Engaging youth international talents in the workspace – Lessons learned from recruitment

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After four years of working with AIESEC, the world’s largest student run organisation, it’s clear to me that the world of talent is changing: starting from how we attract and recruit people to how we manage, reward, and motivate them for their future careers.  

At PwC, we started working with AIESEC over 40 years ago, recruiting international talents who were looking to develop their leadership and who wanted to work across borders and understand other cultures. Working in our organisation, they were also able to relate to what is happening in their specific local environment and individual projects and understand how to apply themselves to the job at hand. All in all, our experience with recruiting international talents with these characteristics for internships from AIESEC has been one of the mutual benefits with interns often being offered permanent roles at PwC at the end of the internship.

In my opinion, an organisation’s ability to reach the next level of growth and success is closely connected to its ability to find and recruit international talent. These individuals can relate not only to their own local surroundings but also to the bigger picture which is important in today’s world of globally-connected markets and products. They also add a multicultural perspective to your workforce which often brings new impulses of creativity and innovation.  

When considering international recruitment, the most important question is “how to find the right talents”? I believe that, first of all, it’s crucial to know what you need and what you’re looking for. Employers also need to think really carefully about what they expect for each position! The advice is simple: don’t employ someone with great creativity and innovation, for example, if the job does not require this – they will simply feel under-exploited, get bored and leave.

One of the key findings in the second edition of the Tomorrows Leaders Today piece, a survey answered by Presidents of AIESEC’s National Entities and linked to PwC’s annual CEO Survey, shows that AIESEC’s  young leaders consider many existing HR systems and processes simply not fit for purpose when it comes to recruiting and retaining this pool of talent. Organisations need to understand what motivates youth and adapt their recruiting processes accordingly.

The recruiting process is not just about attraction, but also retention. Another very important question to ask yourself is: how do we engage with youth international talents and improve their work experience on a longer term basis?

I am certain that every person is born with potential and that we, as organisations and employers, have to provide opportunities that empower young people to decide and dedicate themselves to their expected future outcomes, unlocking their highest potential. On this topic, it’s also interesting to read PwC’s Young Workers Index, published in October 2016, where you can find discussions on how governments and businesses can even get rewarded by bringing higher numbers of young people into the employment and training market.   

For me, leadership development, coupled with career and talent mobility opportunities, such as those we offer at PwC, may be one of the secrets for youth talent retention. Nevertheless, it’s also important to set expectations: a difficulty often faced by young talents is being asked to work on a relatively small part of the puzzle instead of immediately being involved with the organisation’s vision and strategy where they believe they could make good use of their international backgrounds. Not every job can be an international “jet-setting” strategic position. Therefore, young talents need to understand how to work on the smaller picture, whilst gaining experience and skills to be an increasing part of the bigger picture. In this way, they are developing their leadership in a way that is also relevant for the organisation. Attention: do this in a way that does not dim their enthusiasm, innovation, and creativity – a difficult balance!

From my contacts with young international talents, I believe we need to consider the following topics when recruiting and engaging them in our workspace:

  • Know your organisation’s needs: define your requirements and have a clear job description when starting your attraction process
  • Understand what motivates your new talents: make sure you provide an engaging and positive employee experience
  • Unlock the human potential: offer challenging tasks and environments which enable learnings, such as personal and professional growth
  • Watch and assist their development: provide constant feedback and performance analysis in order to mentor their development, both short and longer-term.

I hope my learnings and reflections, based on my past years of experience in working with young talent, especially through AIESEC, may give you some insights on where to focus when engaging young international talents in your workspace. More importantly, I hope it gives you some hints on how to combine forces between the new recruits, full of energy and passionate talents, and more experienced employees, in order to achieve great things together.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal views of Philip Sladdin and do not necessarily represent those of the PwC network.


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