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Comcast's winning early talent strategy is an engine for growth

Today’s enigmatic labor market is increasing pressure on HR and talent acquisition executives across industries.

Just as businesses began to prepare for an impending recession, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its startling July jobs report. The 528,000 jobs created in July 2022 have driven the unemployment rate down to a 50-year low. Qualified talent continues to be in short supply, and the economic future still looks uncertain.

But innovative companies are still driving their talent programs forward—and getting results. Comcast’s Central Division, for example, has continued to stand out with diverse, qualified talent, including 67% of hires from underrepresented backgrounds and increasing applications to jobs on Handshake by 150% in the past two years. How? By rethinking talent strategies to find qualified candidates in new places.

Comcast and other forward-thinking companies are strategically tapping into a large pool of talent that’s often passed over: workers with zero to two years of experience. An estimated 12.3 million people graduated college between 2020 and 2022—well over the 10.7 million open jobs the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in June. Recent grads can go a long way to close the talent gap now and in the future.

Opening opportunities to this early talent demographic doesn’t just lead to a wider applicant pool. It also yields lower hiring costs in the short term and can reduce leadership talent acquisition spend in the long term. If given sufficient growth opportunities, these rising leaders are likely to stay with the company into their middle-management years. A recent Handshake study found that on average, Gen Z workers will stay at a company for three years, but they’ll more than double that tenure to an average of 6.5 years if presented with growth and advancement opportunities.

With the right strategy, HR and talent acquisition executives can confidently build a successful early talent strategy to grow today and stay competitive tomorrow. Comcast’s Central Division shows us how.

Treating talent strategy like a team sport

Comcast’s Central Division has been strategically investing in early talent, growing its program and expanding its reach over the past few years. When asked about the role early talent plays at Comcast’s Central Division, Aryeh Lehrer, Comcast’s VP of Talent Management and Acquisition, said the program has become a critical pillar of the company’s overall talent strategy.

This strategic focus on early talent is building long-term competitive advantage for Comcast, especially considering changing workforce dynamics, which are rapidly accelerating. By 2030, SHRM predicts that 85% of the jobs that will be needed didn’t exist in 2020. And the workers doing those jobs will be shifting as well—by 2030, Gen Z is projected to make up 30% of the workforce, and everyone in the Baby Boomer generation will be 65 or older.

“Our Division Senior Leadership saw a real opportunity to leverage early career talent as a critical component of our overall people strategy. We saw an immense value in the investment in supporting our long-term business needs and commitment to a diverse and inclusive workforce.”

Aryeh Lehrer, Comcast’s VP of Talent Management and Acquisition

At Handshake, we often describe talent acquisition as a team sport—it takes alignment across the entire organization to create transformational talent programs that deliver strong results. Aryeh says Comcast’s Central Division is no exception. “Because we had support at the highest levels, we were able to leverage our leaders as champions as we drove the strategy further into our business. This was critical to the initial success of the program.”

The value power of early talent

Even with strong leadership buy-in, the stakes for the expanded program were high, starting with internships. “There was some initial uncertainty from business leaders about how well our interns would convert to full time employees following their graduation,” Aryeh said. But the program has delivered—conversion rates have kept pace with industry averages, and over 50% of Comcast’s Central Division’s interns are diverse, compared to the average of just 37%.

And Comcast’s interns are delivering strong results. “Many of our interns have helped shape how we operate as a business and as a team by creating new tools, systems, and processes that have ultimately been adopted into our standard business practices. Impactful outputs like those are what really began to turn heads and allow our leaders to see this new talent segment as a critical element of their workforce strategies,” said Aryeh.

Beyond internships, Comcast’s Central Division also supports the Strategic Operations and Accelerated Rotations (SOAR) Program. They designed this program as a unique entry point for interns—post-graduation—to gain hands-on experience and exposure to their business. The 12-month rotational program enables new professionals to work as a full-time employee in their respective discipline, while learning more about the business. Comcast’s Central Division began this program, in partnership with their Division Finance Leadership, as a cohort specific to Finance and have since grown to include other disciplines like Business Analytics and Intelligence.

Comcast’s Central Division’s strategic focus on early talent is paying off. In the last two years, the company has increased its early-talent outreach on Handshake by nearly 5x, doubling its job views and growing applications by 150%. Partnerships with Minority Serving Institutions are driving up Comcast’s diversity hiring numbers—answering the call from senior leadership and Gen Z workers. As of May 2022, 67% of Comcast's overall hires were racially diverse and 44% were women. And, thanks to its stand-out early talent program, Comcast was designated a2022 Early Talent Award winner.

Building your future workforce

Check out the video below to learn more about how Comcast is designing its jobs and company culture for the next generation of talent. Watch Aryeh Lehrer’s conversation with Lauren Nunes, Chief People Officer of Twitch, Maria Flynn, President & CEO for Jobs for the Future, and Megan Leonhardt, Senior Reporter at Fortune. You can also rewatch all of the sessions from Handshake Access 2022 to get even more insights on the latest early talent trends.

Whether you’re planning for the future of work, working to increase diversity, managing the skills gap, or looking for new ways to spark innovation, early talent has the power to play an important role. Regardless of your specific challenges, Comcast’s early talent strategy can inspire ways to address your workforce needs and hone a competitive edge, now and in the future. To take the next step in future-proofing your workforce, reach out to one of our talent experts.

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