• Developing and Managing a Diverse Early Talent Strategy

    by Pattie Giordani
    NACE Journal, September 2013

    Employers know they can leverage their internship programs to feed college hiring. But they can get an even greater head start by developing early identification programs to feed their internship programs.

    Prudential wanted to explore more opportunities to grow and develop talent and future leaders by creating ways to attract college freshmen and sophomores to the firm, thus feeding its intern and college recruiting.

    Prior to 2000, Prudential had a robust, centralized campus recruitment program. After going public in 2001, the firm experienced some organizational changes. From 2001 to 2007 staffing was outsourced, meaning campus recruiting was owned by the business lines.

    "In 2007, the company started to return to a centralized campus recruitment function," says Cristina Rodriguez, campus recruiting, Prudential. She adds that the campus recruiting team faced some challenges:

    • The business lines didn't want to give up control,
    • There was a lack of knowledge of the campus recruiting process and timeline, and
    • The team was unsure of what constituted success in campus recruiting.

    The team gained support for the campus program from the business lines by developing consistent and detailed metrics aligned with business objectives, telling the story through data, demonstrating measurable results, and showing the value of campus recruiting programs.

    Campus Recruiting Strategy - Early Talent Identification

    The campus recruiting team developed a campus recruiting strategy to identify, attract, and hire top college students to feed the firm's leadership pipeline. Supporting that strategy were three initiatives:

    • Core Schools: Recruit talent from Prudential core schools that historically yielded the best results.
    • Internship Program: Build a direct pipeline of intern candidates to possibly convert to full-time employees.
    • Early Talent Identification Program: Establish a long-term channel of talent through early exposure to Prudential.

    Campus recruiting engaged the business and corporate departments in exploring more opportunities to grow and develop talent by focusing on internship headcounts and trends, and developing full-time hire forecasts.

    "The actuarial group took the lead on these programs," Rodriguez says. "They knew every employee should support the programs-it's not just staffing's issue. There's ownership at all levels and that will help us reach our goals."

    Any organization interested in developing such a strategy should consider the scale and sustainability of the programs, know its position brand perception in the marketplace, and learn from other companies that have launched similar programs.

    Eventually, Prudential developed two initiatives, the Peak Leadership Conference and the Actuarial Success Awareness Program (ASAP), to identify and build relationships with undergraduates. In addition to fueling the talent pipeline, the programs also tie in with the organization's overall diversity goals.

    Criteria for both programs are similar. Candidates must be a freshman or sophomore in a four-year undergraduate program, have a 3.0 GPA, and have a strong interest in financial services or a business career. The program also has a focus on the diverse student population (i.e., women, persons of color, veterans).

    Prudential Actuarial Success Awareness Program

    "Started in 2012, the Actuarial Success Awareness Program (ASAP) is a one-week program that introduces diverse mathematics or actuarial science students to an actuarial career and provides financial support through scholarships and funded programs," Rodriguez says.

    "Our actuarial group wanted to be proactive to ensure they have the diversity that corresponds with Prudential's diversity and inclusion policy." So the firm partnered with Spelman College, a strong HBCU with a focus on math and sciences, and built a relationship with one of the math professors. A Prudential representative went into the classroom to speak about actuarial careers. In addition to the one-week conference, there is a paid internship and scholarship.

    The program offers students exposure to actuarial exam preparation, job shadowing and professional skills training sessions, team building and social activities, mentoring related to education, and career advice. Since its inception, Rodriquez says Prudential has made a few changes to the ASAP.

    "Participation increased because we decided to use Peak overflow. ASAP had eight attendees in 2012, and four of them received an offer for internship," she explains "Our chief actuary officer advocates for early talent-actuarial also took two of the 'Peakers,' leveraging the candidate pool from Peak."

    Peak Leadership Conference

    The mission of the Peak Leadership Conference is to provide underrepresented candidates early exposure to Prudential, its business, and potential career paths. During the three-day conference, the firm raises awareness of Prudential as an employer and begins to build relationships with these students.

    At Peak, students are introduced to senior leadership, informed about career paths within the firm, helped to understand their own leadership potential, and given direct access to internship opportunities. Activities include lunch with mentors, a welcome dinner, and a breakfast with an upperlevel official. There are also workshops on personal branding, networking, business etiquette, interviewing, and resume building. A business case about Prudential is also presented.

    In 2013, a day was added to the program (in the first year, it was a two-day conference). "Participants indicated adding another day would allow them more time to network with executives and campus team," Rodriguez explains.

    "Participants' interview skills were assessed and they experienced business etiquette during meals-many upperlevel executives participated in those events. We added 10 more students (from 40 to 50) in 2013," Rodriguez says. Those 50 students were from 33 different colleges from across the country.

    "Also, we include the goal of teaching financial literacy. Millennials may not be prepared for retirement, it's something they don't think about," she adds. "We offer a session in layman's terms in both the ASAP and Peak Conference to ensure they're saving and thinking about the future."

    Rodriguez adds that Peak is a strong pipeline for the firm's internship program, which comprises 150 to 175 interns each year.

    Program Metrics

    Prudential set high, but reachable, goals in the first year of these programs.

    "We are tracking the amount of applicants that we receive and, then how many of them actually do get converted to full-time hires," Rodriguez says. "The goal for Peak in 2014 is 40 percent, and right now [2013] we're at 24 percent."

    She says the ASAP goal is a little higher; the recruiting team wants to see at least 50 percent of participants receive an internship at Prudential.

    The recruiting team also surveys Peak participants, the results of which contributed to extending the program to three days.

    "Feedback is a gift," Rodriguez says. "They told us they wanted more information along with in-person interviews."

    Over the course of the two years that the programs have been in existence, 12 students out of 88 have received internships. Rodriguez is optimistic that these numbers will increase for each subsequent year.

    Further Steps

    For ASAP, the team expanded the search to Howard University and included Peak applicants to help increase the number of participants.

    "We also focus on spring freshman and sophomore events, attend freshman experience classes, and set up a monthlong Facebook ad for the programs," Rodriguez says. "We also leverage our existing employees—those in various Business Resource Groups, such as Asian, Black, Hispanic, and/ or LGBT—they could refer a child or others in the community."

    Rodriguez says that some of the highlights of ASAP include 100 percent diversity, as well as all female participants the first year (2102).

    "In 2013, we opened up the programs to other universities besides Spelman, still 100 percent diverse but now 50/50 gender-wise," she says. "We had an influx of applicants, applications increased by 100 percent (200 in 2013, 400 in 2013). The actuarial group interviewed, screened and selected the participants.

    And just because a participant is no longer in the program, he or she will still be considered for an internship. "Once a 'Peaker' always a 'Peaker,'" Rodriguez says. "The 2012 class will still be considered. We already have that pipeline so we might not have to go to schools. Our feeling is before recruiters go on campus, they have to look at the Peak participants. And the actuarial group is on board with that."

    Prudential's programs are still relatively new, but with the buy-in from top leaders and the promising initial feedback and conversion to intern numbers, the recruiting team is confident of future success as well.

    Pattie Giordani is an associate editor at NACE. She can be reached at pgiordani@naceweb.org.

    Copyright 2013 by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. All rights reserved.

Developing and Managing a Diverse Early Talent Strategy