Employers have encountered significant challenges in managing their workforces over the last few years. The onset of the pandemic saw many organizations downsizing suddenly and severely. More recently, during “the Great Resignation,” many employees have been voluntarily leaving their jobs, tightening the hiring market considerably.
As your organization looks to build and maintain a stable workforce, one segment of job candidates to explore — with caution — is “early career” workers.
Invest in the future
An early career worker is generally considered someone with three or fewer years’ experience in a full-time professional role. Often, this means a younger individual who has only recently completed an undergraduate or graduate degree. But the term can also describe a person who has switched careers by completing a certificate program or some other form of education or training.
The advantages of hiring people early in their careers are clear. Generally, they’re very eager to learn, grow and gain experience. They often bring fresh perspectives, and it’s probably safe to say that most, if not all, of today’s recent college grads have an innate familiarity with technology.
Above all, early career workers represent an investment in the future. Properly onboarded and trained, these employees can play long-term, cost-effective roles in the productivity and success of an organization.
Beware of legal pitfalls
However, overly or clumsily focusing on early career hiring can lead an employer into costly trouble. Recently, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against a large pharmaceutical corporation alleging violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. This law prohibits discrimination against applicants age 40 and over.
According to the lawsuit, the corporation favored millennials over older workers for sales jobs so its workforce would be “distributed … by generation” in a more advantageous manner. As evidence, the EEOC’s complaint points to a public statement by a company executive announcing a goal of 40% early career hiring to add more millennials. The company has denied the allegations and, as of this writing, is fighting the lawsuit.
Obviously, no employer wants to find itself embroiled in a legal action of this kind. Even if you prevail, the costs and bad publicity will likely take a heavy toll. At the same time, hiring those early in their careers is an important part of maintaining a stable workforce.
To stay on safe ground, establish and regularly verify that your hiring practices are age neutral. Beware of job postings that feature words such as “fresh,” “energetic” and “high potential.” Such words or phrases can indicate an age bias. Never discourage applicants above a certain age from applying or “grade them lower” for having a minimal social media presence or a “dated” college degree.
Design and double-check
Indeed, questionable approaches to hiring may lead to financially devastating consequences. On the flip side, hiring effectively can prove to be a great competitive advantage. Work closely with a qualified employment attorney when designing and double-checking your hiring practices. Our firm can help support the process by assisting you with measuring hiring costs and productivity.