Baseball games can be long and have ups and downs, but you can be sure every team is focused on having at least one more run than their competitor by the end of the 9th. This requires that teams and managers have a strategy to field the right players, and more importantly, they can continue to do so throughout the lengthy season. In corporate America it’s not much different.
Due to a lengthy economic downturn, we’ve experienced a long rain delay, but the market is shifting rapidly and the game is back on. The aging population is starting to retire in larger numbers and that is changing the demand for new players on the field. Companies are losing experienced managers, and as our economy has slowly improved, it appears to be accelerating the demand curve. The big unknown is; who will fill these roles and how will that demand for talent cascade throughout all levels of organizations?
Interns are important. Gone are the days when an internship meant 10-hour shifts full of making copies, fetching coffees, and general grunt work. Today, an internship can be a prestigious position.
In the early 1920’s, the potential to uncover talented athletes was greatly restricted by the fact that talent was so geographically disperse. Baseball was exploding in popularity, and managers across the country were scrambling to find great talent to entertain the increasing number of fans. Much of the population lived in rural towns in America. For recruiters, it was almost impossible to travel between every small town searching for the future baseball superstars.
Enter the Farm League. These semi-professional baseball teams popped up in secondary cities and rural communities across the country. The minor-league teams served as feeder systems to these major franchises. Minor league teams became hubs for aspiring players and fans who had no access to the Big Leagues. These “Farm League” teams became a resource for talent from which teams identified their budding stars.
The United States’ aging population is starting to create a serious shift in supply and demand within the workforce. Baby Boomers have been deferring retirement, but even the modest economic recovery has accelerated this shift as more feel financially stable. The economic lull created a point at which many Boomers re-evaluated their positions in the workplace. More than ever, people are now eyeing up retirement, and it’s creating a vacuum at the mid to upper levels of corporations. Today companies across the United States are scrambling to find talent.
For some companies the answer to the question of the modern farm team lies in interns. Interns are a way for companies to identify and cultivate future talent. Many have increased their commitment to internship to gain early exposure to future talent.
Internships in general have risen at a healthy clip for the last few years (double digit growth); however, still only around 50% of companies have internship programs. Silicon Valley is often a leader in technology, but if we take a hint from their commitment to interns, we might be shocked. It is reported that companies like VMWare and LinkedIn are paying interns on average nearly $7,000/month. These are forward-thinking organizations and other companies are recognizing the likely return-on-investment of these programs.
From the intern side of the equation, it greatly increases a younger and less experienced person’s chance of getting hired. Instead of relying on resumes or LinkedIn profiles that tend to provide little in the way of previous experience for students and recent grads, they have an opportunity to instead showcase their skills and intangibles amongst existing employees and hiring managers. Sixty-nine percent of companies with one hundred or more employees offered full-time jobs to their interns.
If you view internships as simply access to cheap labor, you are perhaps missing the point. This is an up-close view of future talent. It is also a way to determine the potential of an employee and gauge compatibility to your organization’s culture. Working in and amongst your employees provides invaluable insight. It can be considered a lengthy interview with productivity thrown in as a bonus; a valuable upside for an employer.
There is business to be made in this shift as well. Companies like Youtern & InternMatch are great conduits between college and career, matching students to opportunities. As the Baby Boomer population continues to transition out of the workforce, this trend will likely persist. Companies who are building these programs and fostering strong farm leagues of prospects will win the war on talent and gain considerable competitive advantage.
If you’re not building a farm team, you could be paying for it for years to come.
Sean Storin is the CEO/Co-founder of OneDegree.com, a site that aims to revolutionize the way people find jobs. He is based in Chicago. Sean has 20 years experience in start-up technology companies, business and management consulting, HCM- Staffing and IT Services. He is also a writer now and again.