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Why recruiting early talent is key to your company's success

Employers that have a clearly defined, cost efficient strategy will continue to achieve growth, regardless of the economic climate.

Employers that continue to strategically invest in talent in a cost-efficient, future-focused way will achieve growth, despite volatile market conditions.

When other companies are considering slowing or stopping hiring, leading employers can make use of this time to attract the highest quality candidates and differentiate themselves from the competition.

With more than 500,000 university graduates entering the workforce each year, attaining long term competitive advantage starts by engaging early talent.

Planning for the future during uncertain times

Workforce planning is challenging: how do you anticipate the shift between the roles you’ll need today and the roles you’ll need in the future? Economic change and civil unpredictability are “new normal” factors, but whether or not we enter a true recession, it’s still a job seekers’ market. Unemployment is historically low, with over 1.2 million job vacancies in the last quarter.

To ensure your competitive advantage and long-term success, a downturn is prime time for investing in talent—your most important resource. Because the economy is cyclical, you can anticipate the next phase to be one of growth and prosperity. And the strongest organisations with the most talented workforces are the ones that reap the benefits.

With the forward-thinking skills required to lead employers through digital transformation, Gen Z talent is increasingly valuable to modern businesses. Interns and young professionals that you hire today have the potential to make an enormous impact—they just need that open door.

Don’t just focus on students who are about to graduate, either. Engaging students throughout their education journey without focusing on a specific job opening creates brand affinity and fosters relationships. Keeping your hiring funnel filled with candidates who are eager to learn, adaptable, and have cutting-edge skills and knowledge is a workforce planning strategy to stand by.

The benefits of hiring early talent

Early talent are career starters with 0-3 years of professional experience. This includes students who are about to graduate from university and recent graduates, as well as learners upskilling through online providers, FE college students, and other skilling avenues. Many employers miss out on this cohort with job reqs that, often unnecessarily, specify 5-7 years of experience. But this screens out career starters who can be trained, developed, and grown into those mid-level positions.

Successfully recruiting today’s generation of early career talent requires an understanding of their attributes, an empathy for their values, and a recruiting process that engages their interests and preferences.

What are students’ priorities heading into the workforce? ‍

All early talent today are also Gen Zers, who are uniquely positioned to help businesses grow. They are:

  • Digital natives: Having grown up with technology, this group can provide invaluable skills and experience to companies looking to innovate and stay ahead. They also have less of a learning curve when it comes to flexible, remote work using technology platforms. According to Handshake data, there has been an almost 17x increase in jobs mentioning TikTok since 2019-2020. Hire early talent to build your social media strategy and reach your consumers where they are.
  • Autonomous: Gen Z grew up with quick access to infinite knowledge, so they’re generally proactive and scrappy. From creating online videos to crowd-sourcing communities, Gen Zers know when to ask questions—but also how to find answers on their own - in fact, problem-solving is a key motivator for them. Give them a task and watch them uncover new, creative ways to solve the problem.
  • Career-driven: Much of Gen Z can recall loved ones struggling during the 2008 recession. Career development and job stability is important to them. Digital upskilling comes naturally to them on platforms like YouTube, bootcamps, and Duolingo. They hustle their way through their education so they can make an impact with a meaningful job.
  • Diverse: Not only is Gen Z the most diverse generation, they want to work for employers where diversity, equity, and inclusion are not afterthoughts. 53% of student job seekers would not apply to a job or internship at an employer that lacks general diversity.
  • Values-driven: From making buying decisions to deciding where to work, Gen Z values human rights, DEI, environmental sustainability, and transparency, among other things.

Why you need to recruit early talent—especially now

By 2025, Gen Z is expected to make up ~27% of the global workforce. With 3% (approximately 384k) of Baby Boomers either retiring early or taking redundancy during the pandemic, coupled with an aging workforce, early talent will help to fill the generational gap and provide a steady supply of resilient, change-tolerant workers for years to come. Have you set up your internal workforce to replace those skill gaps?

Regardless of industry, all businesses need innovation, efficiency, and adaptability to evolve. And all types of employers are competing for specialists with certain technical backgrounds, like data science, computer programming, and engineering. For early talent who may need just a few more hard or soft skills to fill your vacancies, this is also an opportunity to develop your workforce and build the exact skills you need through apprenticeship, internship, or rotational programmes. Since career starters crave professional development and skills development, your investment in them is also likely to retain them.

How companies respond with their talent strategy during a recession has far reaching consequences. Think big picture: by stopping investing in talent during a recession, organisations face loss of market position, time to innovation and brand reputation. All things that are needed to attract the best talent.

How you can engage with Gen Z

To plan for workforce continuity, don’t get left behind in the competition for early talent. In summary:

  • Start early: Build brand affinity and relationships with students earlier in their learning journey.
  • Help them transition: Work with the individuals you are connecting with to ‘ramp’ into an early career from their education setting, through skills development or opportunities for experiential learning.
  • Retain your top talent: Career decisions do not end on induction days. Nurture your new talent, avoid information overload and coach them through their journey into employment.
  • Get smart with tech: Make use of technology like Handshake to automate less complex processes and information provision, create stronger links and connections with universities and better attract and retain graduate recruits. 

Those that continue to strategically invest in talent in a cost-efficient, future-focused way will achieve growth, despite volatile market conditions.

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