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Rockstars@Work: Campus Recruiting That Really Pays Off

Before Cargill revamped its campus recruiting program three years ago, 50% of young hires left the company within five years. Now they have 100% retention. Among young employees they also have 96% offer acceptance, 0% unwanted turnover, 84% employee engagement, 32% increase in diversity recruiting, twice as many new hires receiving top performance review ratings, and a pride factor of 96%.

Before Cargill revamped its campus recruiting program three years ago, 50% of young hires left the company within five years. Now they have 100% retention. Among young employees they also have 96% offer acceptance, 0% unwanted turnover, 84% employee engagement, 32% increase in diversity recruiting, twice as many new hires receiving top performance review ratings, and a pride factor of 96%.

And all this is because Cargill acted on four key components in their campus recruiting program, explained Mark Hosmann and Sarah Cortright, the two Cargill representatives who presented “Sonic Youth: Campus Recruiting That Really Pays Off” at the RockStars@ Work Conference.

 

The first step is to attract top quality candidates.

Maintain a commitment to entry-level talent.

Don’t just send a random employee to some college job fairs and hope they snag a few takers. That is a waste of time and money, as Cargill found out. Instead, with a little strategy and extra effort, you can hire quality people and spend money more efficiently.  

 

First, make sure everyone is involved in the process and makes recruiting a priority. Cargill had meetings between hiring managers and executives to find out exactly how many people they wanted to hire, for what positions and with which skill sets. Next, decide which schools to target and how to approach recruitment.

 

Here are some ideas to make your company shine on campus and attract the right people: offer internships (as an intern myself, I’m a firm advocate of paid internships!)—not only do you get to “test” potential employees, but if their experience is positive, they will do your recruiting for you when they tell their friends.

 

Participate in mentoring programs and offer guest lectures in classrooms and clubs. Have your CEO or senior managers present at job fairs—it shows good leadership and is quite impressive. Make sure college career services are familiar with your company.

 

Finally, be creative and have fun! Cargill offered a free bar-b-que and music on campus in the middle of the day.

 

Have a strong value proposition.

 

Note: a value proposition is NOT a mission statement. Mission statements are all different versions of the same thing. Think of a value proposition as a marketing message that reflects what is so great about your company, anyway. It’s what you say when someone asks you what the best thing is about your company and you get a glint in your eyes and a grin on your face.

 

To me, this is even more important than interacting with a CEO or getting excited by a free lunch and happy employees. The values are what you as an employee can expect on the job. They can give you a hint of the business atmosphere, even before entering the building. And they are what will keep you coming to work day after day, even when it gets boring.

 

Here are various examples of positive values: working towards employee diversity, every employee interacts with top leadership, company commitment to helping employees succeed, or your products help to eliminate world hunger but cutting food costs.

 

After attracting top talent, keep them.

 

Do your promises align with reality?

 

No matter how impressive your value proposition is, if it’s not the truth you won’t keep the recruits you worked so hard to attract. Not only that, but the negative feedback will travel faster than the positive, and your company’s reputation will be tarnished for future hires.

 

To avoid this colossal mistake, take the time to evaluate your company and its goals. For example, don’t say your company is diverse when it isn’t. If this is a real value, say instead that you aspire to diversity, then invite the new recruits to participate in the process.

 

Cargill learned this when they marketed the company’s global nature and travel opportunities to students. But the reality was that while travel opportunities were present, most newbies would not begin traveling immediately. This disappointed people. To remedy that Cargill advertised its global nature, but with the nuance that travel opportunities came with work experience.

 

Finally, does your value proposition align with what Generation Y actually wants?

 

While lifelong job security might be attractive to a baby boomer, it’s not top on the list for Gen Yers.

 

Here are the eight ways Cargill tailored their values to retain their youngest employees:

  • Flexibility/choices: Offering an individualized strengths-based rotation program—no one in the program has the same experience. 
  • Connections/networking: Building formal, informal and social connections by organizing volunteer groups and sports games. 
  • Responsibility/significance: Building trust, responsibility and a sense of worth by exposure to senior leadership. 
  • Support/feedback: Offering multiple sources of mentorship based on individual needs and preferences. 
  • Development/learning/growth: Individual development plans, formal training programs and on the job learning to discover what the education gaps are and how to eliminate them. 
  • Balance: A focus on how personal values align with business needs
  • Purpose/socially responsible: Being a global leader in nourishing people, maintaining a commitment to ethics, and offering coordinated volunteer opportunities coupled with a corporate culture of social responsibility
  • Technology: Employ

ees get the tools and collaboration they need to do the job.

I bet you are thinking that this is a lot of effort for a small segment of your employees. Maybe so. But then again, your company’s success depends on your employees. And who will be your senior employees in 20-30 years? Don’t you want to attract and keep the best?

Melissa Hackenmueller
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