Is the early-career talent pipeline still top of mind as employers tighten budgets and prioritize internal hires? Liberty Mutual would say yes. The insurance company hired 1,300 early-career employees (from interns to new Ph.D. grads) in 2023. And it’s not alone.
While headlines have drawn attention to the hiring freezes and layoffs in industries like finance and tech, others, like consumer goods and insurance, are using this opportunity to acquire talent they previously may have been unable to attract. PepsiCo’s CHRO Ronald Schellekens recently told Fortune that the company remains committed to hiring 2,000 U.S. graduates yearly, regardless of economic conditions.
In many sectors, companies are banking on the idea that continuing to recruit and invest in junior hires—despite financial constraints—will help with eventual leadership and succession planning. History supports this notion. “Banks and electric utilities witnessed the drawbacks to leadership discontinuity after laying off tens of thousands of mostly junior employees during the recessions of the 1980s,” wrote Fortune’s Geoff Colvin in a February piece analyzing the hidden costs of mass layoffs.
Maura Quinn, Liberty Mutual’s VP of university, DEI, and talent acquisition, says the organization has taken a three-pronged approach to usher in essential early-career talent: a skills-based focus, internship and apprenticeship programs, and community partnerships.
Prioritizing skills. Liberty Mutual shifted to skills-based hiring in 2016 to cast a wider net for young talent. Quinn says the company has diversified its college network and opened its search to graduates from apprenticeship programs and coding boot camps. “The school’s pedigree is no longer the most important thing.”
Adding a feeder program. The company’s job pipeline starts early, hoping to grab students’ attention well before they apply for their first full-time jobs. In addition to its traditional internships, Liberty Mutual created a feeder program for freshmen and sophomore college students. “We’re trying to attract [them] to join these different types of programs, so they get exposure to the industry and its jobs,” says Quinn, acknowledging that working at an insurance company can be a tougher sell for young employees looking for flashy companies to join.
Students who complete the program are fed into the internship program later in their college journey. About 70% of Liberty Mutual’s interns are converted into full-time employees.
Identifying community partners. Local partnerships with organizations supporting apprenticeships have also been key to building Liberty Mutual’s early-career pipeline. The Boston-based employer was an early member of the Massachusetts Apprentice Network, which aims to provide 1,000 apprenticeships by 2027. Quinn says Liberty Mutual grew from about 30 apprentices in 2021 to 60 this year.
“We’re a very stable industry, and we’re going to continue to recruit,” says Quinn. “We’re not backing off on our numbers, and we hope it’s a good opportunity for students to look at companies like this, especially in these economic times.”
Correction: About 70% of Liberty Mutual’s interns are converted into full-time hires.An earlier version of the story stated that about 70% of Liberty Mutual’s full-time employees are former interns.
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