Liz Field: Social media is essential to attract the next generation


Your social media communications strategy should be seen as the shop window of the 21st century.

Increasingly, companies without an effective online presence and recruitment plan are at risk of being ignored by the best of today’s (and tomorrow’s) talented young students and graduates.

Ensuring access to quality information is essential to ensure a promising future and diverse workforce for the financial services sector. And students and graduates are now expecting that companies match them in using effective online communications skills.

A report from the CIPD (in association with Business in the Community) published in April found that young people value more open recruitment channels, such as social media, above more traditional means of recruitment such as corporate websites and online job boards.

And, according to Potentialpark’s annual Online Talent Communication study 2013: “Today’s graduates are miles ahead of the employers in using career websites, social and professional networks as well as in their open mindset for smartphone usage.”

Potentialpark surveyed 26,874 students and graduates in the US, Europe and Asia regarding their attitude towards online, social and mobile recruitment and tested the online presences of 694 top employers. It reported the respondees “expect employers to follow them and to pave their personal way to the right, fulfilling career – they go online for the perfect match.”

To successfully navigate around the myriad opportunities in the financial services sector, students and graduates must be able to easily access detailed information about the various jobs available in our sector. Because they feel at home with social media, young people expect employers to use the same communication channels, including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. By ensuring accessible online information and advice, we can open many industry doors for young, talented people, which will ultimately benefit the entire financial services sector.

Recognising the need for such cross-generational online experiences, the Financial & Legal Skills Partnership, in consultation with employers and educational institutions, created the online scheme ‘GetInGetOn’. It is a virtual work placement scheme for 16 – 19 year olds, with eight interactive, engaging online learning modules. Launched in May 2013, the programme has already made a difference to 150 young people.

As an online scheme, GetInGetOn can reach a much wider audience than traditional work experience schemes. Young people can get information about roles in the sector, raising their hopes and aspirations, while dispelling some myths.

It also enhances employability skills through sector specific mentoring from an industry-trained e-career mentor.

In the Further Education arena, professionals’ request for help to enhance career opportunities resulted in FLSP’s ‘Directions’ online, a one-stop shop for up-to-date, expert information on careers in the sector. It is becoming the ‘go-to’ online place for young students and graduates to find out which employers are offering work experience, sponsored degrees, school leaver programmes, apprenticeships, internships and graduate schemes.

In addition to an online resource, Directions also shows young people how they can access ‘real world’ opportunities, such as regional events for students and careers advisers, and careers workshops in schools.

The Confederation of British Industry’s quarterly Service Sector Survey reported that the business and professional services sector saw business volumes rise at their fastest pace since November 2007. Firms are expecting to expand their business to the greatest extent since February 2006.

Talent attraction can be an expensive process. By ensuring young people can easily access the information and work experience they need, and using online communication tools, we can maximise their career opportunities, while enhancing the sector’s growth and diversity.

Companies with an effective social media communication strategy will be able to reach the majority of students and graduates who are eager to work in the sector.

Providing online access to jobs and careers information and guidance is a multi-channel, multi-media strategy that will help increase employer branding and attract the best-of-the-best young talent to forge rewarding paths into the promising future of the financial services sector.

As we better dress our online ‘shop windows’ for enthusiastic young people, businesses will realise the real-life benefits of virtual, online communications. As the economy picks up and unemployment begins to fall, ‘online-savvy’ companies will be better prepared for the upcoming war for talent. When firms can be found in places where talented young people are looking for them – online – they have a better chance to recruit world-class talent, rather than risk losing it to the competition.

Social media is the essential modern tool that may play some small part in finally bridging that well-documented gap between generations and successfully attract eager young people into a progressive, developing and successful financial service sector career.

Liz Field is chief executive of the Financial & Legal Skills Partnership