Recruiting early career talent can build greater diversity and innovation—but a proactive approach is key.
By Marta Chmielowicz
COVID-19 has ushered in a new era of work—one where employees have greater flexibility, autonomy, and reliance on digital tools than ever before. In this climate, early career digital natives are differentiating themselves as a key segment of the talent pool. In fact, a survey from Robert Half reports that 83% of senior managers are likely to hire recent college graduates, citing enthusiasm about starting a career (35%) and fresh perspectives and ideas (28%) as their top strengths.
“When you look at early talent today, every one of these individuals grew up on the internet,” Anne Bucher, senior vice president of global customer experience at Cielo. “They’re used to being on the go, they understand cloud technology, they are very resourceful, and they’re expecting to be autonomous and self-manage.”
Today’s new recruits bring fresh ideas and innovation to the table, challenging traditional ways of thinking and doing business. But to effectively engage with this sought-after cohort of job seekers, organizations will need to evolve their recruitment methods to be more authentic, digital, and personalized.
“Early talent has specific ideas about how their employer should behave in the world in terms of corporate social responsibility, their approach to DE&I, and their approach to engaging and elevating their employees. They expect work-life balance, and they expect their work to be meaningful and purposeful,” Bucher says.
Here are some best practices for a recruitment approach that works.
- Demonstrate opportunities for growth. Today’s young employees want to know what their future career path looks like. To attract this segment of the workforce, organizations need to demonstrate a clear workforce plan with frequent communications around learning and development, access to technology, and mentoring opportunities.
“Some best practices include being able to communicate very clear career paths, showcasing how they’re going to engage within your organization, and connecting them early in the process with employees or leaders who might end up being mentors to them so that they can have real interaction and a behind the scenes look into the organization,” explains Bucher.
Offering project-based work rather than limiting new hires to their job description is an effective approach that can make the work feel more meaningful. For example, some organizations implement rotational leadership development programs that allow their new hires to get a breadth of experience by moving into different roles every six to nine months, while others are very intentional about assigning cross-functional projects that align with the employees’ skills.
“I see organizations starting to think differently about how they fill roles,” Bucher says. “Instead of just putting somebody into a position, they are thinking about the work that needs to get done in the organization in terms of projects and finding ways new hires can add value to a particular project while focusing on the skills they want to develop or need to develop to support the business.”
- Communicate the social impact. Early career employees are increasingly prioritizing purpose-driven work that aligns with their values. Given the immense impact of COVID-19 and the social upheaval of the past year, HR leaders need to highlight their approach to corporate social responsibility and DE&I if they want to stay ahead of the competition. Bucher says that communicating ways the organization managed through the COVID-19 pandemic can be an especially effective opportunity to connect with this talent pool.
- Personalize the approach. In addition to authenticity, young workers also expect a personalized touch when engaging with potential employers. “Anything that seems mass communicated will feel disingenuous,” says Bucher. “Personalization in terms of how you engage, the content you share, and where you reach them is going to matter.”
She recommends that organizations start their outreach early, cultivating lasting relationships with college freshmen and sophomores and nurturing them throughout their university career.
Being transparent with content marketing is also a winning approach, especially now that job seekers are relying on digital platforms to engage virtually. “Be transparent, offer a behind the scenes look, and give early talent access to people they might not usually get to talk to,” recommends Bucher. “Make sure that hiring managers and university recruiters are comfortable engaging virtually and think about the different ways to use text and video. There’s no one silver bullet—it’s all about communication and transparency.”
Organizations that do this well open the door to an infinite loop of greater diversity and innovation that will transform the organization for years to come.