Now's not the time to reduce investment in your talent pipeline

MIE CEO Michelle Baron-Williamson says talent management remains business-critical.

South Africa is well into the fifth month of the national lockdown measures implemented to combat the spread of the novel Coronavirus. With a higher acceptance of the realities of our new normal, businesses are actively working on their recovery strategies – and recognising that talent management remains a key component to this. Not only will the right talent, in the right positions, with the right support be critical to business recovery, but bringing the best possible graduate talent ‘into the fold’ enables longer-term success.

News of private sector retrenchments – together with the fact that students have largely not been able to attend classes this academic year – may lead one to believe that graduate opportunities for the remainder of 2020 will be limited. However, businesses that offer graduate programmes, as part of their talent management strategy, are likely to continue with their plans for 2020-21, even if it is at a reduced scale. This highlights the need to appropriately assess graduate candidates to ensure businesses can still gain maximum impact from their respective programmes.

Talent pipelines are still open

Graduate recruitment programmes are important for fast-tracking employees to a more senior level or bringing in new, young talent, for businesses that take a sustainable view of talent management. And we are still seeing these opportunities arise.

In fact, according to the SAGEA Employer Benchmarking Survey 2020, a third of employers surveyed confirmed that their primary purpose in recruiting graduates is to fast-track them into a leadership development programme.

The survey further qualified that the employers surveyed had on average received up to 2000 graduate applications for this year, with a quarter of employers receiving more than 5000 applications each.

Attracting the right graduates can often mean screening over 80 applications per vacancy, and selecting graduates that are a good fit from both a skill set and a corporate culture and values, point of view - which is already a challenge for many businesses.

The right tools for the job

Coupled with specialist advice, companies need tools that will enable them to streamline their screening, assessment and selection processes to assist recruiters with early identification of key strengths and development areas. It is also important to have capabilities that allow recruiters to gain insights into each candidate’s potential performance metrics and to better assist recruiters in working with companies when it comes to candidate onboarding and putting the right support and career development structures in place.

Bringing good entry-level talent into a business is still a key part of successful, sustainable talent management. I am confident that graduate opportunities will remain despite the challenges brought about by the novel pandemic. However, for businesses and graduates to get the most out of these programmes going forward, it will be necessary to put support in place that is adapted to the changed way of working, to supplement existing programmes and fast-track each candidates’ personal professional development in this ‘new normal.