Ian Symes: The graduating ‘Class of 2015’ is big enough to populate the UK’s second largest city

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With almost 800,000 newly qualified graduates and postgraduates having entered the UK workforce this summer the question of their employment looms large. Last year 20,000 graduates were unemployed six months after leaving university and a third took jobs in “non-professional” roles that didn’t require degrees.

This army of new workers would, if we sited them in one place, represent the UK’s second largest workforce, bigger than every other City except London. These graduates bring with them an incredible capacity of knowledge, capability and energy to help transform our country, but I don’t believe that we as managers and leaders are ready to welcome them into our teams. I don’t believe that as employers we are ready to support the multi-generational implications of the new and the established workers. I don’t believe we as a country appreciate the opportunity, and unlike these students who have spent on average three years preparing for this moment, we are not prepared to use it.

Now, I know there are exceptions to the rule and there are plenty of examples of employers who are running high-quality graduate recruitment and development programmes, but the truth is that whether you’ve actively chosen to embrace it or not, your workforce and your strategy is not prepared for the challenges ahead. And the assumption that you don’t have to change what you are doing is a falsehood. Because those organisations that do will be more effective, stronger and increasingly become the employers of choice for the best talent.

Below I’ve outlined the key problems businesses are facing with this influx of new talent, and how HR can help to overcome them.

Multi-generational work environment

Organisations are eager to recruit from the talent pool of younger generations, but they often don’t think about the implications of having a multi-generational workforce. When managed correctly, that workforce will be a huge boon to your business, but the trouble is often organisations don’t know how to do this most effectively. This is part of the reason millennials “job-hop” so much, with Future Workplace predicting that millennials will have 15-20 jobs over the course of their working lives.

Multi-generational workforces coupled with the rapid pace of technology means that businesses will often be in flux, and as such they will need to let go of their rigidity (especially in terms of management) and evolve their organisation and strategy to put people at the heart of their future planning.

The role of HR is already evolving and recent Right Management research found that 65 percent of HR managers believe HR strategy will have an increased role aligning to business strategy and enhancing workforce productivity in five years’ time.

As well as millennials and Generation Z joining the workforce, managers will also have to deal with people working for longer and longer past the traditional retirement age. As such, it is the job of HR managers to make sure their training and recruitment is constantly aligned with the changing nature of their business, and they must be willing to accept that their previous way of operating probably will not cut the mustard in the last quarter of 2015 and beyond.

Recruitment and success profiles

The challenge for most businesses is that they don’t know what the word ‘best’ means for them. In many cases, organisations have not clearly defined the success profiles for the talent they need to reach their corporate goals.

Worse still, a large majority of organisations are working on outdated success profiles, definitions that have helped them get where they are today not where they want to go tomorrow. When I talk to clients about this, the majority are stuck in the profile time-warp: “Yes we have updated our corporate targets, yes we are investing in new technology to drive the business, yes we are adopting new strategies and routes to market…but no, and we are recruiting and assessing our talent as we used to do.”

Developing profiles that are fit for purpose, and anticipating the future needs to make the journey, unlocks success for so many organisations by providing the basis for data-driven, high quality talent assessment.

The war for talent

In an increasingly diverse workforce, where there is a growing war for talent, failing to understand the changing needs of both the business and the employees is a recipe for disaster. It won’t help you attract or recruit staff either.

Attracting and recruiting will be the main concern for companies wishing to employ millennials joining the workforce and according to Future Workplace, millennials will average less than three years in their jobs before moving on. In such an environment it is more important than ever that companies put more thought into their success profiles, not only to ensure that they’re employing the right people for the job but also to ensure that the people they are employing feel like they are adding value in their role. This is the only sure-fire way to retain the new talent in the marketplace.

HR managers should be focusing less on old fashioned methods of candidate selection, like CVs and work experience, and more on candidate’s values and soft skills that will enable them to align with the businesses goals and workplace culture.

With a whole new city of talent joining the UK’s workforce today, now is the time to forget the past and focus on the future of both your organisation and your talent.

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About Ian Symes

Ian Symes joined Right Management in November 2012 as the new General Manager for the UK & Ireland. Ian has more than 20 year’s business experience in senior executive roles, most recently as Marketing Director for Cisco in the UK & Ireland and for the company’s high profile sponsorship of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

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