Determining the “right” talent strategy for an organization isn’t easy. Diverse projects and priorities demand various levels of knowledge, skills and experiences to achieve the end goal.
Talent planning requires assessing current employees and unearthing the gaps to identify what’s needed to meet business demands. Specific and extensive knowledge and experiences are critical at times. And while employers can train, develop and grow less-experienced talent, it requires time and commitment from many across the organization. But, it can also pay dividends in the long run.
Here are six reasons why hiring early-career talent may be a talent strategy to explore:
1. Forecasting your talent needs can lead to a broader hiring assessment
Hiring early career talent, especially from the university, requires planning. Students completing their degrees in the spring often seek employment in the fall – six to nine months before joining a company. This means employers must understand their hiring needs well in advance, which creates an interesting business case for forecasting talent needs. With this forward-thinking lens, leaders in both human resources and business operations can ask themselves some critical, future-thinking questions:
- What attrition trends are we noticing? Is there an opportunity to have talent ready to onboard as talent leaves?
- Are there pockets of the organization that may be impacted by retirement? If so, is there an opportunity to hire talent and facilitate knowledge transfer to avoid brain drain?
- What skills do we need today, tomorrow, and beyond? What’s our next big play and what talent will we need to make it happen? Are any of these skills being produced at universities?
- Are there areas within the company that need a strategic focus on furthering DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) goals? Could we do so through early career hiring?
2. Growing your employer brand with the next generation of talent can pay dividends
Universities are a microcosm of innovation and talent and word of mouth on college campuses spreads like wildfire. University recruitment is an opportunity to proactively and intentionally reach a large audience that can be a promoter or detractor of your employer and product brand. Nearly every college student is an active job seeker and most are presented with bountiful opportunities throughout their job-search process.
The companies that get it right spend time building their brand with students early – sometimes before they enter college. They consistently attend career events, creatively spend time with target student populations and get to know students personally throughout their education. The outcome: students enter their job search with your organization at the top of their target list and become an ambassador of your brand. Remember, even if the student isn’t hired, they may end up being a customer or partner one day!
3. Creating a community and mindset that aligns with your values can drive satisfaction and retention
Many organizations hire early career talent into cohorts that join the organization together. Students transitioning from college to career yearn for a continuation of the community feel they receive while in college. (I don’t blame them – it can be hard to make friends after college!) When new hires onboard together, it can create lifelong friendships and a space for connecting with others who are going through a common experience. Having a best friend at work is proven to drive retention, which Gallup recently reported is even more important post-pandemic. Impactfully, employers can distribute consistent messaging and enablement that align with the organization’s vision and goals. At SAS, we’ve had these cohorts onboard, creating a standard set of skills and communities spanning the world.
4. Hiring today the skills of tomorrow can bring your organization job-ready employees
Millions of college students enter the workforce each year and many of them have grown up surrounded by the latest tech and tools. In a world of continued digital transformation, having this knowledge and skill in your organization is imperative to innovate. Often the newest technical concepts and theories are developed through research at the universities – meaning the new hires fresh out of college may bring with them skills your business is looking for.
It’s common for employers to require years of experience with specific technologies to reduce time spent on training. Still, micro-credentials can replace the need for post-graduate experience. Institutions are adopting a curriculum design strategy incorporating micro-credentials to stay agile and ensure their graduates’ skills are relevant. Corporate academic programs that support curricular skill development, like the one at SAS, are growing in popularity and are focused on supporting the hiring needs of their customers. These efforts can benefit employers willing to build an early-career talent recruitment strategy.
5. Creating engagement opportunities for tenured staff brings renewed purpose
Disengagement in the workplace is a significant business problem. With the trend of quiet-quitting and employees becoming more distributed than ever with hybrid and remote work, the need to find ways to engage and retain the workforce has never been greater. Offering tenured staff the opportunity to mentor and develop early-in-career talent can offer a renewed sense of purpose. They can demonstrate their knowledge and expertise while paying it forward through their involvement. Identify high-performing employees who represent your culture and may be a retention risk for your organization. You may find that your new hire benefits and the current employee becomes more engaged. Often, our intern mentors share that their engagement with the next generation of talent is the highlight of their work.
6. Taking explicit action can positively impact your organization's DEI goals
One of the unique benefits of hiring university talent is that there are ways to reach strategically and market to diverse audiences, which becomes more difficult as the employee progresses in their career. Student organizations exist on university campuses to create a community amongst individuals with shared life experiences and similarities in background. Employers can research these organizations and develop authentic messaging to let these students know they’re invested in their community.
Some examples of organizations SAS has partnered with include Women in Computer Science (WiCS), the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and more. At the university level, conferences are often in place for students to explore employers with a true mission and desire to create a culture of inclusion for people like them. For instance, OutinTech focuses on the LGBTQ+ community and Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) focuses on Hispanic talent in scientific, technical, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Internship and early career hiring usually are done at scale in a project-driven manner. This means companies can more closely track, monitor and influence the overall representation of a group of hires vs. trying to influence one-off on each position. This can lead to clear, measurable impacts on the general representation within the organization and the ability to pivot during the hiring project as needed.
Many employers have already discovered these benefits. According to a 2022 National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) survey, employers planned to hire 31.6% more new college graduates from the Class of 2022 than they hired from the Class of 2021.
How is your organization leveraging early career talent as part of your talent strategy? Let us know in the comments!