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You are on mute - the new way of graduate attraction

Covid created a tectonic shift in how employers went about attracting young talent into their organisations - whether for a work experience/internship/vacation work, bursary or graduate programme. Suddenly the traditional methods of attraction were no longer possible - career fairs and company showcases were deferred to a later date, presentations to students jumped onto Teams and Zoom and recruitment processes went fully online.

For many years prior to the pandemic, there was promise as we saw companies toying with digital strategies – making use of social media, podcasts, blogging, vlogging – but it never really took off properly. For those that took the trouble to measure the impact of their digital strategy, we know that it worked but, by and large, return on investment was difficult to measure as it’s not just one channel that convinces a student to make an application.

When our members called out for help in March 2020 – we finally had the opportunity to showcase all the cool new and emerging digital technologies that are available to support creating networks and experiences for graduates.

To build or to buy: How savvy employers grow talent

Talent management must find the right balance between buying skills and building talent to ensure maximum business value, Sagea's Cathy Sims shares her views...

Issued by Sagea 4 May 2021

In partnership with 25 Universities, we launched the Sagea VirtualGradExpo in May of 2020. And what an exciting journey it took us on! Granted, the learning curve was huge and hard for all of us, but we took the concept of online chat functions such as WhatsApp and Messenger and off we went – creating a bespoke solution for South Africa. We learned many tough lessons at our first digital career fair, including:
  • Digital poverty is real in South Africa – in corporate we have the luxury of just knowing when we switch on, we have access to data and decent bandwidth. Do not assume that students have the same luxury.
  • Students had limited experience talking to public and private organisations – in person – so doing that in a virtual world was overwhelming.
  • High graduate unemployment meant high numbers – more than 8,000 students jumped online on the first morning of our career fair series to talk to more than 150 employers – and our bandwidth and solution did not cope well with the volume. It was awful! We found ourselves in a spin, looking for a reset button.

But we got through it and days two and three just got better and better. Over the period that our solution was available to students, we had more than 40,000 students engage with our platform and as we moved towards measuring the return on investment, we had one employer tell us they hired 33 grads from their two days online with the students. How awesome is that?

There are some reality checks that you need to think about when deciding to build skills and contribute to our economy by putting our students at the centre of your future success:
  • Work with partners – solution providers, universities, professional associations and employers – to explore solutions that are fit for all. Yes, there are fancy online communities available, but it is important to figure out what is data-use appropriate.
  • Prepare, prepare, prepare your messages – you cannot sit in a comfortable chair chatting to students for hours. Their time is limited. Think about how you package your key messages, make them appropriate for your audience and make sure they have all the information they need in advance to help them make informed decisions.
  • Use the data you gather after the event with purpose – you now have access to information about who is interested in more discussion, who is interested in your opportunities, who is interested in moving to your website and social media – so measure, measure, measure and then convert.
  • Be clear on what your requirements are and ensure that you ask for the correct information in your application process. This will avoid wasting both the students’ time (completing online applications can be time-consuming and requires access to data) and simultaneously helps you to avoid screening thousands of applications that do not fit.
  • The candidate experience is critical, too. We know from our Sagea Candidate Insights study1 that students make an average of five to six applications. This means they will be comparing their interactions with you as a potential employer to their experience with other employers. Make sure that their experience with you is efficient, engaging and meaningful.
  • Graduate recruitment is all about relationships – not only with the potential graduates, but with the other stakeholders in the process such as university careers services, service providers etc. Ensure that you have the right people on your team – people who are good at networking, building and maintaining relationships.
  • Deliver what you promise – think about what you say to potential employees and their experience through the application and selection journey – if you say you are offering opportunities for challenging and interesting work, then build a programme that delivers just that. The reputational damage caused by empty promises will cost you in the long run.
  • Your return on investment will come through what you offer, what you deliver and seeing graduates thrive in your business, contributing not only to their family but to your company and our economy.

So where do we go from here?

We know from two decades of research and insights into the journey of successful graduates that work experience makes all the difference to their preparation for the world of work – whether they pursue entrepreneurial ventures or end up working for an employer. There are two key considerations when it comes to offering work experience: can you scale this and can you create meaningful experiences for more than just the top 10% of students?

We, at Sagea, are embarking on our own talent-building journey. We intend taking 1,000 students in the next 6-8 months through an experiential journey to demonstrate new and emerging careers in South Africa. Our first cohort of 500 students will join us in July. Deploying leading-edge technology, we hope to take them on a journey to build competencies in critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration, capped with building context of how to solve some of the critical business problems in our economy.

This forms part of a three-year programme – starting with building competencies and then overlaying attributes needed in the world of work. We all know that competence is important but attributes such as initiative, curiosity, resilience, social and cultural awareness will truly differentiate our young talent for the future.

So, be bold and invest in opportunities to build your own talent...

About Sagea

Established as a not-for-profit professional association in 2004, Sagea has become the hub of graduate employment in South Africa. We represent over 340 individuals across more than 200 organisations, ranging from corporate employers to higher-education institutions to solution providers and professional organisations.

Newcomers to the industry, as well as the country’s top talent management specialists, benefit from belonging to Sagea where they can personally interact with one another to share ideas and experiences. We provide our members with access to the latest graduate employment insights, trends, global best practice and resources to help them attract and retain the best talent for their businesses.

We believe in the power of sharing knowledge and human connection to advance graduate employment and elevate the careers of those involved. Making use of synergies, resourcefulness and insight, we have become the authority in the field of graduate employment in South Africa.

Cathy Sims
Email: az.gro.aegas@smis.yhtac
Phone: 087-3797163 / 083-2977740


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