Like the Recruitment of NCAA Athletes, Businesses Investing in Talent of Tomorrow

Success in college athletics hinges on winning—coaches and players crave it, fans cherish it and financial advancement demands it. But winning relies on proactively gaining a competitive advantage over your rivals. Today, NCAA coaches and scouts not only scour the talent landscape for athletes that will immediately vault their teams to the top, but talent younger than ever before to ensure sustained success three, four, even 10 years down the road.

In 2012, then 12-year old Damon Harge became the first sixth-grader in history to earn a Division I college basketball scholarship—despite having another six years before he would even be eligible to play a minute of collegiate-level basketball. Though quite ridiculous for universities to invest thousands of dollars in adolescent athletes before they even begin physically mature, a number of successful businesses are taking a page out the same playbook and recruiting the talent of tomorrow.


Accelerating the Development of Young Talent
As one example, the Chicago STEM Cooperative operates to “build and support pathways into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) for Chicago’s young people.” When we say young, we mean really young; a survey conducted by the Chicago Foundation for Women found that, of the 88,576 students who were selected into and served by STEM programs in 2011, the greatest number of these programs targeted middle school (42%) and even elementary-aged students (34%).

Clubs, events, “inquiry-based, hands-on” courses, activities/tutoring, action plans for professional development, and other innovative and educational initiatives are built around the four areas noted above and continuously evolved to help students—over the course of several years—develop skills and competencies critical in the professional world, well before the thought of building a career enters their stream of consciousness.

College credit and AP courses have been offered throughout high schools for years, but the cultivation of even younger talent has become commonplace; students are being offered more opportunities to grow both personally and professionally from very early on in their schooling. And cognitive maturation at such a young age is leading truly proactive organizations to look to younger individuals, even current students, to fill open positions for the future.

Securing Talented Individuals Before They Hit the Job Market
In fact, we are familiar with a story related to the recruitment of today’s youths. A student who recently graduated from high school, very near the top of his class, was offered something similar to an athletic scholarship from the international behemoth that is Google. The fresh-faced graduate was told he could attend whichever college he preferred—all paid for, mind you—and seek the undergraduate degree(s) of his choosing, so long as upon graduation he would step off campus and into the aforementioned organization as a salaried employee.

Understanding the importance of quality talent, Google—listed #5 as the world’s most powerful brand (often higher, depending on the source), #3 in market value and worth more than $268.44 billion according to Forbes—is closing the talent gap by securing talented individuals several years before they even have the chance to hit the open job market. Talk about being proactive!

What’s interesting, though, in a survey (conducted by Mercer) of HR and talent management executives from 1,268 organizations representing 65 countries, only 7% say their organizations are, to a large extent, partnering with secondary education (high-school level) institutions or have programs that target students at this educational level—in order to fill their educational and talent gaps. Conversely, 57% of these HR and talent management executives say their organizations are not at all looking to the secondary-education level or earlier—potentially highlighting a still untapped competitive advantage opportunity.

Not unlike the NCAA and college athletics, the Chicago STEM Cooperative and Google, many proactive leaders in talent acquisition are beginning to come to similar revelations:

  • Reactively recruiting once an opening arises will no longer suffice; it can lead to inefficiencies, rushed decisions, employee disengagement, vacant positions and in turn overtime costs, as well as sky-rocketing staffing agency spend.
  • Successful organizations are obtaining a competitive advantage over rival businesses by being more proactive than ever before in their search for top talent.

From Analogy to Applicability
The global workforce is growing and evolving at an unprecedented rate. There are more than one billion mobile workers worldwide and an additional two million professionals willing to travel regularly for work—meaning talent is constantly migrating all over the world to work with organizations that best suit their professional and personal goals. Highly skilled and specialized individuals are already difficult to find, and such talent is only going to become scarcer as we forge further into an age of mobility, technology and continuous (seemingly daily) innovation.

The importance of proactively sourcing talent, building talent pipelines and recruitment marketing strategies, as well as actively preparing for future hiring needs cannot go unstated. Pinstripe Executive Vice President, Angela Hills, recently presented on this topic during a webinar hosted by Pinstripe. A completely free replay of the webinar can be accessed by clicking here: Talent Solutions that Drive Business and Strategic Impact.

We’re curious, how can businesses identify what skills they’ll need several years down the road? If you had visibility into the future stars of your industry, would you recruit differently at your organization? Do you think this is a risky strategy (investing in younger talent) or a brilliant one? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section!

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