Category Archives: Talent pipeline

Underutilized Recruitment Marketing Tactics

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A recent SmashFly publication, the SmashFly Recruitment Marketing Report Card for the 2016 Fortune 500, came across my desk a couple of weeks ago. And if you’re involved at all in recruiting talent, you’ll find it interesting.

It’s easy to assume that the Fortune 500 are among the most effective recruitment marketers out there. But if you made that assumption, you’d be wrong! This report card is pretty interesting. SmashFly, the recruitment marketing automation software company, has pulled together some fascinating information and graded some of the most well-known employers in the U.S. on their recruitment marketing. It’s pretty fascinating stuff.

In addition to grading each of the employers – by the way, only 4% of the 500 received an A! – this analysis also provides an abundance of good and best practice examples from some of the most admired companies around. The three categories that caught my attention were Best Practices, Emerging Practices, and Untapped Practices.

The Untapped (used by less than 20% of the Fortune 500) Practices are fascinating:

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SmashFly points out that 20% of the Fortune 500 send regular communication to leads – but only 1% send content other than job alerts. The opportunity to build lasting relationships by sending other types of content – like company news, employee stories, and other valuable subjects – exists for all employers. An obvious quick win would be to automatically send email reminders to candidates who haven’t completed their applications. This simple automated outreach can enable a 15% increase in job applications!

The opportunities for greater recruitment success seem obvious, and include some of these:

  • Fortune 500 employers are doing well with SEO, but 51% (!) don’t optimize their job landing pages
  • 48% of the Fortune 500 never send an email to leads in their database after the initial confirmation email
  • Referral calls-to-action on job descriptions are under-utilized, missing big opportunities to drive referrals from both employees and candidates
  • Only 14% of Fortune 500 employers have a blog or other resources about their application processes

Examples of effective recruitment branding from employers that are highlighted in the report include companies like Exxon Mobil, Intel, Lockheed Martin, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Pepsico, HP, Marriott International, and Comcast.

This report contains recommendations that you can begin to implement today to increase your recruitment marketing success. You may not have the budget of a Fortune 500 recruitment department, but you can certainly begin to adopt best and untapped practices to become more effective and to have a wider choice of talent.

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Filed under China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Fortune 500, Hiring, Recruiting, Recruitment Marketing, Smashfly, Talent pipeline

How Bad is Your Succession Management?

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84% of organizations report having a lack of candidates in the pipeline ready to assume open and critical positions.

That’s not good, folks. As we wring our hands on the lack of talent in the external pipeline, perhaps we should be spending more time attending to the skills and development of the folks already in the organization!

Laci Loew, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Brandon Hall Group, recently published their State of Succession Management 2015. If your organization is in the 84% of organizations above, this report will be helpful in laying out the challenge, what and how high performing organizations in this regard are executing differently, and how to think about the first steps of moving your succession planning needs forward. The report is a great read and has some pretty terrific content and data included.

This graph gives you a taste of what you can expect in terms of getting started as well as what successful outcomes are from both succession management and business focus perspectives.

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The report outlines 7 critical findings of Brandon Hall’s research on this topic:

  1. Talent pipeline health continues to threaten leadership continuity.

  2. Succession management commitment is on the rise with prioritization for a formal strategy for all parts of the organization.

  3. Technology is under-utilized, hindering efficiency of succession management.

  4. Successor development as a critical component of succession management is improving.

  5. Lateral mobility takes center stage as a critical successor development strategy.

  6. Using predictive analytics to proactively plan for critical position vacancies will separate organizations with effective succession management from less effective organizations.

  7. Today’s succession management budgets are modest at best, but expected to expand significantly over the next 12 months.

The insights fleshed out in each of these key findings are critical reading for any talent management professional. And you’ll also get some useful data to use in building the ROI for succession management investment in next year’s budget.

The report is published by Skillsoft and can be accessed here. At 34 pages, this is a solid piece of analysis and a useful and highly practical read.

