The number of new college grads who say they want to work for a big company has been steadily declining, from 20% in Accenture’s 2013 annual survey to just 14% this year. The rest are aiming to work for medium-sized and small companies or, better yet, startups. Why? “New grads now are ‘digital natives’ who are used to forging their own path,” says David Smith, a senior managing partner at Accenture Strategy. “They want to have a direct impact right away, on companies and customers, and they’re afraid a big employer won’t let them do that.”
They may have a point. In this year’s survey, 51% of 2015 grads told Accenture they’re “underemployed” — meaning working in jobs that do require a four-year degree, but that don’t use all, or even most, of their skills. That, too, has risen steadily since 2013, when 41% of recent grads said the same.
This came up in a meeting I had this week with a head of HR at a financial institution. This organization has a very strong reputation, is on lists of the best companies to work for, and can easily find people, but that reputation is also a curse: People consider it a great company, but because no one thinks of it as a digital leader, they can’t get the right talent. A lot of big, established companies have this problem right now.
They are now reworking their employment brand to better align with their strategic priorities so they can attract the right people to the company. I think a lot of companies with great brands need to rethink whether they have the right employment brands to attract digital and other transformational talent.