Three graduate employer priorities of 2022

Jun 29, 2022 | Sector & policy

Continuous recruitment, staff retention and EDI are the three graduate employer priorities for the next 12 months, explains Handshake.

You might remember that at the beginning of the year, Handshake and the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) teamed up with Wonkhe and AGCAS to imagine what graduate recruitment might look like in 2032.

We spoke to employers, university careers services and students to look at the issues, challenges and opportunities in the next decade – and uncovered a willingness to collaborate and share best practice, and to harness technology in order to create a fairer jobs market.

However, while many graduate employers are looking at what the next ten years holds, many more are focusing on immediate priorities – still working hard to build back after a particularly difficult period.

With this in mind, we went back to our employer base, this time asking them about their priorities for the next 12 months – what are their challenges right now, and what opportunities do they have to improve outcomes immediately?

The result is our Graduate Employer Priorities 2023 report, which reveals an engaged group of employers who are keen to increase graduate recruitment after a tough time where many had to scale back hiring activities. They see the year ahead as a vital period in fuelling a sustainable talent pipeline for the long term, and are using digital tools to get there.

Employer priorities – equality, diversity and inclusion tops the list

Our research revealed that Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) is top of mind for the vast majority of employers. The majority (97%) of graduate employers told us that they see recruiting a diverse workforce as a top priority over the next year – recognising that a good EDI strategy broadens the skills, talents and experiences within an organisation.

Similarly, 90% of businesses say that they will be focusing more on connecting with the right graduate candidates in the coming year. As such, employers are more concerned with the quality and breadth of candidates available. This is why half of businesses (50%) consider utilising new technology to help identify and hire the right candidates a key priority too.

Identifying graduates that have a closer job-specific skill set fit continues to be important for employers – with 63% of businesses reporting that it’s a ‘high priority’ to hire candidates who are a bit more sector-ready.

However, soft skills like working with others, professionalism, punctuality and managing deadlines also remain a key priority for 44% of businesses. Indeed, as more and more job activities become automated, soft skills, which cannot yet be replicated by machines, will only  become more important.

Paths to success – a collaborative future

In order to meet upcoming challenges, employers are quickly realising that they need to  strengthen relationships with university careers services teams – with 65% of respondents saying that this is a high priority in the year ahead.

It’s clear that ongoing collaboration is a mutually beneficial exercise – employers get to meet the most talented candidates, universities are able to get to grips with evolving career opportunities, and crucially students can develop the skills needed to successfully enter the workforce.

What’s more, 45% of employers report that they are now opting for more continuous recruitment processes, as opposed to the sporadic engagement of old.

Rather than engaging with students at the end of their studies, they’re now looking to make earlier connections, establishing relationships with students throughout their learning journey.

Doing this not only strengthens the likelihood of recruiting great talent in a hyper-competitive market, it allows employers to influence what they learn – and the skills they gain – in university, ensuring that students are well prepared for the world of work.

A bright (tech-powered) future

So, we know that there are challenges ahead – but alongside these come undeniable opportunities for employers to connect with students and universities in fresh ways in the coming year.

Employers will need to make use of technology to automate less complex processes and information provision, to create stronger links and connections with universities – ultimately allowing them to better attract and retain graduates who are ready for the world of work.

Our report includes concrete advice for those employers planning for the next twelve months, but of course, the conversation doesn’t stop here. We’re keen to gather feedback and opinion from the market – sharing experiences and best practice in order to create a blueprint for graduate recruitment success.

You can now download the report and also register for our upcoming webinar with the ISE, where we’ll be unpacking this research and welcoming your thoughts and questions.

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