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Filed under Brandon Hall Group, China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Laci Loew, Skillsoft, Succession Planning, Talent Management, Talent pipeline

Supply Chain Management: Closing the Skills Gap

Data Point TuesdayIt’s an issue that organizations seem consistently faced with today: a lack of skilled workers that can further their growth, success, and ability to compete with competitors. This “skills gap” is explained by the U.S Chamber of Commerce Foundation | Center for Education and Workforce’s new report, as a result of education and workforce systems in the U.S that are failing to keep pace with the changing needs of the economy. So how do we remedy this talent shortage and close the skills gap? This is a hot topic among organization leaders and management, and USCCF’s report offers an interesting strategy that, while different, may be an actionable way for organizations and institutions to start remedying this challenge. The strategy proposes to apply a supply chain management approach to talent, leveraging lessons learned from innovations in supply chain management and engaging employers to expand leadership roles, acting as “end-use customers” of education and workforce systems. USCCF’s approach, dubbed talent pipeline management, is expected to provide more effective transitions for students into the workforce and improved career advancement for current workers. Talent pipeline management foresees a demand-drive approach to closing the skills gap. This approach is intended to create and share value among all partners in the talent supply chain.

USCCF’s report states that 92% of executives believe there is a serious gap in workforce skills, and nearly 50% are struggling to fill jobs. If left unaddressed, they hypothesize that the skills gap could cause more than 5 million positions to go unfilled by 2020, an issue likely to be exacerbated by increasing retirements and a shrinking workforce. Employers, however, have substantial resources they can leverage to engage this demand driven system. Employers invest upwards of $486 billion each year on training that is almost exclusively focused on upgrading the skills of their current employees.Investment in Workforce Education and Training

USCCF points to a supply chain management approach to talent recruitment and development to help organizations stay competitive in today’s economy, explaining that, “The conditions driving that perspective—such as growing business uncertainty and longer lead times to fill positions—are similar to the challenges that led to innovations in supply chain management”.

Three key foundational principles are identified as forming the basis of a demand-driven system, and provide the framework for the “talent management pipeline”:

  1. Employers Drive Value Creation—Employers play a new leadership role as the end-customer in closing the skills gap for those jobs most critical to their competitiveness.
  1. Employers Organize and Manage Scalable Network Partnerships—Employers organize and manage flexible and responsive talent pipelines in partnership with their preferred education and workforce providers.
  1. Employer Measures and Incentives Drive Performance—Employers work collaboratively with their partners to develop measures and incentives designed to reinforce and improve performance across all partners.

For employers to be successful in this strategy for talent acquisition and development, they must link their talent strategy to their business strategy:Identifying Core Capabilities

Each capability may require a different sourcing method, and USCCF’s report urges organizations to move away from talent acquisition strategies of the past like “spot marketing” through job posting and screening:Talent Pipeline Strategies

Once organizations have developed talent pipeline strategies, they should decide what can be done in-house and what should be done through external partners:Simple vs. Extended Value Chains

Once a talent pipeline network and demand planning system is in place, organizations must measure performance the of this system based on whether they are meeting the needs of the end-customer and creating value across the full network of partners, looking at factors such as time, cost, and quality across all internal units as well as education and workforce partners. Organizations can additionally support their leading providers through incentives (such as work-based learning opportunities, performance-based funding, and equipment) as well as through continuous improvement strategies.

For more detailed information on the implications of the talent management pipeline on key stakeholders such as education and workforce providers, students and workers, and policymakers, make sure to check out the U.S Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s full report.

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Filed under business strategy, China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Talent pipeline, Workplace Studies

CEO Insights: The Bumpy Road to ALWAYS ON

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PWC’s 17th annual global CEO report “Good to Grow: 2014 US CEO Survey”, provides a thorough snapshot of executive leadership perspectives and approaches at the current moment. PWC’s report includes perspectives from over 1,300 CEOs from 68 countries, including 162 CEOs with US-headquartered organizations. It’s clear from the responses that, globally, CEOs are making many changes within their organizations. For example, 86% of CEOs stated that advancing technologies are going to transform their businesses over the next five years. Positively, PWC’s data also suggests that CEOs are finding reasons to be more confident in many places (89% of US CEOs are fairly sure their companies will deliver revenue growth this year). In this period of rapid change though, what approaches are CEOs taking, and what insights can they offer?

