Engaging Early Career Professionals

HRHQ Early careers report

We recently spoke with Siobhan Kelly, Director of Human Capital Solutions at Aon Ireland on the HRHQ The Interview Series podcast. Among the topics of discussion were the findings of the Early Careers report by Aon in collaboration with HPC. Below are a few further questions we put to Siobhan.

HRHQ: You’re a strong believer in the organisations understanding their EVP – what do you believe are the key components of a stated EVP?

Siobhan Kelly: EVP is about how you enrich the lives of your people. The most important thing when defining your EVP is to be clear on what you offer and how you enrich the lives of your people, but equally what you do not offer. Your EVP needs to reflect what your business needs, its purpose and what employees and candidates should expect, and how you differentiate yourself from other competitors.

Organisations are incorporating many different elements into their EVP including DE&I, ESG or sustainability, CSR, career reskilling, training and development, work life balance, wellbeing, hybrid, or flexible working…. the list goes on. I don’t think one is necessarily going to have more impact than another, you need to take a holistic approach and you need to be definite about what elements reflect YOUR business, and how you enrich the lives of your people.

Turnover can often be a result of unfulfilled expectations. Having a clear EVP that is well communicated and aligned across the entire employee experience – from work to team, organisation and reward and benefit frameworks will enhance talent attraction and retention efforts.

HRHQ: What things do Early Careers candidates currently consider other than pay when considering a potential employer?

SK: A recent survey Aon ran in collaboration with HPC as part of the “Emerging Talent – The Irish Early Careers Report” found that the following, in order of importance, have the biggest impact on attracting Early Career talent & branding: Formal development offering, Programme structure, Salary & total rewards, longer term opportunities post graduate programme.

However, in most cases, details of these elements are not advertised or actively communicated to prospective candidates. This provides a significant opportunity for organisations to enhance their attraction efforts by incorporating information about these elements into their communication strategy e.g., advertise on the website, including educational tools like realistic job previews or job matching tools, share through engaging assessments such as situational judgement questionnaires or introductions in video interviews and at assessment centre.

HRHQ: What does a good career path look like to an Early Career new joiner? How far into the future should it go? How prescriptive of milestones/achievements should it be?

SK: In most organisations, defined career paths are no longer possible. If I think about the team of Occupational Psychologists I started working with nine years ago, many of them are now in very different roles within Aon that did not exist at the time. One leads our integrations team; one is in portfolio development and innovation; and one leads our Global Operations Centre. If those individuals had been put on a specific career path, the typical path would not have suited them and they would have either left or disengaged, and certainly would have not reached their true potential. While sharing examples of career paths and sharing stories of others career journeys can be helpful to open minds to the possibilities, there is a risk that they will impede the exploration of other roles or moves that may be more in line with the individual’s potential or future needs of the organisation.

With 44% of roles projected to be automated by 2035, we need to move away from hiring for specific skills for a specific job or career path and toward hiring for agility and a learning mindset to develop new skills to fill future roles.

In line with this, organisations need to identify career opportunities based on individuals’ potential and support Early career talent in moving around the organisation. This will also serve to build a diverse talent succession pipeline.

This could be done by leveraging technology such as career matching tools that gives individuals ownership to understand their strengths and development areas and provides a percentage match score against roles or trainings they may be aligned to based on their potential. This idea of the individual being put in charge of their career is key, and it will help them to think much more broadly about the roles available across the organisation. Crucially, as highlighted in our Early Careers report, it will help to both attract and retain high-calibre people who can contribute to the organisation and its transformation.

There is also a significant cost saving with this approach, as growing talent internally is also much more cost effective than hiring external talent.

HRHQ: There are inherent biases in some new joiner journeys, how can organisations mitigate against this and ensure they hire an inclusive and diverse workforce?

SK: Hiring for potential over and above experience or qualifications or academic results will create an inclusive process where you provide equal opportunities for individuals.

The first step is to define your future skills frameworks. This should be driven by data, using a combination of market insights, benchmarking data and external research around future skills. Hint: think about behaviours such as a learning mindset to seek out new learning opportunities, agility in order to be comfortable dealing with change and overcoming challenges, and curiosity about future opportunities to grow and develop.

This framework should then be incorporated at the attraction stage through content or videos and job matching tools on your website.

At assessment stage, companies need to implement an objective approach such as psychometrics, video interviews that are rated by artificial intelligence and assessment centre exercises to measure candidates against the future skills framework.

It is key to incorporate these objective measures as early in the process as possible, and ideally as the very first step after application. If you wait to introduce them at the end, you will significantly reduce diversity and hinder your ability to identify top talent because the pool of candidates has already been subjected to a biased selection approach. Waiting until the end could mean that the person you screened out at the beginning based on human decision making may have been the person who would have had the greatest impact in your organisation. It could also mean that you have wasted time bringing a candidate through a process who was never going to get hired.

HRHQ: How can smaller organisations compete for talent in this space when they, probably, have less resources?

SK: There are a few steps that smaller organisations can take to complete for talent. The first is to set clear goals and measures of success.

With this in mind, don’t be all things to all candidates. Get clear on the purpose of your early career programme and build your communication strategy, advertising, branding and EVP around this.

Companies should also understand what matters to prospective candidates and be transparent about how they address these needs. This includes benchmarking your salary to ensure it’s fair. This will help to avoid candidates dropping out of your process because of an unattractive offering. You should also be spending time where you will have the biggest impact – that is likely with the candidates who are most likely to get hired. This means leveraging technology to do more administrative tasks like collecting applications, sending emails and invitations for each assessment stage, and using interview scheduling tools.

If you are running an in-person assessment centre, use paperless technology. This will save money and a massive amount of time with printing materials and timetables, as well as showing your candidates that environmental sustainability matters to you. If you don’t have facilitates in your organisation to host onsite Assessment Centre or interviews, run them virtually instead. This will result in a significant saving compared to paying for a hotel or similar facilities.

As you go along, you should collect relevant data on your hiring process – for example note results on your attraction efforts, where top candidates are coming from, number / quality and diversity of applicants. Collecting data from each of these points in your hiring process allows you to spot patterns and trends in the quality of candidates, where the best candidates are coming from and other patterns. That knowledge allows you to continue updating and improving your talent acquisition processes with purpose.

It’s also important that you are confident in using and explaining data such as results from psychometric assessments to the business – otherwise you risk having spent time and money on a process that the business ignores at the final stage.

Finally, embrace an approach of continuous improvement so that you are constantly evolving your process in line with business needs and ensuring the best candidate experience.

For more about the “Emerging Talent – The Irish Early Careers Report”, visit: Engaging-Early-Career-Professionals-in-Ireland-Report