Three ways to use early career talent development to help create your workforce of the future

Executives are now thinking about the future of work and the need to develop a workforce for the future.

In the past, companies have largely relied on universities and graduate programs to source their future workforce and then develop them accordingly.

There’s only one problem with this: Traditional graduate programs alone are no longer seen to be enough.

Companies in Australia, SE Asia, UK and North America are heading in to 2019 with a more open mind about fresh approaches. They are embracing new ways to solve the significant workforce challenges, and exploit enormous opportunities created, by:

  • The future of work

  • Diversity and inclusion

  • Skills gaps between universities and the business world

Don't get me wrong. I’m a huge fan of universities and graduate programs. I’m a proud product of both and have since built a career and business in this very space. And they will both always have an important role to play. However these shifts in society, and in business, are driving enormous change in the traditionally single-focus graduate recruitment and development industry.

New, innovative early career talent development strategies are gaining traction. They represent a change towards more strategic, more relevant and more agile early career talent development – and it is the right way forward. Companies are recruiting and developing a spectrum of early career talent that provides them with greater diversity, opportunity to develop the skills their business requires and talent to fulfill a broader set of workforce needs.

In many instances, HRDs, CFOs and CTOs in particular are asking or supporting their businesses to think outside the square in how they attract and develop a more diverse, skilled and future-oriented early career workforce through various types of early career talent:

  • Work experience students

  • School leavers

  • Higher or degree apprentices

  • Interns

  • Graduates

  • Emerging / post-program talent

Each of these talent pools is being provided a development program designed to meet their very different skills gaps and development preferences to increase their ‘speed to value’ on the job, where it counts … contributing early and strategic pools of young talent to the company’s workforce of the future.

We are exposed to these approaches through our early career expertise, clients and years in the UK and US where the market is more mature in some of these approaches.

We’re also seeing them start to gain traction in SE Asia and back in our home country of Australia where forward looking and early adopter employers are now rethinking where and how they invest in early career talent.

In the UK, research suggests that 65% of employers expect ‘school leaver’ recruitment to overtake ‘graduate recruitment’ in terms of volume in the next 3 years. Graduate recruitment is growing at (just!) 7% compared with degree apprenticeships at 55%.

While a big factor behind the 55% is, yes, the Apprentice Levy – a significant tax benefit – there are also many non-apprenticeship examples of a fresh and innovative early career talent development approaches in the UK.

In Australia, PwC has introduced their first intake of higher apprenticeships for students straight out of school. The first cohort graduated just recently. Our industry sometimes follows the practices of larger players in the following years – so expect to see this type of early career talent being prioritized more and more in markets like Australia.

Here are three simple ways to use ‘early career talent development’ to help create a workforce of the future.

1. Understand how various types of early career talent differ in skills gaps and development approaches

The volume of soft skill training for graduates is strong with an average of 11 days in the UK and between 6 and 10 days in Australia. This is becoming true of other types of early career talent too. But how should you approach the various groups of early career talent and what should be their focus? Think of it in three ways – the development of ‘life skills’ for school leavers; ‘work readiness skills’ for interns; and ‘behavioural skills’ for graduates. While each group will often benefit from elements of all three of these skill sets, we find this provides a simple frame to start from when undergoing training needs analysis and designing their development programs to create your workforce of the future.

2. Look for opportunities to blend technical data skills and soft skills together

There’s a growing view that the early career workforce of any business needs increased skills in processing and presenting data in their day-to-day roles – and that many are already required to have these skills. In helping create a workforce of the future, these are important skills given the rise and rise of data in every part of a business. They will often need technical skills such as data analytics and data visualisation, combined with soft skills such as critical thinking, presentation and influence. These skills can be developed in unison through purpose built development programs that address both the technical and soft skills, together, saving time and money in creating your workforce of the future.

3. Use development to attract, secure and keep future talent right through the early career talent journey

Rather than kicking off their development once they've accepted an official role role (like a grad role) or at their induction, the more forward looking employers are using development to attract, secure and keep early career talent all the way through from first touch, through to new employee. They're making it part of the DNA of their employer brand, and recruitment methodology. That's because young people want to develop. It’s in almost every research study you read. So give it it to them. There is enormous opportunity to use development through the many stages of an early career journey and relationship with your company to help create your workforce of the future.

We believe in the early career talent development and the enormous value it can bring to businesses – including helping executives and HR teams to solve the significant workforce challenges, and exploit enormous opportunities, created by the future of work, diversity and inclusion and the skills gaps between universities and the business world. Graduate schemes and programs are valuable – but they are no longer enough. It’s time to think outside the square.