The majority of CEO’s interviewed reported that “five great forces of transformation” are reshaping business as we know it:

  • Technology is making an impact across the whole enterprise.
  • CEOs are reinventing the operating model towards an “always on customer experience.”
  • CEOs are seeking new ways to work together in joint ventures and alliances to capture disruptive technologies faster.
  • In some cases, the business model is being innovated.
  • There are rising concerns about talent.

As organizations undeniably shift into a period of growth (62% expect to hire more people this year, the highest level of anticipated headcount expansion in the past five years for this survey), how do these five great forces of transformation come into play?

All CEOs seem to agree, that technology is what propels business, and will continue to do so. PWC states that, in part, “Technology” is a watchword for 2014 because CEOs use it when talking about both core innovation and information technology (IT). Technology has become an essential part of strategy in all areas – for organizations pursuing new business models, meeting new customer expectations, remaking their operating model, forging new alliances, or tackling talent challenges.

pwc-Technology

 

CEOs are reshaping business models though innovation. They are taking cues from the technology industry that has paved the way by creating value for customers in a multitude of new ways. Organizations are looking to create increased profit for what they offer beyond step-by-step product innovation, and they are stepping out of the box to innovate in ways such as turning a product into a service, or vice versa. New approaches to innovation and R&D are part of an increased strategy by many US CEOs in 2014. For example, some organizations report funding innovation incubators to foster rapid prototyping of new ideas, while others report wanting to join up with emerging market innovators who are developing low-cost products.

PWC’s survey also indicates that customer strategies will get a serious makeover in 2014, with 52% of CEOs reporting that they are planning to change their customer growth and retention strategies. As creating a positive and personal customer experience only continues to increase in value (and as a standard of expectation) more organizations will see CEOs leading them toward a strategy of customer interaction. This will move away from stand-alone transactions to a sustainable “always on” relationship with customers. While CEOs plan out such new strategies, they are also discovering that most current capabilities are “fair game for reinvention.” The vast majority of CEOs are already debuting a fair number of change initiatives with a focus on moving away from rigid structures towards more nimble, adaptable operations.

pwc-reinventing-operations

Business alliances and joint ventures also appear as a CEO noted trend for 2014 – within the U.S. and globally. 42% of CEOs surveyed report that they plan to enter a business alliance/joint venture this year while only 4% expect they’ll exit an existing relationship. CEOs are also looking at acquisitions, with 39% of US CEOs planning to complete a domestic acquisition in 2014 and 28% planning on a cross-border deal.

A last trend to note from this survey is in regards to talent. I’ve talked about the talent acquisition “crisis” or “war on talent” in past posts, and unfortunately, PWC’s CEO survey does nothing to dispel this issue. 70% of US business leaders report being concerned about the availability of key skills. This compares to 54% that said so in 2013.

pwc-skill gaps

Despite continued economic uncertainty both within the U.S and globally, PWC reports that the number of US CEOs who believe that global growth is returning has more than doubled since last year, perhaps indicating that organizations are successfully finding a path forward. It is also clear from the research though, that this is a time of intense transformation, which encompasses a wide range of organizational areas and strategies. The ability to navigate such transformational trends is vital for organizational success. So while the overall sentiment is positive for growth, the ride to get there is going to bumpy. Are you and your teams ready to be “always on?”

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Filed under 100 Best Companies to Work For, Business Success, China Gorman, Connecting Dots, Data Point Tuesday, Engagement, HR, HR Data, Information Technology, Talent pipeline

From the Archives: We can’t succeed without Millennials

This was a very popular post from April, 2012. The data is pretty much the same. And it bears repeating.

Managers and supervisors (especially in the Baby Boomer cohort) in almost every type and size of business have been known to lament the lack of loyalty and so-called business savvy in the Millennial generation.

  • “They want to be promoted too fast!”
  • “They don’t want to pay their dues!”
  • “They don’t understand how things work!”
  • “They want too much flexibility!”
  • “When things don’t go their way they quit!”
  • “Why won’t they stay?”

