Written by
Changeboard Team

Published
22 Mar 2010

Navigating the graduate roadmap - how can employers pinpoint valuable graduate talent?

22 Mar 2010 • by Changeboard Team

University: opportunity for skills development

Further education (FE) and Higher education (HE) presents many learning opportunities for students; not only can they master their academic capabilities in their course of study, but they can also acquire an array of skills and talents in their extra-curricular activities and work experience.

University, for example, provides a wealth of societies and clubs for individuals to join. Students of all disciplines can ascertain highly marketable, work-related skills during their time in education. Lets consider here a student with a passion for public speaking; it is through their extra-curricular activity that they learn the skills of communication, presenting and debating.

Developed away from their academic timetable, these highly tangible skills offer immediate value to employers, and are equally as important as the theoretical and practical knowledge that students gain from their course of study.

Hard skills versus soft skills

A CV is an essential element of a graduates career progression. Having completed their studies, this might be an undergraduate or Masters Degree, each student will eagerly list their academic abilities to impress their potential future employer. Known as hard skills, these are typically easy to observe, quantify and measure, and are essential to employment. They might comprise literacy and numeracy skills, financial knowledge, sales administration, among others.

Areas of expertise which are developed in a students pastime are often overlooked. However these increasingly valuable and respected skills, must take pride of place on a CV. Referred to as soft skills, team work, communication, organisation skills and an ability to resolve conflicts are vital for career success. The Challenge is that these soft skills, also known as people skills, are typically hard to observe, quantify and measure. The ability to speak openly or debate with confidence and integrity, for example, may just be the distinguishing characteristics that secure a graduate their new job.

While hard skills are hugely valuable, without the accompaniment of soft skills the candidates true value can be missed. As part of the governments mission to transform education, the adoption of diploma-specialist colleges, also known as Academies, opens an entirely new dimension of vocational learning. It is paramount therefore that potential future employers consider the graduate as a multi-talented personality as well as their skill set.

How, therefore, can employers and recruiters become aware of these less obvious talents, when looking to attract the best possible graduate talent?

The race to the top: talent profiles

Consider here the Benefits of a structured talent roadmap. This roadmap might be in the form of a talent management platform that bridges the gap between education and employment. Not only would this solution capture all formal and informal skills, but it would portray the entire journey of the learner. Having the ability to identify a graduates progression through their education, the roadmap could also highlight skills and competencies required by potential employers, and the subject specific knowledge base that can be transferred into employment.

Talent management is an ongoing process that organisations use to attract appropriately skilled and motivated employees. Currently, a mere 15-20% of companies in the UK hold a talent management strategy and this is something that has recently been identified by managerial personnel as a top strategic priority. In essence, the platform would offer heightened sophistication around career path management; detailing an employees performance and stage of development within a single system.

A detailed CV, taking the form of a talent profile, would provide a well-rounded and informed representation of the job seeker. Not only would it highlight the individuals employability as a multi-skilled individual, but it would also further enhance communication and connections between FE/HE establishments and employers.

What might a 'talent roadmap' include?

A talent roadmap might comprise a range of elements from recruitment tools to a learning management system (LMS). More specifically, the roadmap could include the following functionalities: recruitment (talent acquisition); performance management; competency mapping; career development; learning and development; succession planning; compensation planning and leadership development.

Within the roadmap, training and certifications available to graduates looking for specific roles could be highlighted. At a time of recession, when many graduates may consider postgraduate study due to the lack of job opportunities, consider here the Benefits of work experience and internships. Internships can enhance a job seekers edge that an employer demands.

Tom Richmond, policy adviser of skills for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) highlighted:

The skills you can get in an internship things like teamwork and communication you can't always get through a degree. Time in the workforce shows employers you can do it whereas, to put it crudely, a bit of paper doesn't" (The Independent, January 2010).

What skills are today's businesses looking for?

Steve Huxham, chairman of the Recruitment Society (March 2010) reveals:

Employers should be doing more to include and nurture young graduates in the workplace.

The government has worked hard to provide extra help for young people and lower earners, but it could be too little, too late.

In our current climate, it is the employers responsibility to heighten awareness of job requirements and competencies; detailed information should be passed to educational establishments so to mould the model employee.

It's essential that educational establishments are aware that in an increasingly customer focussed world, employers not only value the intelligence and capability of an individual, but also the soft skills and vocational experiences required to be client facing and a reflection on the organisation's professionalism and success.

A platform that presents a clear pathway enables a highly effective recruitment process. By eliminating the need to sift through endless applications, recruiters and employers can explore the wealth of applicants that match the roles requirements, thus resulting in a quicker placement of learners.

How can employers build on existing skills?

Staff are an organisations strongest asset; through talent identification and management not only can the employer reap the rewards of highly skilled staff, but employees will also feel engaged and valued.

Research carried out by Bersin and Associates (2009) confirmed that 81% of executives view performance management as key to reaching corporate goals. Bridging the gap between student life and adult responsibility is a daunting time for all graduates; to know that employers and recruiters are developing strategies to match roles to employees drives business success and employee motivation.

In addition, once the recruit has successfully commenced his or her new role, the employer, fully aware of the individuals background and talents can build on their capabilities.

Responsibilities can be aligned with the new team members competencies, and learning and development programmes can then be administered to further progress the employee. 2009 research performed by Bersin and Associates confirmed that companies rolling out talent management programmes experience 41% lower turnover rates among high performers.

Don't underestimate graduate recruitment

Decreased emphasis on graduate recruitment has been identified as a potential roadblock to long-term recovery from the recession.

A recent survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit revealed that despite half of respondents (senior executives) expecting to hire in the 12 months ahead, a meagre 6% plan to focus on graduate recruitment.

This alone stresses the importance of employers and recruiters connecting with universities and FE establishments in order to channel and align graduates to roles that match their competencies. This will be the differentiating force of todays market.