Employers that break the recruitment cycle away from the academic calendar are more innovative and hire more diverse talent, explains Dan Doherty at Group GTI.
Cyclical approaches, as opposed to year-round recruiting, are still a common default practice in our sector with employers syncing demand plans, induction and development programmes with the standard education timetable.
But hey, it works, doesn’t it? Or at least it has done for many employers, universities, and students for decades.
Why does it work?
An annual commitment to demand forecasting helps to plan budgets, headcount requirements and technology implementation.
We structure an annual round of attraction activity, recruitment delivery and onboarding. Plus, the system works for suppliers, careers teams and students themselves – all are in sync with an annual repetitive loop.
So, you can be predictable as to what you will need, what you want, and by when you need it. Right?
But we’re now living in the most unpredictable of times.
• Covid-19 created mass disruption and led many to rethink most of what was once ‘business as usual’.
• Post-pandemic adjustment to a battle between in-person and/or digitalised preferences.
• DEI priorities creating an array of evolving challenges and search for solutions.
• Generative AI’s exponential complexity impacting current use and unknown future possibilities.
• Pre and post pandemic generations: a transition period that lies ahead.
And that’s before we get to businesses trends that need changing skills, year-round talent needs, new hires and reskilling of existing employees. Talent acquisition is becoming increasingly complex as employers diversify talent pathways.
So, some questions for you. Does your cyclical recruitment operation give your business the people they need now, or just who you can deliver based on familiar ways of working? Have you factored in current and future macro challenges to your internal micro solutions?
Could you break the cycle? Could you build complimentary pathways as a sibling to an annual intake? Could smaller, year-round intakes or contingency hiring solutions give you diverse intakes better matched to business need?
Before we dive into year-round hiring and its benefits, let’s take a look at how the market is positioned for timescales of hiring, courtesy of the ISE’s Recruitment Survey 2022:
The survey shows that graduate hiring still seems wedded to the Q4 opening for attraction and applications. Whereas the school leaver market seems more spread (or later in cyclical terms) for opening campaigns.
Why year-round recruiting works
A year-round model – your summer dedicated to planning and purchasing, your autumn and winter recruiting, your spring and summer onboarding – is not the only way. Other models do exist.
To make year-round recruiting work, employers need to look internally at current headcount and future headcount needs, the budget cycle, and how the business signals demand. Recruiters and L&D teams need to collaborate to replicate an existing singular cyclical intake into smaller multiple intakes.
Many firms want to be cutting-edge, be innovative in programmes design and delivery, but are stifled by their current cyclical model. Are employers letting seasonal limitations cause artificial constraints?
We know how our brains work in the sense that innovative thoughts come at subconscious times and when not in creative zones.
For example, how many times have you seen a market/internal solution come up that you would love to implement but you’re hiring annually so budgets, operations, process, headcount, and decision making is condensed into a small window of opportunity for change?
This may be leaving you less able to innovate or implement. Despite your best intentions.
Ironically, innovation windows may not be the best way to encourage innovation. A set calendar slot for reflection and review for the season ahead could leave you more rigid, and maybe, out of date quicker. A flexible approach opens opportunities to benefit from early adopter partnerships and even early adopter prices.
Benefits of a complimentary year-round hiring strategy
Year-round recruiting that complements an existing programme offers benefits that may prove influential to gain business buy-in and help you adapt your early careers strategy.
1. Unlimited talent pool
Hire the best available talent, not the most available for your preferred hiring period.
Those who’ve gone into interim employment on graduation, usually over 75% of this passive audience, would be receptive to the right opportunity. Just because they missed your boat first time round, you don’t have to miss their boat.
2. Nurtured talent
Year-round hiring enables you to build engaged talent pipelines that reduce your time to hire and attraction costs and delivers higher conversion rates.
Many firms realise conversion ratios five to twenty times better as aspirants becoming applicants. The engaged become hires who are statistically more likely to be retained at two- and five-year points – and are often your highest performers.
3. Improved talent diversity
Year-round hires are naturally more diverse as your applications will come from a broader pool, often those who are less well supported.
So those who may not have the best employer connections, are from less strong schools, or from institutions that are less likely to have the staff to advise on applications and career navigation.
Q1 and Q4 intakes are organically more diverse, hires who:
• Are career changers
• Are second jobbers
• Are from lower SEBs
• Were unsuccessful in clearing
• Dropped out of university
• Are ex-forces
• Have completed an apprenticeship
• Have completed a boot camp
Given their alternative pathways into your process, many of the above personas come with diversity of thought, hiring to the same cohort cycle year-on-year, finalists from the same sources could lead to uniformity across your hiring groups. Does your business want culture fit or need culture add?
For example, some of our customers have experienced:
• Female hiring from 25% to 50% YoY into tech roles.
• 76% of click throughs from GTI to a FinTech firm were from Black, Asian, and ethnic minority students.
• 44% of click-throughs from GTI through to an engineering firm were from female students, doubling from 22% the year prior
4. Increased operational inefficiency
Encouraging thousands of candidates into a shortened period of hiring creates bottlenecks.
Applicant to hire ratios of one in 30, if not one in a 100, seems like such an inefficient way of hiring. Not many other industries/professions would aim to have MORE people apply (excess supply) without the roles increasing too (demand).
Spending more time finessing the candidates that do apply via targeted attraction, nurtured engagement and pre-cursor programmes will bring your ratios down. This is good for costs, time to hire and your brand. Many applicants are also your customers now or in future. Are you running a hiring machine or a rejection machine?
In fact, in previous roles, my in-house teams would be encouraged to bring the ratios down. We managed to achieve 1:15 max for apprentices and 1:30 max for graduates. This allowed us to scale our annual hires by over 50% without the need to increase headcount.
5. Upskilled recruiters
By spreading the hiring load across the calendar, recruiters will become better at stakeholder management, more adept at project planning, and use their broader market knowledge to create innovative attraction strategies.
The business will appreciate decentralised decision making and operational flexibility, tailored delivery, and speed of response.
6. Enhanced market intelligence
Regular interviewing will keep your team up to date with the latest industry trends and inspire development.
Your EVP will be more responsive to market condition, and your salary package/benefits better able to keep pace with the market. A lot can happen in a year – or in ChatGPT’s and AI’s case, a quarter.
“If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got”, said Henry Ford. Despite technology advances, increased diversity in the student cohort, and a growth in hiring pathways, the student recruitment cycle has largely stayed the same. Perhaps it’s time our sector thought differently.
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