The bottom line is that organizations are finding it challenging to keep Millennials engaged and on the payroll.  In fact, with the average employment tenure of workers in the 20-24 year -old age group at 1.5 years (per the BLS), it’s challenging to keep all our employees engaged and the on the payroll.  (See my previous post on the Quits vs. Layoffs gap.  It might not be what you think!)

Achievers and Experience Inc. fielded their annual survey of graduating college students in January.  The data are eye opening.

Despite what we think we know about them, the vast majority of these about-to-enter-the-workforce Milllennials would really like to stay with their next (in most cases, first) employer for 5 years or longer!  Wait.  What?  Look at the chart below:

47% of the 8,000 college graduating respondents in the Achievers/Experience Inc. survey indicated that they expected to stay with their next employer five years or longer.  Note the language:  expect to stay not would like to stay!  That means when they join our organizations they have every expectation of making a career with us.  They’re not just accepting a job.  They’ve evaluated our EVP (Employer Value Proposition) as a match for the meaning they want to create in their lives through their work.  (Interesting to note that the biggest percentage of respondents expect to stay with their employer for 10+ years!)

So, OK.  This has got to be their youthful exuberance and relative inexperience speaking, right?  Well, I wonder if that really matters.

Employers need these Millennials.  Employers need these Millennials now.  Employers will need these Millennials more every day.  (See my recent post here.)

And employers need them to stay a whole lot longer than 1.5 years!

So what happens between “I expect to stay with my employer for 10 or more years…” and “…after one year with the organization I’m leaving for a better opportunity”?  I think we all know that answer to that question.

We don’t live up to the EVP we sold them.  We don’t engage Millennials the way they tell us they want to be engaged.  Instead, we…

  • make sure they fit into our existing career paths and job descriptions
  • focus on making sure they “pay their dues” – the way we did
  • keep our processes and rules rigid and unbending – and only pretend to listen when they offer up “different” ways of working
  • resist the notion that work can be done with excellence anywhere but in a cubicle
  • make it difficult for Millennials to interact with senior leaders
  • make it difficult for Millennials to collaborate with colleagues
  • designate social responsibility activities a perk instead of a foundational value
  • try to “lure” them to stay with tenure-based plaques and timepieces

These data are a wake-up call for employers.  It’s a message from our talent pipeline that they really do want to engage with us; they believe our employer brand marketing messages; they want to learn and grow with us.

It’s time to listen harder and make sure our employer brand messages aren’t experienced as bait and switch tactics.

I don’t know about you, but I’d hate for the Millennials to have such negative employment experiences at the beginning of their careers that they opt out of organizational life altogether before they’re 30.  We’d really be in a pickle then!

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Filed under Achievers, Baby Boomers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Business Success, China Gorman, Demographics, Employment Data, Engagement, Millennials, Rewards & Recognition, Student Job Search, Talent pipeline, U.S. Department of Labor

High Cost of ‘Mal-employment’

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Professor Andrew Sum from the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University has done a great deal of research on the effect of the most recent recession on the youngest cohorts in our economy.  (I wrote about other of his research here.)

A recent CNNMoney article highlighted some interesting data from Dr. Sum’s most recent research efforts. And it has to do with the ability of recent college graduates to enter the economy in jobs that require their degrees.

Recent college gradsWith unemployment still above 7%, it’s not hard to understand that young people armed with a newly minted degree and little experience are having a hard time connecting to jobs. People with degrees and lots of experience are having a hard time connecting to jobs.

While we know that the data regarding the lifetime earnings differential for college graduates is a compelling argument for college attendance, the “mal-employment rate” together with the student debt-load most graduating college seniors are burdened with might be making young people have second thoughts about investing in a four year degree. And that’s bad news.

The Lumina Foundation tracks our progress towards attaining the national goal that 60% of Americans obtain a high-quality postsecondary degree or credential by 2025. And in 2011, the last year for which the data are complete, the percentage of Americans between the ages of 25 and 64 with two- or four- year college degrees was 38.7%. Our goal is 60%. Our current level is 38.7%. That’s really bad news.

Add to this the expectation that 65% of U.S. jobs will require some kind of postsecondary education by 2020 – and it’s really, really bad news.

