gradireland Talent Summit: Employers recognising value of developing and engaging their employees

Today, Wednesday March 25th, saw the hosting of the second Halogen Software/gradireland Talent Summit, with input from industry insiders and debate from the broader talent management community. The questions of what the core challenges would be in terms of talent management for the 12 months ahead were central to the morning’s discussion, and what any possible answers would mean for both employers and employees.

The first presentation of the morning was from Katie McGrath, an account manager with Halogen Software, presenting on the future of strategic talent management. In October and November 2014  Halogen conducted a poll of talent professionals and found that less than half had a talent management strategy. 30% of the 237 polled felt that their talent strategy was not working well and 40% of those respondents said that they expected to increase their overall talent management budget as economic improvement continues. “Talent management is clearly returning to the top of employers’ priorities,” said Katie, but what are recruiters’ priorities when it comes to actually managing their employees?

Talent management priorities were identified by the Halogen research as employee engagement, training, performance management, recruitment & retention of the right people. So what does that mean for the jobseeker or employee? It means that employers are again embracing the reality that it will be hard for them to attract and retain the talent they need for their businesses. Which is good news for jobseekers with the right core skills that the employer wants. Employers are also realising that they need to engage with their employees, according to Halogen’s research only 14% of companies saw their levels of engagement as high, with 64% agreeing it was very low.

It’s interesting to see that employers are now focusing on engagement and personal development as one of their main tools in attracting and retaining talent, because Mark Mitchell, gradireland Publisher, presented research which showed that “respondents to the gradireland/Trendence student survey also viewed development and fulfilment within a job as preferable to earning lots of money and opportunities and development as preferable to perks and amenities. This reflects research into the importance of ‘buy-in’ amongst young employees. It’s not enough to do the job, they need to have a significant level of belief in the job and trust in the organisation’s goals,” said Mark.

Indeed, speaking of trust, the closing speaker at the Talent Summit was John Ryan, CEO of Great Places to Work Ireland, who spoke about the cultures and core attributes of companies what had been recognised as unique and rewarding places to work. It was trust, clarity and recognition which was most commonly identified by employees, again pointing to the importance of engagement and development. Of course, in return for this investment in employees, companies will expect to be rewarded by loyalty and performance. Striking the balance of this relationship will be increasingly important for job-hunters, employees and employers in this time of changing workplace dynamics.


Ireland’s brightest students shine at National Student Challenge

National Student Challenge Winner Matthew Foyle

National Student Challenge Winner Matthew Foyle

Matthew Foyle from Griffith College Dublin was crowned National Student Challenge winner at the annual competition held by gradireland, writes Fergal Browne.

Bringing together over 50 of Ireland’s brightest students – who were the top performers in an online assessment specifically set to mirror the qualities employers are looking for – and some of Ireland’s top graduate recruiters like Lidl and PwC, the event was branded a success by both the competitors and the graduate recruiters.

“It’s been really stimulating. The most valuable part I’m going to take away from the day is a new way of thinking in stuff like supply chain management, and communicating,” said eventually winner Matthew Foyle who was the first National Student Challenge winner from Griffith College Dublin.

Matthew, who received a cheque for €1,000, highlighted that the event is also a brilliant networking opportunity. “The networking part is vital for me. I’m applying for a lot of graduate programme positions and this is an opportunity to talk to employers about what they are looking for and how to tailor my CV appropriately”, said the 2015 champion.

The event saw six employers – Lidl, the Public Appointments Service, PwC, EY, Bank of Ireland and AbbVie – challenge students in a range of tasks and competencies which were designed to be fun but demanding.

“We have been really impressed by the standard of students here. Some of them seemed to have the complete package; brains, personality and charisma. It’s great to see,” says Susan Murdock, Graduate Programme Manager at Bank of Ireland (BoI).

BoI set students the task of designing a mobile phone app in small groups. “We are looking for imagination and creativity because these are the qualities that we look for at Bank of Ireland”, says Susan. BoI is bringing on 80 students from across all disciplines for its graduate programme. “We are happy to consider anybody from any discipline. If they have creativity, there’s a place for them here”, adds Susan.

Major pharmaceutical firm AbbVie, which has manufacturing plants in Sligo and Cork, alongside offices in Dublin and internationally, set students the challenge of working in small teams to design and fly paper airplanes.

“What we were looking for is a good attitude”, says Angela Haran, AbbVie’s Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist. “We are very much a team-orientated environment, so a great attitude is a major part,” she adds.

The importance of a positive attitude was highlighted by Lidl too. “We are looking for three things; for students to enjoy themselves, contribute to the overall team effort and throw themselves into the task”, says Lidl’s Graduate Programme Manager, Russell Palfrey.

