 101: you need to have a point of differentiation. Ask what is that positive difference and how do you amplify it to attract the people you’re looking for?”
“If you have a vanilla graduate program, you probably won’t stand out from the pack because there are so many of them out there.”
AHRI work experience placement program at Able Australia
Work experience can go a number of ways: you can love it and be relieved to find you’ve invested in studying the right thing, or you can be disappointed and realise it’s already time to rethink your career path.
Luckily for AHRI intern Liz Dunne, her placement with Able Australia, a not-for-profit organisation that provides services to people living with multiple disabilities, confirmed beyond a doubt that HR is something she’s “quite frankly obsessed by”.
“I got to see so many versions of HR played out in one environment, which confirmed to me that if I get sick of working in one particular section of HR, in the future I can just shift into something else.”
Able Australia was so impressed with its first AHRI intern it didn’t hesitate in signing up to host another straight away.
“I was unprepared for the level of professionalism Liz brought,” says Able Australia learning and development manager Lauren Shoecraft. “She went above and beyond to connect us with resources which have provided us with ongoing value.”
Both women say the placement worked to their advantage. “I was given the opportunity to identify keen interests of mine and align those to the needs of the business at the same time,” says Dunne.
“I wanted to develop my research skills – to challenge myself to find the data you need to be an evidence-based practitioner without access to the academic portals and papers you have at university.”
Dunne’s research project entailed the exploration of compliance and best standards for reporting accidents. “I wouldn’t say [hosting] was a chore or an inconvenience. It was a few hours of supervision, but we got a lot back,” says Shoecraft. “She provided us with the information we required, which was then used in a training program. It had a lasting impact.”
Able Australia maintains an ongoing relationship with Dunne. “She adds that extra contact in HR whom we can bounce ideas off and support into the future,” says Shoecraft.
Help nurture the future generation of HR practitioners by hosting an HR student in your organisation through AHRI’s Work Experience Placement Program (WEPP). Applications for both organisations and students close on Friday 5 October.