These are difficult data points at the intersection of jobs, education and the talent pipeline. And they should be motivating us – all of us, in or out of HR – to think better about our workforce. Our organization’s workforce and our nation’s workforce.

Mal-employment might be the least of our worries in 2020.

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Filed under China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Education Deficit, Job Creation, Talent pipeline

Candidate Experience vs. the Black Hole

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A couple of months ago I shared some data from an Aberdeen Group report about benchmarking quality of hire best practices here. It’s a great benchmark list of outcomes.  But how about the inputs?

More specifically, in terms of quality of hire, how about benchmarking the quality of the candidate experience? Call me crazy, but it seems to me that a higher quality candidate experience translates into a higher quality of hire.

As background, The Talent Board was formed in January 2011 to assist recruiting organizations in understanding and evaluating the experiences of their candidates.

“While there is an inherent dissatisfaction that comes with rejecting employment candidates, the Talent Board believes that it is possible to:

  • Treat all employment candidates with professionalism and respect
  • Shrink the recruiting “blackhole” effect on candidates.”

The Talent Board founders, Gerry Crispin, Elaine Orler and Ed Newman and their colleagues have just produced the 2012 Candidate Experience report from their survey and awards program.   In its second year, the research was based on survey responses from 90 companies (up from 57 in 2011) and more than 17,500 completed candidate surveys (up from 11,500).

To be clear, that’s 17,500 candidates for employment answering questions about their experience as an applicant in four defined phases of the talent acquisition process:

  1. Candidate attraction
  2. Expression of interest
  3.  Candidate dispositioning before the finalist stage
  4. Candidate evaluation & selection

The report gives data from the employer questionnaire as well as from the candidate questionnaire.  As examples, here are two such questions.  Interesting to note the differences between employers and their candidates.

CandE Emp #34 Cand #20

But for most, the topic of most interest is the infamous “black hole” – that old familiar experience of applying for a job by filling out an application on line, attaching a resume to an online application or email, or using snail mail to send in a resume … and never getting a response.   Worse, the black hole could happen after a phone interview.  Or after a face-to-face interview.  At the entry level.  At the professional level.  At the executive level.  Yes the black hole is everywhere. In every industry, geography and size of company.  We’ve all experienced it. And we’ve all derived meaning from it.

The 90 employers that participated in the Candidate Experience Survey last year are paying attention to the black hole.  And while a boilerplate email message from a “do not reply” address notifying an applicant that they won’t be a candidate is only a smidge better than the black hole, bad communication is better than no communication and it’s a baby step in the right direction.  The report goes on to show guarded optimism that while some employers are beginning to provide feedback to disposed candidates when asked, not many are making it a standard practice.

But here’s the kicker:   fully one third of candidates from employers who care about the black hole were provided no specific feedback about their application. And nearly half received a standard email template with no specific information.

CandE Candidate Question #36

One third got no feedback. Zero. Zip. Nada. That’s a massive black hole, right there. And think what meaning is derived from it about the employer’s brand, culture, management, products and services. Connecting those dots isn’t hard.

So.  While a few employers are connecting the dots between quality of hire and quality of candidate experience, it’s clearly not enough.  If your organization is beginning to look at quality of hire metrics, don’t forget the candidate experience.  I’m not sure you can improve one without improving the other.

And check out the process for participating in the 2013 CandE Awards program.  You can’t improve future performance without a clear understanding of current performance.  That includes quality of hire – which surely includes the candidate experience.  Time to get rid of the black hole!

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Filed under Black Hole, CandE Awards, Candidate Experience, China Gorman, Connecting Dots, Data Point Tuesday, HR Data, Quality of Hire, Talent Acquisition, Talent pipeline, The Talent Board

From the Archives: Job security is the #1 talent attraction magnet. Wait. What?

