Bosses offer pay rises and hybrid options to retain interns and graduates

Employers in Ireland are increasing pay and offering flexible hybrid work options in a bid to retain talented young workers who have job security fears due to unknown AI impacts, according to a new survey by Aon and HPC Global.

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Flexible hybrid work options and higher wages are key tools in retaining talented younger workers unsettled by job security fears over AI, according to Aon’s ‘2023 Irish Early Careers Report’ survey of 35 of Ireland’s leading companies.

Conducted with people development expert HPC Global, Aon’s careers report found widespread unrest relating to AI’s possible impacts, with only 17% of HR professionals saying the technology will have a positive role in recruiting graduates, interns and apprentices.

In the past 12 months, 77% of organisations increased pay and benefits for graduates, interns and apprentices. Some 37% of employers see retaining graduates as the top challenge facing their early careers programmes.

Dean Callaghan, managing director of Human Capital Solutions, Aon Ireland, said: “The recruitment of early careers talent including graduates, interns and apprentices is critical to the future success of every business. These individuals make an impact where it matters most, from shaping company culture to providing the next generation of company leaders.

“As technology revolutionises the world of work and business, employers face important choices in how to hire and train this talent to build more resilient workforces for the future.”

Dean Callaghan, managing director of Human Capital Solutions, Aon Ireland, says employers see the retention of early careers talent, including graduates, interns and apprentices, as critical to the future success of their business.

Aon and HPC Global’s ‘2023 Irish Early Careers Report’ surveyed 35 large companies from more than 17 industries, collectively employing some 65,000 people across Ireland. The survey suggests that employers are evaluating their Employee Value Proposition (EVP) to address the high rates of attrition among graduates and interns.

Companies are also striving to address people’s fears over unknowns within AI. Many have plans to upskill their staff to engage with AI, viewing it as an opportunity rather than a threat.

“While most HR leaders are uncertain on how to harness the benefits of AI, it is clear that businesses will need to place greater emphasis on understanding and unlocking the potential of AI to retain early careers talent,” said Dean Callaghan.

“AI can and will play an increasingly important role in shaping early careers programmes. Addressing the skills gap will enable employers to fully benefit from the productivity gain of AI and other technologies. Developing transferable skills and upskilling can ensure that the next generation of early careers talent is well positioned to drive organisational success.

“At Aon Ireland, we’re proud to support organisations across the country in making better decisions and ensuring that the young talent hired today has the skills and potential to thrive through future changes and drive business growth. By implementing the key recommendations in today’s report, employers across Ireland can maximise the value of early careers talent and build a resilient workforce fit for the future.”

The ‘2023 Irish Early Careers Report’ survey found that many HR leaders are reviewing hybrid working arrangements in a bid to support talent retention. They’re also reminding young workers of the benefits of learning in person from peers as part of their long-term development.

With unemployment near a historic low, however, employers are having to compete hard to attract and retain talent. Thus, 77% of organisations increased the pay and benefits for graduates, interns and apprentices in the past year. This was also in response to the rising cost of living.

“Pay increases alone are not sufficient in competing for talent. When ranking Employee Value Proposition (EVP), the key factors that support candidate attraction and employee engagement, pay was only ranked as the fourth most important factor by employers,” said Dean Callaghan.

“Nearly half of employers rank career development opportunities as the most important part of their EVP to attract early careers talent, indicating the importance of creating clear paths for progression within organisations. Programme structure (46%), branding (37%), and salary and benefits (34%) complete the top EVP factors organisations rely on to attract high-calibre talent.”

The report also found that continuous professional development is key to developing in-demand skills among early careers talent. Mentoring, formal workshops, self-directed learning, and projects are the top four learning approaches used by employers.

This multi-faceted approach to skills development taken by most employers helps meet individual learning needs and contributes to improved skills outcomes, Aon’s report stated.

When evaluating the skills critical to business success HR professionals primarily leverage internal methods such as interviews with stakeholders (66%), past experience (51%), and job analysis (43%).

As new technologies reshape the skills market, benchmarking against external areas such as skills research and talent market analysis is becoming increasingly important to ensure organisations are equipped for the future. Only 34% of organisations are currently using external research to inform their skill needs.


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