A New Set of College Graduates Is Entering the Market – Are You Ready?

Here are four recruitment and retention strategies to put the right people on your team.  

Gone are the days of “employer choice,” where organizations freely select whom they hire and when. Today’s workforce is different. This spring, we will have a new group of college grads looking for the best fit for them. So, for those of us looking to hire from this population, we need to remember it’s about meeting their needs, fulfilling their personal passions and creating a sought-after culture.

Here are four points — two to help with recruitment and two to help with retention — that you can do to help ensure your organization is positioned for future team success.



  1. Be honest and transparent during the hiring process

Find the right person from the beginning. Easier said than done, but the alternative is going through the painstaking process of posting position descriptions, phone screening and reference checking all over again. Don’t just hire to fill a spot. Have patience and hire the right person.

That means asking tough questions and really listening to the candidate. Read body language. Ask them to elaborate on what a good fit is for them. Understanding what your prospective team members are really looking for is key. And then being honest about whether you can truly offer that is crucial. Be clear for their sake and yours. Having these conversations up front will make for a great onboarding process, honest conversations and an ideal team dynamic.     

  1. Celebrate your culture

What does your organization do that’s different, special or unique? How do you describe your culture? Focus on that. Culture is big. Organizations want to promote an environment that employees relate to, enjoy and believe in. And they want to know that your culture is aligned with a purpose. Can you articulate what that is? If you want a really great example, read up on what Patagonia is doing. CEO Rose Marcario gives good insight on her take on purpose in the March/April 2018 issue of Fast Company, which lists Patagonia among the “The World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies.”

Share your culture and purpose with prospective employees and see if that’s the type of working environment they’re interested in. Are they looking for Ping-Pong tables and on-site lunches? Or are they looking for professional development opportunities and an independent working environment? Others value remote working options, flexible schedules or volunteer hours. And more than ever, prospective employees are valuing a cause that you support and stand behind. There’s no right or wrong. First, you need to define your culture (hint: do this by starting with your current employees). Then, you need to own it. And communicate it. Again and again.



  1. Listen to your team

Really listen to them. And if they aren’t talking, create the conversation. Ask for their feedback and take their suggestions. They’re often hearing and seeing things you don’t even know to ask about! They’re your front line — your eyes and ears. They’re keeping a pulse on what’s happening — with customers, clients, community and industry. And often, they’re waiting for an invitation to tell you all about it. You value their opinions, but do they know it?

Make sure each team member knows their opinion is appreciated and that they matter. We were recently at a client planning session when a client’s team member brought forward an amazing recommendation. He said he’s been working on it for months. When asked why he didn’t share it sooner, he said, “You didn’t ask.” So, are we asking enough? And when it makes sense, act on their recommendations — and then give accolades as publicly as possible because everyone enjoys a pat on the back. 

  1. Encourage personal and professional development

List your direct reporting team members. Next to each person’s name, write down their personal and professional goals. Stuck? You now know what the primary topic of your next one-on-one conversation is. Understanding personal and professional goals can help you advance your team members. Advancing your team members will advance your organization. Once you know what they’re looking for, you can encourage and support their growth. Our company often recommends reading the book “The Dream Manager” by Matthew Kelly as a team and then using that as a platform to find out more about your team members’ dreams — personal and otherwise.

Once you know, you can support these dreams, even if they don’t have a direct tie to work. This personal development can be just as important as professional development and can also create employee loyalty.

You might also encourage community engagement. What causes do they wish to support that also align with your organization’s? Perhaps you can make an introduction to get them on a board or committee to expand their network — and, therefore, your company’s. Do they want to improve a skill? Align that goal with their professional responsibility and invest in a conference or workshop, furthering their abilities in an area that’s of interest to them.

Being deliberate about recruiting, retaining and supporting your team builds a culture of success. These four steps will get you started. And along the way, remember that through good communication you’ll enhance team-member engagement.


Rachel Sonnentag is a Strategic Communications Consultant at O’Connor Connective. She is also a 2016 Future 15 recipient. She’s been recruited by Bridget O’Connor, owner of O’Connor Connective and previously with St. Norbert College, three times throughout her career. For the last four years (and counting!) she’s been at O’Connor Connective helping others find the best way to communicate for results. Learn more at oconnorconnective.com.



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