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New Talent Potential

Sandrine Miller

To review the original article click here 9th Oct 2018

The need for skilled candidates is an increasing challenge for recruiters – both agency and in-house. There are now very few sectors of business where talent pipelines are not under pressure. One reason is the impact of an ageing workforce.

As time goes by the skilled, experienced workers seek to dial down their working hours, and if not enjoy a well earned retirement then at least take things a little easier. The clear problem from the employer’s point of view is that these people cannot be replaced by the same level of skilled, experienced workers. Instead, they should look to the next generation – the enthusiastic, energetic newcomers to the workplace: school leavers and graduates who want to make an impact on the world and show what they can do. All these candidates need is a chance – and it may be up to recruiters to ensure they get one.

Jo Sellick, owner and managing director of Sellick Partnership is clear that graduates do have the potential to make a real contribution to the workplace. One challenge he sees however, is that the people in decision making positions can be shortsighted in identifying what they think makes a good candidate: “I believe recruiters and employers should start looking beyond academic performance as the only measure of talent and assess candidates as a whole package,” he says. “School leavers, and graduates offer an array of unique skills that can be harder to find in older prospective employees, and it is the responsibility of recruiters to tap into candidates’ individual skillsets to identify what types of roles they would be best suited to.”

One way to improve this situation, says Sellick is that recruiters should work directly with schools and universities to share insights about the variety and scope of different roles ensuring potential candidates are aware of the breadth of opportunities available to them. On the one hand the employers and recruiters can learn what skills, aptitudes and desires the new job hunters have, while on the other, potential candidates will work out what roles and industries are best suited to their personal working style.

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Age mix
“Combining the old and new is also essential in business, and employing candidates fresh out of school or university can massively help to bridge skills gaps within companies,” adds Sellick. “Recruiters can assist in educating businesses on these benefits. New talent can share up-to-date technical knowledge with existing staff and more experienced workers can help to develop younger candidates’ softer skills.”

Enabling this exchange to occur means establishing a proper induction session and enabling regular one to one sessions with new employees. “By doing this employers can learn what skills and attributes each employee has, and put strategies in place to ensure this knowledge is shared across the business,” explains Sellick.

According to research by the Institute of Student Employers employers are already investing significantly in graduate development, but there is still room for improvement. Indeed, improvement is necessary if skills gaps are to be closed. ISE figures say employers spent an average of £4,537 per hire in 2017 and more than £95 million overall. Retention rates and performance scores are the key metrics used to establish the financial value of graduate programmes, with an average of 74 per cent of graduates retained after three years.

When compared to data from the previous year, the ISE says companies are “becoming more targeted in their attraction and marketing activities, shortening their selection processes, broadening their entry criteria, increasing their use of strengths-based assessment, video interviewing and psychometric tests and incorporating more candidate feedback into their campaigns.”

However, the research throws up three findings of which recruiters should take note. First, only 48 per cent of employers think that graduates have the soft skills they expect at the point of hiring. The reports’ authors suggest more collaboration with other stakeholders – education and training establishments etc. – should be considered to address this. Recruiters may have a role here too, either helping to deliver that training or finding candidates with soft skills in place.

Second, there seems a lack of long term strategy and foresight among employers with regard to this area of the talent pipeline. ISE found only 12 per cent of employers look at the development needs of their hires more than two years into the future. In other words, they are hiring and hoping their new employees work out in the next 24 months rather than having a longer consideration of what these candidates will need to succeed and what they will do for the company. While considering a longer timescale could mean greater retention there is also an implication here that employers simply aren’t thinking about their talent requirements beyond two years.

Finally the report says that improving diversity is seen as the biggest challenge in 2018 for employers with 40 per cent of firms treating student diversity as a key factor when choosing which universities to visit. The diversity agenda continues to emerge in every aspect of recruitment and recruiters who fail to offer guidance and initiatives in this area are missing out on a huge opportunity, or worse still will fall by the wayside.

Tell a true story
Sandrine Miller, global head of emerging talent consulting, Alexander Mann Solutions argues that appealing to the graduate generation means taking advantage of the new and most appropriate avenues of contact and having an honest story to tell about the workplace. “Attracting high-potential individuals relies on a strong and compelling employer value proposition which is communicated through relevant online channels,” she says. “Now every company, regardless of the sector it operates in, requires the digital skills that millennials and Gen-Z candidates innately possess – and this should be reflected in the way in which they engage.”

As the generations move out into the workplace, the automatic assumption of technology use for just about everything increases. An effective recruitment strategy must be centred on technology argues Miller: “this is particularly true at the initial stages of attraction when big brands invest considerable resources in order to vie for the attention of the brightest graduates and school leavers.”

Authenticity is high on the agenda for newcomers to the workplace. Countless studies and anecdotal evidence points to the current job market being candidate led, and candidates want something real to relate to and not paid-for promoted posts or generic marketing messages.

“Graduates are consumers of the workplace,” asserts Miller. “Research suggests that they shop around for the jobs that best align with their needs and life goals and they value CSR, flexibility and opportunities for personal development above all else. More than ever, employers, and the recruiters which represent them, must understand and act on these factors to make their company appealing to these valuable candidates. Those which don’t, miss losing the brightest talent to the competition.” 

Good for recruiters

Naturally, the recruitment industry itself can benefit from tapping into the new generations of workers as they exit full-time education. Indeed, getting the messages and pathways into the sector right will be crucial if the industry is to become first choice for the most talented individuals.

Marc Heggie, learning and development manager at Woodrow Mercer explains that his company has been bringing in young talent through their apprenticeship scheme and the results have been positive. “While many recruitment agencies will try to place school leavers in entry level positions across various fields, at Woodrow Mercer we look to harness the hunger, energy and enthusiasm of those who have just finished their schooling,” he says. “As part of our apprenticeship scheme, we work directly with training providers across the country to bring new talent in-house – it’s working extremely well.

Heggie says that over the past 18 months of taking this approach the company has benefitted from new and exciting ideas from their new workers as well as securing two permanent consultants from the apprenticeship scheme. Key to ensuring the success of the initiative has been the level of support and training here individuals have received.

“Our apprentices go through continuous coaching before and after they start work with the company to bring them up to the expert reputation that Woodrow Mercer strives to maintain,” says Heggie. “Thanks to this we have found that our Delivery Team – made up of seven school leavers across our Birmingham, Leeds and London offices – are excelling.

“A lot of other recruitment agencies will not provide incentives for their apprentices,” he adds, “whereas at Woodrow Mercer, this isn’t the case. We pride ourselves on looking after our Delivery Team, they are eligible for financial rewards, lunch clubs and even a company trip away. This year the team are competing for a spot on the plane to Rio de Janeiro.”

The potential of new comers to the workplace is clear, but tapping into the next generation of talent does require different thinking – both in terms of practice and in terms of the support offered to those recruits. As employers look to get the talent they need to succeed in the future, recruiters would do well to ensure they have their own strategy in place to address this section of the talent pool.

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