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Human Capital

Talent management is critical to recruiting

by Corinne A. Marasco
November 3, 2008 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 86, ISSUE 44

A Sept. 19 story on Business Week's website declared that "a talent strategy is now as important as a marketing or finance strategy for corporations operating in today's multi-polar world." That strategy must encompass recruiting and retaining not just high performers but the entire workforce. The corporate recruiters who talked with C&EN shared some strategies their companies use to enhance the overall success of their recruiting programs.

Recruiters visit campuses throughout the year, sometimes making multiple trips. "We spend a lot of time on college campuses—career fairs, company presentations, meeting with student organizations—because new graduates feed our talent pipeline," says Robin Lysek of Air Products & Chemicals. She says the company visited about 40 campuses in North America this year. The company's corporate headquarters is in Lehigh Valley, Pa., and the company recruits in California, Texas, Louisiana, and Florida, close to its locations.

Emily Niu of DuPont says the company's particular needs determine which schools its recruiters visit. "The mix of schools may change, and we cast our nets far and wide," she says. "We also post our positions in schools that we may not visit."

Companies recognize the need for sustainable programs on campus, Dow's Sue Sun-LaSovage says. "Our leadership realized that if we have a strong pipeline, we can get the best talent who can fill more experienced-level jobs in the future. We've made a commitment to hire the best people from universities and to create an employer brand on campuses. We try to go not only when we need to hire."

Internships play a major part in a company's recruiting program, and it's easy to see why. "Intern relationships help us attract and retain new college graduates," as well as help students learn about and adjust to working in industry, Occidental spokeswoman Stacey Crews says. The company plans to increase intern recruitment for 2009.

Air Products has a robust co-op and intern program that employs 100 to 150 students, Lysek says. "We hope that exposure to our culture will encourage them to work for us after they graduate."

Converting co-ops and interns to full-time employees has been a successful strategy, Eastman's Sharon Cooper says. She says the company also sends alumni to campuses to recruit, which has proven to be a great way to attract new employees.

A primary challenge for any company is retaining talent. Companies such as Shell, DuPont, Air Products, and Procter & Gamble have various career development opportunities to help new hires succeed. At Air Products, for example, new graduates have the opportunity to try different assignments in a rotational program. The program offers three one-year assignments in various areas to help young graduates decide where they would like to work within the company.

"We have a learning and development culture at Shell, so a new hire will actually continue growing with us," Cary W. Wilkins says. When someone is assigned to a first position, the company has already assessed areas for improvement, and that information is used in the first year's development plan crafted with that person's supervisor. A new hire may have even been signed up for a course before the first day at work.

With 120 scientific disciplines represented at Procter & Gamble, the company has set up Communities of Practice (CoPs) that are designed to leverage core competencies across its businesses. The mission of CoPs is to make connections for problem solving, exploit technological innovations more easily across business units and R&D, stay on top of emerging technologies, and advance both individual and collective technical knowledge. In all, P&G has 22 CoPs in areas ranging from analytical science to wipes and substrate products.

"CoPs are a really effective tool to link up the organization," says Nick Nikolaides, manager of doctoral recruiting and university relations for P&G. He adds that some CoPs have seminar series to bring in speakers or hold problem-solving and poster sessions to bring people together, including people from P&G locations overseas.

Hiring today means keeping one eye on the future, according to recruiters. It means aligning hiring projections with business needs and being dynamic enough to change as processes and technology do.

"These are not just jobs we're filling," Shell's Wilkins says. "These are employees who will develop and grow to fill our business needs beyond just their first few years, and, we hope, become leaders down the line."

Cover Story



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