Lidl’s inventive task involved blindfolding four students while the other team members led the blindfolded students to certain parts of the room by directing them only by using whistles. “It’s directly linked to our business because we have trucks leaving our warehouses everyday to reach our stores,” adds Russell.

“The Lidl challenge was brilliant fun. It’s a great mix between doing something fun and serious team building,” says Stephen Brennan, a final year Engineering and Electronics student from TCD who took part in the event.


Language Careers Fair a huge success for graduates and employers

IMG_1912Over 800 students, graduates and jobseekers attended Ireland’s only language careers fair, as employers got a chance to meet students and graduates with strong language skills, writes Fergal Browne.

It’s the second time gradireland has run the GRADchances Language Fair in the RDS, which this year saw 20 employers advertising jobs for those with fluency in almost every European and world language.

One of the companies at the event, Wayfair – an online store specialising in furniture – came to the language event to source German and French speakers for customer service positions for its base in Galway.

“It’s been a great event”, says Jess Delahunt, Senior Recruiter at Wayfair. “Some of the CVs I received today, I actually wrote ‘hire’ on them, because I plan on getting these candidates interviewed next week and my recommendation to managers will be the get these people on board,” he says.

Most companies at the event were seeking to recruit immediately as many are expanding their operations in Ireland. One company, Cork-based Voxpro, currently has 700 employees with plans to expand to 1,000 by the end of this year and 1,700 by 2017. “We are looking for everything at the moment. If you have a European language, we’re interested”, says Catriona Flynn, a recruiter for the company.

Claudia Escobar came to the language fair to network with employers and see what jobs are out there. She arrived in Ireland from her native Mexico three and a half years ago and is finishing up her degree in Business Studies with a specialisation in Marketing at Independent Colleges in May.

“I’m really interested in doing either marketing or human resource management. I’ve been really surprised by how friendly all the employers are here. They are happy to answer all my questions and it’s given me a really great idea of what I can do with my Spanish and English when I finish college”, says the Mexican native.

Almost all the employers agreed one of the most difficult languages to source great talent for is German due to the large amount of positions available for those with that language.

“This really surprised me”, says Kyra Maron, originally from Nuremburg, Germany, who is studying European Studies in Trinity College. “Straight away when I told employers I speak German, they wanted to take my email address and were telling me how much they need German speakers. It’s really eye-opening to see how in demand the language is”, she says.


Meet your future employer at Ireland’s only language fair

The Higher Education Authority will be at gradireland's GRADchances language fair again this year

The Higher Education Authority will be at gradireland’s GRADchances Language Fair again this year

Ireland’s biggest language event is just two days away. The gradireland GRADchances event brings together Ireland’s most prestigious language employers with students and graduates with fluency in over 60 languages. One attendee of last year’s event tells us how one quick chat turned into a full-time job, writes Fergal Browne.

Mariana Reis went to the 2014 GRADchances Language Fair expecting to get a good chance to talk to employers and to explore future career opportunities.

Born in Brazil’s biggest city, Sao Paulo, she moved to Ireland at 19 in order to improve her English. Six years later she’s still here and works full-time with the Higher Education Authority (HEA) after a chat with a HEA recruitment member at gradireland’s Language Fair.

At the time of the gradireland event, Mariana was still in college just finishing up a four year International Business and Spanish degree in DIT. “A career advisor told me about the Language Fair and recommended I talk to the HEA. They actually told me they weren’t looking for anybody at the time but I gave them my CV anyway,” she says.

The HEA rang her two weeks after the Language Fair and after a quick meeting had “two/three weeks” of part-time work which got extended to June, and finally turned into a full-time position after she finished college in June.

Mariana points out that the best thing about learning foreign languages is that you learn for personal fulfilment and satisfaction, but then the skills can be transferred over to your professional career.

“I love learning languages. I actually never thought of learning languages for my professional life. I’ve done it because it’s such a magnificent opportunity to meet lots of different types of people and have great experiences. But now in my working life, I’m beginning to recognise how it can enrich my workplace experience as well”, says the native Portuguese speaker.

“Having foreign languages opens up more possibilities to expand into different things and just makes you and the company a lot more flexible”, says Mariana. The Brazilian graduate speaks four languages fluently; her native Portuguese, English, Spanish and Italian. She uses all four languages day-to-day dealing with clients and students across Europe and in her native Brazil.

“Be able to speak in the other person’s language is great customer service. You make your client feel comfortable and ensure nothing is lost in translation,” she says.

