At a time when workforces are increasingly global – and competition for the most skilled entry-level recruits has never been fiercer – HR leaders must ensure their engagement strategies are tailored to local audiences if they are to win the ‘war for talent’.
Despite the introduction of disruptive initiatives such as the Apprenticeship Levy, and reports that some big employers are cutting back on graduate hires amid a climate of uncertainty, the reality is that, for now at least, graduates continue to account for the bulk of genuinely global entry-level programmes. In fact, recent research from Alexander Mann Solutions found that graduates remain the most valuable source of emerging talent for almost half (47%) of all senior HR leaders.
This appetite for university leavers is further represented by the fact that, according to Prospect’s latest ‘What do graduates do?’ report, in the 2017-18 period just 5.3% of new graduates who were looking for a job had failed to find one six months after graduating. This represents the lowest level of graduate unemployment in the past 30 years.
Global war on talent
For businesses operating on a global scale, the concept of a regional or international programme designed to attract and engage graduates of the world’s most highly rated universities is nothing novel. However, many major employers are now starting to question and review their traditional emerging talent strategies in what is arguably the most rapidly evolving candidate and business marketplace in history.
In our experience, many organisations struggle to find the most effective way to engage with and pipeline what often appears to be a challenging talent pool – particularly when attempting to balance a global Employer Value Proposition (EVP) with local cultures. However, by combining centralised command with local delivery – for example by mobilising ‘volunteer armies’ to disseminate EVP messages internationally – HR strategists can overcome challenges around global engagement.
Balancing corporate values and local culture is a perpetual challenge for senior strategists, not least those heading up HR. Yes, the shared values, attitudes, standards, codes and behaviours of a corporation – which are deeply rooted in the company’s goals, strategies, structure and approaches – are incredibly important. But we cannot ignore local conventions which have been absorbed during the earliest stages of childhood, reinforced by literature, history, religion, schools and parents. The most successful brands understand the value of a ‘glocal’ approach to business – it’s the reason why McDonald’s in Indonesia serves rice instead of fries.
It’s no secret that marketing any brand internationally can come with its fair share of challenges, not least when the messages that you are sharing are attached to a life decision as great as a candidate’s first ‘real’ job. For this reason, leaders must strike a delicate balance between brand consistency and being agile in response to the social fabric of a country when putting in place global graduate programmes.
Alexander Mann Solutions’ latest white paper, The Next Chapter: Your New Global Graduate Programme, explores how truly international brands including Rolls-Royce, GE, HSBC and Citi, are succeeding in building workforces which are internationally mobile and future-fit through graduate recruitment.
It is interesting that while most organisations which took part in the research have a relatively small central team – usually based at their international headquarters which sets policy and direction – all recruitment teams rely very heavily on local, non-HR personnel for face-to-face engagement with potential hires.
Tailor make your EVP
However, the paper also reveals a very wide divergence of thought on necessity for, and the implementation of, a truly global EVP: while some organisations are firmly committed to a very definite corporate culture, guidance from other firms is often vague, with central teams even turning a ‘blind eye’ to the actions of local operators. Despite this, all contributors agreed there needs to be tailoring of messages, and their delivery, to take into account local cultures, regulatory environments and education systems.
All of the organisations involved in the research were also committed to the idea that the calibre of individual that entered an international emerging talent programme – and the quality of work and training they would subsequently experience – should be consistent around the globe. However, most habitually define what messages can be amended outside of core values, particularly those which have varying identities in different countries or regions which mandates the need to shape a local message to resonate with that identity.
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Perhaps most importantly, it’s also clear from our research how important it is to actively engage colleagues to disseminate these tailored messages: not only to divide labour, but also to allow teams on the ground to build the workforce that they want, rather than one which is imposed on them from head office.
In today’s global market, a ‘one size fits all’ approach to graduate engagement is irrelevant and outdated. Instead, tailored solutions need to be developed which are both loyal to the overarching brand, and authentic to local audiences.