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Building your talent pipeline is a long-term investment in your marketing organization

Focusing on the basics often gets a bad rap.

In today’s climate, the demand for immediate gratification and on-demand results can make the humdrum of disciplined follow-through seem like a luxury many can’t afford. But this follow-through is vital to cultivating your most crucial relationships — especially when it comes to recruiting and retaining talent.

Fight the urge to move fast to find and hire that marketing superstar. Although the desire to expedite is obvious, I caution all of us to step back and reconsider, given today’s shifting dynamics.

Ever since Steven Hankin of McKinsey famously coined the phrase “the war for talent” in 1997, there’s been an ominous cloud hanging over executive and talent teams. Fast forward to today: with a healthy economy and strong jobs reports month after month, combined with the dramatic demographic shifts as Baby Boomers leave the workforce (at a rate of 10,000 daily), that war for talent is not just here, it’s raging. For every new worker entering the workforce, there are two jobs waiting to be filled. Just think about what that means for your organization and the fact that these projections are expected for another 15 years, at least.

As you consider how to tackle these challenges, a smart and cost-effective investment in young talent should be a major part of your marketing plans. Building your talent pipeline is an essential weapon in your arsenal as you battle for talent. Here are three areas to rethink to bolster your pool of young talent.

Interns aren’t just temporary help

Whether you’re securing that first candidate for a 10-week summer session or expanding your program, interns bring a lot more to your organization than supporting the social media team and updating your contacts list. In the short term, students’ enthusiasm and excitement is infectious, elevating the morale of those throughout your organization. Over the long term, they’re your best source of entry-level talent, and often have high retention rates.

Don’t just take my word for it. If you do have a program, assess your success. Track results such as hiring, performance, and retention as compared to other employees.

Diverse candidates are a too-often untapped wellspring of talent

The benefits of diversity cannot be overstated. It has been well documented that diverse and inclusive talent enhances your organization’s effectiveness. What has not been covered as broadly are the benefits of academic and geographic diversity. Are you hiring from a diverse pool of academic institutions? Do you have different regions of the country represented on your team?

Consider that student who is attending college on the opposite coast or in middle America and is headed back to your region for the summer or returning after graduation. Consider the one who has always dreamed of living in your headquarter location or regional areas. Do you have access to these pools of candidates? If your college recruiting is limited to local or a handful of colleges, you’re limiting yourself from the start. Partnerships with associations and other third-party organizations will not only increase your pipeline, but it will also significantly augment your prospects and influence your organizational results.

Partnerships with professors are often overlooked

We at Marketing EDGE are often surprised that so many businesses don’t invest in professors. Think about it: through one successful relationship with a professor, you have the potential to reach (at a minimum) 50 students per semester. Professors have a direct line to these young candidates. They can influence pathways, connecting young professionals to you and, in turn, enriching your talent pipeline.

But you can take the relationship one step further: consider serving as a speaker or sponsor of academic-focused programs with 50 – 100 professors from schools nationally or globally and you’ve just exponentially expanded your reach to 2,500 – 5,000 students per semester and the lifetime value of your investment.

Also consider investing your and your team’s time through classroom visits, speaking opportunities, and student mentoring programs, as well as substantive classroom projects (such as marketing and academic research challenges) to expand and deepen students’ learning and experience — which also support their professors.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint

Accessing and retaining talent is challenging in the best of circumstances. Just like running a marathon, establishing your goal, designing your plan, and following through increase your likelihood of success as you work to build a rich pipeline of next-generation talent. Taking advantage of the knowledge, resources, and relationships available to you and your organization sets the stage for success.

It is an investment of time, effort, money and commitment but the returns are rich and satisfying on every level.

Take action today. Commit to a paid internship program, diversify your talent pipeline by including academic and geographic diversity, and identify professors to initiate or build a relationship with this semester. Adding one or all of these activities to your recruiting plan will start to shield your organization as the talent war escalates. You’ll reap the rewards, and so will young talent.

Terri L. Bartlett is president of Marketing EDGE

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