Mariana advises all students with languages to go to the gradireland event. “It’s a great opportunity to meet employers and even just to understand the types of jobs out there”, she says.

gradireland’s GRADchances Language Fair takes place this Wednesday, March 4th! For more information and to register for the event for free, visit the Language Fair website.


Irish education: What’s the score?

With studies giving contradictory conclusions on Ireland’s educational performance, questions remain about the quality of education at a time when the Irish economy needs to complement its return to growth with skilled jobs, writes Fergal Browne.

At the recent Irish Economic Policy Conference 2015 in the Institute of Banking, work by Tony Fahey (UCD) entitled “Family and Fertility in Ireland: A Human Capital Perspective” highlighted both positive and negative study results with regards Irish education.

The Pisa education study of the 35 most developed countries in the OECD, which measures amongst other things literacy and numeracy of 15 year-olds, found Ireland to be the fourth best performing nation in these measures.

Coupled with this, Ireland has the fifth highest birth rate in the OECD. Only Mexico, Turkey, Chile and Israel have higher rates.

This, according to Fahey, left Ireland in the unique position of all the countries studied in having high birth rates and strong educational performance.

While that seemingly bodes well, Fahey pointed to another more recent study, entitled PIACC, which presents Ireland’s educational performance poorly. The study, unlike Pisa, measures the numerical and literacy ability of adults not 15 year-olds in developed countries. It found Ireland is the third worst performing nation for educational aptitudes amongst developed nations and well below average overall.

“The only way we can explain this contradiction between the two studies is that they are not looking for the same factors”, says Fahey.

Taken together, these major comparative studies give unclear conclusions of Ireland’s educational performance.

Meanwhile, concerns have been highlighted that students are not being taught the necessary work skills at third-level, especially with regards the high-skilled multinational sector.

25,000 more people are employed in the multinational sector now than in 2011 meaning it comprises 10% of Ireland’s total workforce.  Multinationals favour employees with strong problem-solving skills most, something Irish students are below average at compared to other developed countries, according to both of the above mentioned studies.

The American Chamber of Commerce has highlighted concerns previously about Ireland’s skill shortage. In 2011, it said US companies in Ireland were looking for 2,000 skilled workers, particularly in IT, but the jobs could not be filled due to the lack of the required skill set in the Irish economy. This was at a time when 440,000 people were on the live register.

In response the government launched the Springboard initiative where the state subsidises students who wish to study in areas where there’s a skill shortage.

The complexity of Ireland’s educational difficulties and bridging the gap between education and working skills is highlighted in a further OECD study, which showed Ireland has the highest amount of 25-34 year olds in Europe who have finished a third-level education course.

Conversely, at 21% Ireland also had the highest amount of NEETS, which are 15-29 year olds who are neither employed nor in education or training, according to the 2012 study. The average in developed countries is 15%.

Despite these difficulties, the perception amongst the American multinationals based in Ireland remains extremely positive with the belief amongst the 400 members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland is that we are getting it right both politically and economically.

“The key ingredient most acknowledged by the parent companies back in the US is the ‘can-do’ attitude of the Irish workforce”, Mark Redmond from the American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland told The Irish Times.


Why languages can make a difference to your career

Joanne Grant, managing director JCDecaux Ireland, Philippe Milloux, director, Alliance Francaise Dublin, Minister Dara Murphy, Gerry O'Sullivan, head of international education, HEA and Sinéad D'Arcy, Jameson graduate programme manager

Joanne Grant, Managing Director JCDecaux Ireland, Philippe Milloux, Director, Alliance Francaise Dublin, Minister Dara Murphy, Gerry O’Sullivan, Head of International Education, HEA and Sinéad D’Arcy, Jameson Graduate Programme Manager

The gradireland languages event, Wednesday, March 4th, is a great opportunity for those with two or more languages to meet some of Ireland’s best employers, writes Fergal Browne.

The GRADchances language fair, in partnership with the Higher Education Authority (HEA), is Ireland’s only dedicated language careers event, bringing together over 20 of Ireland’s top employers with bilingual and multilingual graduates and students.

In an increasingly global and connected world, and with Ireland one of the world’s most open economies, the ability to speak a foreign language is seen as a massive asset, in any sector.  “Whether in business, entrepreneurship, the EU institutions or international organisations; having a second language can open up doors to all sorts of varied careers at home and abroad”, says Minister for European Affairs and Data Protection Dara Murphy who speaks four different languages; English, Irish, French and German.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Gerry O’Suillivan, Head of International Programmes at the Higher Education Authority, HEA, as well. “The ability to communicate effectively is essential to forging successful relationships. To be able to do that brings a competitive advantage and is extremely useful in building trust and confidence with our overseas partners”.

