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New research uncovers influences on talent in 'AI age'
Tue, 16th Jan 2024

Handshake, the early career network, recently released new research exploring what university students and recent graduates seek from their potential employers.

Extracts from this study, titled "Early Talent Careers Influences in the AI Age," based on findings from over 2,000 students and recent graduates, are revealing dynamic shifts in what attracts the early talent pool towards potential employment opportunities.

According to the study, 48% of early talent are drawn to opportunities that incorporate AI tools into job roles, whereas 55% are deterred by negative company reviews. Crucial factors such as flexibility, work-life balance, and company reputation play a significant role in their decision to apply for a job, often overshadowing the importance of salary alone.

It was found that a negative review could potentially halve an employer’s candidate pipeline as 55% of early talent reported they would be discouraged from applying if they encountered negative narratives about a company from current or former employees.

In addition to this, more than half of those surveyed (54%) took into consideration the proximity of their place of work and commute times when applying for a role. 50% stated that flexible working options would make them more likely to apply.

Furthermore, almost half (48%) agreed that they would be more likely to take a job at a company that allowed them to utilise AI tools in their work. This mirrors worldwide predictions that generative AI could potentially lead to a 7% increase in global GDP, indicating a substantial opportunity for employers to invest in the AI capabilities of their early talent.

The key to reaching early talent lies in direct outreach, with 71% expressing a preference for receiving information from potential employers through one-on-one in-person discussions. Beyond this, two-thirds (66%) also favoured digital communication through direct messaging and email, and 62% enjoyed seeing potential employers at on-campus events, workshops, and careers fairs.

The report also highlighted the secrets to retain early talent. Key considerations included promoting a healthy work-life balance, with 56% of students and graduates identifying this as a deciding factor to remain within a job or organisation. Other factors included good professional relations (47%), competitive salaries and pay hikes (46%), and job security (44%). However, only 28% stated continuous learning opportunities as a factor for staying in their roles.

Christine Cruzvergara, Chief Education Strategy Officer at Handshake, said, "Today’s early talent is willing to walk away from a job if it doesn’t completely match their expectations." She believes the insights gained from this research could enable employers and educators to more effectively engage with new and emerging talent, thereby unlocking the benefits of the next generation in the workforce.

Mary Curnock Cook, CBE and Chair of Pearson UK, added, "The preferences for location, salary, progression, responsibilities and flexible work of today’s students and graduates are clear; they’re demanding of their employers that they step up to meet their needs." She underlined the valuable findings from the Handshake report, stating that it provides much-needed guidance for employers looking to recruit early talent and gain an upper hand on AI and digital skills.

As the landscape of career development and talent acquisition undergoes significant change, driven in part by societal shifts and advancements in AI, businesses are tasked with meeting early talent where they want to be met, ensuring their offering aligns with what students and graduates are seeking and willing to stay for.