5 Ways Companies Can Attract (And Keep) The Best Young Talent

Many employers still aren’t offering the opportunities and experiences entry-level workers want.

5 Ways Companies Can Attract (And Keep) The Best Young Talent
[Photo: Flickr user H. Michael Miley]

For the companies competing for the best and brightest of the class of 2015, there’s good news and bad news. The latest college grads appear to be more prepared to enter the workforce than we’ve seen in recent years. But many employers aren’t taking the right steps to attract them–or to hang onto them once they do.


Our 2015 College Graduate Employment Study here at Accenture Strategy found that nearly half of 2015 graduates (49%) consider themselves underemployed or working in a job that doesn’t require a college degree–a steady increase from 46% in 2014 and 41% of the graduates we surveyed in 2013.

Clearly, there’s room for employers to improve. Here are five places to start.

1. Make Connections Early

Almost three-quarters (72%) of the 2015 grads we surveyed had an internship, apprenticeship, or co-op during college. Not only can this type of work experience get promising candidates excited about working for you even before they’ve graduated, it also helps you pinpoint–and even get a head start on training–the top talent early. Companies that don’t offer internships or similar types of opportunities are all but leaving the best entry-level employees on the table for their competitors to recruit.

2. Turn Your Hiring Processes Digital

Young millennial and gen Z workers are digital natives, so it’s no surprise they’re using digital tools and platforms to look for work. In fact, nearly two-thirds (64%) of 2015 grads have used a mobile app to search and apply for positions, and they consider social networking the most effective method for finding a job. Employers need to go where their future employees already are. That means ramping up digital investments in the recruitment experience.


3. Think Small

Our research found that just 15% of new grads want to work for a large company, which hints that even the best-established corporations are falling short of young employees’ expectations. Millennials want both creative work cultures as well as environments that promote transparency and give them a chance to advance quickly. They might be mistaken in believing those opportunities only exist in small companies and startups, but they can’t entirely be faulted for that. Bigger companies need to prove they can offer those experiences, too, backed by a breadth of resources smaller players can’t.

For example, some larger organizations are shedding traditional performance reviews in favor of more transparent, real-time feedback. In addition, bigger companies already have the infrastructure to support flexible working as well as the resources to create smaller, specialized teams.

If reorganizing at that level isn’t an option in the near-term, businesses can still do more to bring their millennial employees into closer contact with their smaller business partners that are now major parts of their own ecosystems. The point is to find ways to create those intimate experiences, then advertise them to potential hires.

4. Develop Talent For Now And Later

The newest graduates in the workforce don’t just want chances to learn and grow, they expect them. 77% of those we surveyed expect their employer to provide training in their first job, but only half said they got it. That means that the youngest employees can’t entirely be blamed for jumping from one job to the next after very short tenures. It also means that for companies, a little can go a long way. Offering long-term development opportunities can put your company a cut above the competition and help you hang onto great talent after making the hire.


5. Create A Fun Work Culture

For the newest college graduates in the workforce, culture trumps compensation. Sixty percent of the class of 2015 said they would prefer to work at a company with a positive social atmosphere and earn a lower salary than make more money someplace where it’s less fun to work. Employers who offer entry-level employees challenging work while also creating an enjoyable culture are at a competitive advantage.

Companies might be prone to dismiss recent graduates’ priorities as unrealistic expectations based on limited work experience. But those that do will miss out on the most talented young workers. College students are showing incredible agility and pragmatism as they enter a competitive labor market. Now it’s time for employers to show they’re just as capable of adapting.

David Smith is senior managing director for talent and organization at Accenture Strategy.