The Irish business and employers association, Ibec, actively promotes the use of foreign languages amongst workers and hopes the gradireland event will raise awareness amongst students and graduates about how important language learning is for the Irish economy and their future careers.

“Ireland is one of the most open, globalised economies in the developed world, so competitiveness is key. Our companies need to be proficient in the language of their customer”, says Tony Donohoe, Ibec’s Head of Education, Social and Innovation Policy.

“Six years ago the European Council challenged us to move away from an ‘official but lame bilingualism’ of English and Irish to a society where the ability to learn and use two and more languages is taken for granted”, he adds.

Last year’s gradireland languages event attracted over 700 bilingual and multilingual graduates with fluency in 76 languages with some meeting their future employers at the event.

“I introduced myself to the HEA, had a brief chat with them and just left my CV with them not expecting much”, says Mariana Reis from Brazil who graduated from International Business and Spanish in DIT in 2014. Two weeks later she received a phone call which led to part-time work while she finished her degree. She was made full-time at the HEA as an Executive Officer last June. She uses four languages in her role; her native Portuguese, English, Spanish and Italian.

Recruiters will be looking for graduates across a range of sectors particularly engineering, marketing, sales, legal, management and IT while the major European languages, Mardarin and Russian were the most sought after languages, although employers emphasise any foreign language is a major asset.

For more information on the event, see the language fair website.


Combining a postgrad and work with distance learning

Distance LearningDistance learning in postgraduate education has risen in the last decade on the back of greater flexibility and suiting the needs of the modern worker, writes Fergal Browne.

Distance learning has increased massively in recent years. The Open University (OU), the oldest distance learning university in the British Isles, is now the largest academic institution in the United Kingdom and Ireland catering to almost 250,000 students, 50,000 of which are overseas.

OU was first created in 1969, so the concept is not new but with the rise of fast and ubiquitous internet, the advantages of this style of postgraduate learning has increased, especially for people working full-time.

“It’s ideally suited to full-time workers”, says Susan Sharkey from the Open University Ireland. “Nowadays, all the courses are online and we are across a whole range of degree subjects. There’s a massive support network for students whether by phone, email, online forums or online classrooms with all materials supplied, and the majority of courses provide a one-on-one tutor. We have amongst the highest student satisfaction rates in the UK and Ireland”, she says.

Unlike in universities where you have to go on campus and attend lectures at set times, in distance learning, students can tailor their degrees with their work needs. “You take it on a module-by-module basis. It’s stretched over a longer period of time so you can fit it around your working schedule”, adds Susan.

Patrick O’Hare studied an undergraduate degree in Marketing in DIT and moved into a full-time marketing position at an SME after finishing university. While there, he did a Postgraduate Diploma in Digital Marketing at the Digital Marketing Institute.

“My undergraduate degree covered all aspects of marketing so I wanted to specify and felt digital marketing was a growth area and something I’m passionate about”, says Patrick who set up his own website shortly after finishing the postgraduate diploma. “It augmented the experience I was getting in my role at the time and with it I was able to implement my own marketing strategy as a result,” he adds.

Patrick says he was never concerned that the degree wouldn’t be recognised by employers in the same way that a degree in a ‘bricks and mortar’ university would. “You do hear stories about degrees that have no accreditation whatsoever, but I was comfortable this wasn’t the case here. It had a lot of accreditation and from my research seemed to be really valued by employers”, says Patrick.

“In the past that perception was there but that’s just not an issue anymore. All the courses are FETAC-accredited and on the same level as any other university in Ireland. The only piece of advice we would give is that, as students study with us from across the world, make sure the degree is recognised in your country. But in Ireland, that’s never an issue”, affirms Susan.

The Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing course is mixed between distance learning and attending the tutorials in the institute. “The tutorials take place at the weekend so you could attend if you wished. But they were all recorded so you could watch online later. It was really good and flexible in that sense,” says Patrick. “Separately they also did what were called ‘webinars’ where all the students would login remotely and a lecturer would be live and answer any questions that a student typed in”, he adds.

This flexibility extends to the range of modules students can do too. “STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) have been big in the last few years. For example, you get a lot of teachers looking to do a topic they haven’t covered in an undergrad, for example, maths. So they go to the Open University, get the qualification and they have permission from the Teaching Council to teach the subject. We get that a lot in business and management too”, says Susan.

Funding distance learning is often tailored to the need of full-time workers. “A 60 credit module course would cost in and around €3,000 at the Open University”, says Susan. “But that includes everything. All course material and there’s no relocation or commuting costs. Students can pay monthly, the state gives tax relief for further study and in a lot of cases employers fund the course in part. There are a lot of options”.


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