This was originally published on April 17, 2012.  It’s worth repeating…

In doing some research for a speech I’m giving, I came across The Talent Management and Rewards Imperative for 2012 from Towers Watson and WorldatWork.  It’s chock full of interesting data based on the 2011/2012 Towers Watson North American Talent Management and Rewards Survey and an unpublished Towers Watson 2011 survey of over 10,000 full-time employees in North America on topics such as total rewards, communication and other work-related issues.  Because I’ve been looking at data about the state of the talent pipeline (see Data Points #3, #5, #6), I thought this would be interesting reading.  Little did I know!

A couple of the data points that stood out to me challenge the “conventional wisdom.”  See what you think:

  • Only 11% of organizations have trouble retaining employees generally
  • Fully 68% of organizations identify high potentials, but only 28% inform those employees who have been identified.
  • Organizations underestimate the effect work-related stress and work/life balance have on employee retention, and do not recognized the significance of job security in attracting top talent.

Wait.  What?

It’s the last point that brought me up short.  Look at the chart below.

There are important disconnects between what employees report will attract them into a new job and what employers believe will be important in attracting talent into their organizations.  And if you look at the differing views between employers and high potential performers you’ll be even more surprised.

In all of the writing on this topic that I have seen in the last 18 months, no one else reports the significant importance of job security as part of an organization’s EVP (employee value proposition).  And look how it ranks as #1 for all employees as well as high-potential employees.  #1.

Not meaningful work.  Not alignment with the organization’s mission.  Job security.  Am I the only one surprised by this finding?

Look at the disconnect between the top 5 factors for all employees and employers’ top 5 factors.  Outside of base pay it’s a total mismatch!

On the high-potential performers side, outside of base pay and career development opportunity it’s a total mismatch!

It looks like we’re totally out to lunch when it comes to knowing what’s motivating in terms of EVP and the talent pipeline.  Out. To. Lunch.

In a world that observes the incredible talent acquisition strategies and investments at organizations like Zappos, PepsiCo, Rackspace and AT&T, we’re encouraged to believe that creating cultures of happiness and engagement are what it takes to delight customers and retain employees – high potential or otherwise.  And I chose those organizations because I know the ground-breaking work each is doing in terms of building their talent communities and the engagement of their workforce.  They truly are ground breaking.

It turns out talent attraction may be a bit more mundane than “creating a little weirdness.”

It turns out that some of the basics like job security and base pay still hold huge sway in our workforce.  And I think this is good news.  It gives” regular” employers doing good work and being good to their employees a fighting chance to keep their employees and attract the talent they’ll need going forward.

Basic blocking and tackling.  Basic management competence.  Basic HR.  Can’t get away from them if you want your organization to succeed.

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Filed under AT&T, Business Success, Career Planning, China Gorman, Culture, Engagement, HR, Talent Management, Talent pipeline

Big Trouble in the Talent Pipeline

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I’m not generally big on infographics.  I find them self-serving and hard to read and digest.  Here’s an exception.  It’s called Unprepared for College and was posted on the College@Home.com blog.

I’ve written about the non-performance of the U.S. education system in preparing our future workforce here and here.  This infographic puts the issues front and center.  I don’t see how we can continually turn away from this data.

  • Half of all college students drop out before receiving a degree
  • 1 in 4 college freshman don’t complete their 1st year
  • Over half-a- million college freshman drop out every year

But wait.  It gets worse:

  • 80% of college freshman say high school is too easy but
    • 5 out of 10 college freshman can’t find New York or Ohio on a map of the U.S.
    • 9 out of 10 can’t find Afghanistan on a map of Asia
    • 3 out of 10 can’t find China on a globe
    • 4 out of 10 can’t find Israel, Iraq or Saudi Arabia
    • 7 out of 10 can’t find North Korea

And worse:

College@Home High School Readiness Benchmarks

And then there’s this:

  • 4 out of 5 students currently pursuing a math or science degree feel that their K-12 education did not prepare them for college
  • 2.2 million college freshman are learning high school material in college
  • 80% of students in remedial classes in college had a high school GPA of 3.0 or higher
  • 20% of freshman with a 4.0 high school GPA need remediation in math, English or both
  • And 8 out of 10 freshman believed they were ready for college when they graduated from high school

The bottom line?  Only 56% of students enrolled in a 4-year program receive a degree within 6 years.

