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Geoff Curran
Geoff Curran

Practice Leader

Published

13 November 2023

What should HR leaders look for in junior talent?

How future-proofed is your workforce? Here Geoff Curran, Practice Leader for Gerard Daniels in Sydney, explains which skills, attributes and qualities business leaders should be prioritising in junior recruits.

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At a glance:

  • Many of the skills and attributes that employers look for in junior talent remains consistent over time.
  • Diversity, curiosity and human skills like empathy and critical thinking are essential for future proofing the workforce.
  • Employers must also create work environments and cultures that attract and retain the next generation of top talent.

In 2023 as many as five generations can be actively participating in the workforce, driving multigenerational approaches to recruitment, talent development and retention. But as leaders consider bringing the next generation of talent into their organisation, what should they be looking for?

Here we invite Geoff Curran, Practice Leader for Gerard Daniels in Sydney, to share some of the skills, attributes and qualities that leaders are prioritising in junior recruits. Geoff also considers how organisations can accommodate the needs of future workers, to continue to attract and retain top talent.

What do we need from future recruits?

As the business landscape continues to change, new skills will always be needed within the workforce. However, Geoff believes that much of what leaders look for in junior talent hasn’t changed significantly over time. “Talent has always been assessed on the ability to work well in a team environment; to collaborate; communicate; build relationships; bring original ideas and appropriately future-proofed skills – all of which apply equally today to junior and more experienced generations of workers,” he says.

In addition to these factors, what else is likely to shape future recruitment?

Diversity

Building a workforce that is diverse in every way is one of the most effective ways to future proof an organisation. “Diversity leads to organisational performance through better decision making, better retention, and better levels of engagement,” says Geoff. “Recruiting diverse talent is also important for building inclusive workplaces that reflect the communities we operate in, and this requires leaders to actively seek junior talent that is neurologically, culturally and gender diverse.”

Curiosity

The hiring decisions that bring graduates and junior workers into an organisation are based less on proven performance, and more on their potential and workplace readiness. But to enable the necessary learning and development of junior employees, Geoff argues they must possess a natural sense of curiosity and an appetite to learn. “As well as fueling the learning journey, people who are curious tend to have more flexible attitudes towards change, better problem solving ability and a stronger inclination towards innovation,” he says.

Human skills

Despite growing innovation around automation and AI technologies, the uniquely human skills will always rank highly for junior talent. “As economies mature and the service sector continues to grow, there will always be a need for people who can engage with people; build relationships; learn and grow; and deliver on the more human requirements within our workforce,” says Geoff. “Qualities like empathy, emotional intelligence, adaptability, critical thinking, creativity, people and interpersonal skills are all gaps that technology can’t easily fill, are strengths that business leaders should continue to look for in all future talent.”

Future skills

When many of the technologies that organisations will rely on don’t yet exist, how can leaders assess the technical skills of the future workforce? “When new employees enter the workforce, they might be tested for digital literacy, analytical thinking, computational thinking and problem solving ability, which are skills that remain critical in most industries,” says Geoff. “To allow the future workforce to quickly develop the necessary technical skills, business leaders may also look for complementary qualities, like a general aptitude for technology and an openness towards change.”

Creating environments where junior talent want to work

The competition for top talent will always be tight. The challenge for business leaders in future proofing their workforce is therefore to create a work culture and environment that attracts and retains the next generation of talent, and where this talent can thrive.

Diverse representation

“Diversity is once again an important factor, this time in talent retention, because reflecting a wide segment of society helps incoming talent to feel valued and at home amongst peers,” says Geoff. “With younger workers increasingly making values-based decisions on what they do and where they work, leaders must also ensure that the culture and values of the organisation are authentic, and that they align with the genuine employee experience.”

Cultural fit

For smooth transitions into employment and good cultural alignment, employers should be clear on the expected workplace behaviours. “Junior employees may have less exposure to the work environment, so it’s important for employers to articulate and role model the expected behaviours and social norms from the outset,” says Geoff.

Learning and development

Having opportunities to learn and grow is another critical factor for junior talent, and an important aspect of talent attraction and retention. 

“When you take on graduates and other junior employees, you must accept there will be a learning curve. You must also take responsibility for creating development pathways and finding ways to deliver on the training and development commitment that you make,” says Geoff. “To achieve this and allow new recruits to live up to their potential, formal learning, development and mentoring plans should be designed and implemented for all junior employees. These plans should then be reviewed and refined throughout the first 24 months.”

Despite good intentions, Geoff often sees younger workers left to their own devices.

“Training and developing people takes a level of time and commitment that can be hard to deliver on, particularly for smaller organisations,” he says. “The ability for organisations to use senior employees to develop and mentor the employees that are just starting out in their career, has also been impacted by the number of longer term employees still working from home in the wake of COVID.”

“When organisations don’t, or can’t follow through on these commitments, junior employees can easily become disengaged, lose their appetite for growth, underperform, or leave the organisation in search of opportunities elsewhere,” Geoff continues. “Ultimately, the better your understanding of what junior talent needs, and the more you can invest in finding the right people and supporting their growth and development, the greater value they will offer to your organisation in the long run."

To discuss your unique talent strategy, coaching and development needs, connect with Geoff or reach out to your local Gerard Daniels team.

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