How employers take early careers global

Mar 15, 2024 | Home Featured, Research, Sector & policy

Where graduate recruitment was once conducted by employers on a country-by-country basis, early career talent management is now a global endeavour for many. ISE’s Stephen Isherwood shares research on how it‘s handled.

To solve their talent challenges, globalised organisations increasingly take an international approach to talent acquisition and development. And there is increasing recognition that a global approach to talent management starts in the early career phase.

Key factors that have influenced this shift include:
• labour markets are now global – 6.4 million students moved to another country to study in 2021
• technology enables global solutions to selection and assessment
• many employer brands now have a global reach
• the EDI challenge crosses international borders – as the Black Lives Matter movement demonstrates

As interest in a global approach to the recruitment and development of early career hires has grown, more and more employers have asked us for market insights that will help them develop their global strategies.

Research and analysis on a range of issues affecting graduate, intern and vocational recruitment and development exists at a country level to some extent – but rarely at global level.

This is why we started a project to produce valuable knowledge and benchmark data that will enable global early career leaders and senior talent leaders to better manage their functions.

We consulted with partner associations, employers and other stakeholders to understand knowledge gaps and requirements of the global early careers sector.

The result of that work is the Taking early careers global – global employers insights report 2024.

From the 85 employers from across the globe who responded, on average:
• the typical global team is 15 people strong
• is based in multiple locations
• is focused on graduate and intern hiring
• is most likely to set strategies for recruitment targets and selection/assessment
• is likely to be accountable for all early career spend
• is likely to be measured against vacancies filled and EDI performance indicators
• is least likely to be involved in learning and development
• is more likely to influence and coordinate local teams rather than line manage them

But as we well know, averages don’t tell the whole story – particularly when we are talking about a large number of organisations operating right across the globe in a wide range of different sectors.

Defining global

One of the biggest challenges a global team faces is how to deliver competitive advantage through a globalised approach without compromising performance in local markets. How not to move from a position of local competence to global incompetence

More than half of respondents work in a structure that includes local teams and a global team (54%). Very few line manage local early careers teams directly (22%), most likely to adopt an influencing and coordinating role (46%).
And global teams are rarely equally focused on the whole globe. There will be an amount of sample bias in the data, but most of those we surveyed are focused on North America (69%). Around half on Europe (52%) and Asia Pacific (47%). Other regions such as Africa or South America are much less likely to be within a team’s scope.

In fact, more than half (59%) of these ‘global teams’ are only responsible for one region. Just over a third (36%) of respondents can make a more genuine claim to be global with responsibility for three or more regions.

North America also accounts for most hiring, 41%. Asia Pacific accounts for 27% and Europe a quarter at 25%. Central and South America, the Middle East and Africa account for only 7% of the total (although an element of sample bias may exaggerate this split).

What do we mean by early careers?

If we’d have done this survey 10-15 years ago we’d only have been talking about graduates and post-graduates. And the overwhelming majority of respondents are focused on hiring graduates and interns, around 90%.

But vocational pathways, like apprenticeships, are also a consideration for many global teams now, just over half. But they were most likely to be focused on Europe which has a strong history of vocational education routes. Interestingly, just over a third were also responsible for experienced hires (37%).

Nearly two thirds of teams have total budget control but nearly another third only have a headcount budget.

What do global teams focus on?

To put it simply, global teams are primarily focused on attraction and selection. At a strategy level, teams are most likely to be involved in selection and assessment (73%) and setting recruitment targets and KPIs (60%). Well over a third are also involved in developing recruitment marketing strategies (48%) and the employer brand (40%).

Over half (55%) of respondents organise strategic workforce planning at a global level. But this also implies that 45% do not do this – it’s either managed locally or in a partnership between the global and local teams.

Learning development strategies are least likely to be set at a global level. Only a third are strategically involved in the learning and development of new hires (34%). Another third (35%) of teams have no responsibility for learning and development at all.

We found that the size of a global team does correlate to their responsibilities. Respondents in larger teams (10 or more people) tend to have more responsibility for setting strategy and managing delivery of employer brand, setting recruitment targets and key performance indicators, and EDI than in smaller teams (less than 10 people).

Smaller teams tend to have more responsibility for the onboarding and learning and development of new hires.

The role of data

We were keen to understand just how employers were able to use data at a global level and what data they did or didn’t use. Data is mostly used to manage recruitment and EDI performance.

The overwhelming majority (81%) of respondents use recruitment data for strategy purposes. When it comes to using data to manage performance, most commonly it’s used to monitor the number of vacancies filled (89%) followed by EDI management (82%).

Retention levels and recruitment brand performance are the next most common performance measures – just over half of employers.

And as we’ve already seen, global teams are typically less involved in learning and development and so unsurprisingly are less likely to use data to manage this area of the business. Only 36% use job performance data to monitor the success of early career hires.

EDI strategies focus on attraction and selection

We were also keen to understand just how firms manage EDI at a global level. We all know that EDI is high on the agenda for pretty much every organisation we work with, but it can be a challenge to lead globally, particularly when working across cultures and different social structures and societal norms.

We found that EDI is a strong focus for global teams. Almost two-thirds (65%) manage the delivery of EDI initiatives and there is a notable focus on EDI data – almost two-thirds (64%) use data for setting EDI strategy.

Gender (87%) and race (82%) are the most commonly addressed EDI categories, followed by disability (55%).

We asked how global teams seek to influence EDI, and most do it through marketing strategies (80%) and selection tools and processes (71%).

Influencing or managing at a global level

From employer feedback on the survey design, we know how difficult it is for firms to get the balance between global and local. This is why we asked about who team influence and who they manage, particularly in terms of stakeholder management.

The most important stakeholders that global teams seek to influence are local and regional business and HR leaders (88% and 79%) – a higher priority than global business and HR leaders (66% and 72%). This suggests that meeting the needs of regional and local level leaders is a higher priority than those of global business leaders.

Key challenges

To round off the research, we wanted to understand what challenges global early career teams face. Respondents identified three significant issues:
1. Navigating the delicate balance between adhering to a global or central framework for talent and career management whilst accommodating local or regional nuances.
2. Allocating limited resources across a wide range of responsibilities.
3. Dealing with the scarcity of early career talent in some sectors, occupations and demographic groups.

We don’t see these challenges getting easier to deal with anytime soon. In advanced economies the current unemployment rate is below 5%. Recent surveys from PwC and Deloitte show that over half of CEOs think their workforce lacks skills, and over a third expect labour and skills shortages to disrupt their business strategy.

Competition and technology are forcing change and there is a limited supply of skilled labour in many economies.

A number of people helped make this project a reality. Our thanks to the INEUCS network of associations and a number of employers who helped us to design the survey. Thanks to the International Centre for Guidance Studies for the data analysis and report writing. And a thank you to the report’s sponsors, Cappfinity and Gradcore, for their help and support in developing the project.

Taking early careers global – global employers insights report 2024 was launched at ISE’s Global Future Talent Conference.

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