So.  What are we doing about this?  Government can’t or won’t act.  We can blame teacher unions, local governments, state governments, the voting public, parents, the students themselves – but none of that helps solve the problem.

Seems to me that business in general – and HR specifically – needs to step up to the plate.  After all, we’re the ones most concerned with the unskilling of our populace.  We’re the ones who know the most about the kinds of skills we need today and the kinds of skills we’ll need tomorrow, and next month and in the years to come.  I think it’s up to us.  What do you think?

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Filed under China Gorman, College Graduation Rates, Connecting Dots, Education Deficit, High School Graduation Rates, Jobs for America's Graduates, Post-secondary education, STEM, Talent pipeline

From Tragedy to Triumph

As an employer, how are you feeling about the epidemic that is our high school dropout rate?  As an employer, how are you evaluating the quality of students who do manage to graduate from high schools in the communities where you have operations?  As an employer, would you like to have educated, motivated, enthusiastic high school graduates lining up outside your employment office ready to start their careers with your organization and committed to making a difference for you, your customers and your community?

If you’re like Verizon, AT&T, Archer Daniels Midland, McDonalds, Apollo Group and many more employers of all sizes, you’re already supporting the work of JAG (Jobs for America’s Graduates) in 32 states and 1,000 communities to provide support to the most at-risk high school students in the toughest high school situations imaginable.

JAG programs this year supported more than 43,000 such students and achieved a 94% graduation rate.  Let me write that again:  JAG programs this year supported more than 43,000 such students and achieved a 94% graduation rate.  In the high schools with the most disenfranchised students:  inner city schools, Indian reservation schools, forgotten rural schools, crime-ridden schools, underfunded schools, JAG is working a kind of magic.

At its Annual Leadership Awards Event last week in Washington, D.C., 300+ JAG student leaders and almost as many of their teachers came together to attend the JAG 2012 National Student Leadership Academy and to celebrate their success in overcoming all the odds stacked up against them. (Here‘s my review of last year’s event.)

Two student leaders took to the podium during the luncheon to talk about their journey “from tragedy to triumph,” as Darnell Willliams described his life experience.  Darnell, currently a college student interning in the South Caroline Department of Employment & Workforce, described how JAG opened a door for him.  “The door had a sign that said One Way:  Up!”

Sage Zephier, a senior from Wagner, SD (which sits in the Yankton Indian Reservation) has a 3.0 grade point average; scored a 26 on the ACT; is a three sport athlete in football, wrestling (state) and track (state) and will attend college in the fall to the study athletic training and psychology.  His journey from tragedy to triumph would truly make you stand up and cheer.

Both Sage and Darnell have battled the worst that a young person could face – and it would be completely expected for them to have fallen between the cracks of social and family services, education systems, tribal systems and community safety nets.  Except someone forget to tell that to Sage and Darnell.  And that someone was the JAG Specialist in their high school.  That’s the person who convinced these two young men – and thousands of other girls and boys – that they mattered.  That they had a future that included education, jobs, financial security, the ability to contribute to their community and the ability to make a difference for others.

In 2012 there are more than 43,000 young people with stories similar to Sage and Darnell who are beating the odds and succeeding in high school and planning to go to college, enter the military or secure a job.  These are kids we would not have expected to make it out of 10th grade, much less graduate from high school.

Since the first high school adopted the JAG program and curriculum 32 years ago, nearly 1,000,000 young people who most likely would have never been able to contribute positively to the economy have graduated from high school, gone to college, served our country in the military and started successful careers – all of which changed the employment and economic trajectory of their families.

So.  As an employer, would you like to have educated, motivated, enthusiastic high school graduates lining up outside your employment office ready to start their careers with your organization and committed to making a difference for you, your customers and your community?

If your answer is yes, then you know what to do.  Get involved with the JAG organization in your state.  Support it financially and sit on its board of trustees.  If JAG isn’t yet in your state, start a conversation with your Governor and get it going!  The contributions you make today to support JAG in your community will come back to your organization in the form of successful students who are ready to commit to your success – and their own success.  Young people like Sage and Darnell.  Trust me:  you’d hire them in a heartbeat!

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