Irish employers struggling to retain early careers talent, Aon and HPC report reveals

  • 44 percent of employers see retention as most critical challenge facing their Early Careers Programmes
  • Employers are using pay and rewards to win the race for early careers talent
  • 80 percent of organisations surveyed see Early Careers Programmes as important or critical to their talent strategy
  • Outdated hiring and development activities are still being used that impact diversity and quality of hire

DUBLIN, 9 November 2022 – A new report published today by leading global professional services firm Aon plc (NYSE: AON) and people development expert HPC Global Limited has revealed that a majority of Irish employers are struggling to retain graduates, interns and apprentices.

The “Emerging Talent – The Irish Early Careers Report” surveyed large companies from more than 15 industries that together employ approximately 150,000 people across Ireland. The survey reveals that close to half of all organisations (44 percent) see retention as the most critical challenge facing their Early Careers Programmes.

Retention is the primary challenge facing employers for several reasons, including competition from larger organisations; salary expectations; a lack of career paths; a desire for graduates to travel in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and an unwillingness for some graduates to move internationally to progress professionally.

Commenting on the results of the survey, Siobhan Kelly, director of Human Capital Solutions, Aon Ireland, said: “Early Careers individuals, when properly supported and nurtured, can serve as the building blocks of a next generational workforce. Our experience, knowledge and data tell us that while pay continues to be a key differentiator in retaining early careers talent, it is no longer enough.

“To stand out from competitors in the context of full employment and ever-increasing uncertainty, employers need to first gain a clear understanding of why people are joining their organisation. This includes spending time on understanding and being clear on your Employee Value Proposition (EVP). A strong EVP is a key driver of candidate attraction and employee engagement, which in turn drives retention.

“At Aon Ireland, our team of experts are here to help HR leaders make better decisions and ensure that the individuals they attract and hire will thrive in their organisation and deliver on the promises and expectations that senior business leaders have of them. By taking on board the key recommendations published in today’s report, employers across Ireland can harness the full value of early careers talent and ensure they create a seamless experience for those taking their first steps on their career journey as part of a resilient workforce.”

Importance and Purpose of Early Careers Programmes
Amidst a shifting landscape, it is clear that Early Career Programmes are increasingly being viewed as vital to an organisation. When asked how important these programmes are to an organisation’s talent strategy, 30 percent of respondents rated it as highly important, with a further 50 percent rating it as important – a total of 80 percent.

As for the main purpose of these Early Career Programmes, 88 percent of survey respondents say the main purpose is to attract high-calibre people who can contribute to the organisation. This is followed by the acceleration of the development of critical skills and knowledge in second place (77 percent), followed by the identification and development of future leaders (56 percent).
Winning the Race for Talent
Meanwhile, companies that are trying to win the race for talent are trying to do so primarily through pay.

Some 71 percent of organisations listed salary and total rewards as their greatest financial outlay, followed by formal development offerings (56 percent) and, thirdly, selection and assessment processes (38 percent). Furthermore, almost 20 percent of respondents said that competition around salaries was the biggest challenge they face in relation to their Early Career Programmes. Regardless, one in five respondents have not reviewed their total reward packages, including salary, for early career hires in 2022.

Outdated Hiring and Development Activity
The report also found that many organisations are using outdated hiring and development activities in their Early Career Programmes, which could impact diversity and quality of hire.

While 90 percent of programmes use a CV to support decision-making, approximately 10 percent of organisations fully integrate the Knowledge Skills and Attitudes they identified as key for success into their psychometric assessments. Furthermore, the research shows that one third of talent acquisition professionals are not competent in using and explaining the psychometric results to the business.

Meanwhile, although companies are using a sophisticated blend of activities to develop their early career talent, there is a clear discrepancy between the choice of development activities and their perceived effectiveness. Projects, which are used by 79 percent of respondents, are ranked eight out of 10 in terms of effectiveness, while presentations by senior leaders, used only by two thirds of organisations, were ranked as the most effective development activity.

Need for Change
Despite the challenges faced by organisations in hiring and retaining early career talent, the report also reveals that most organisations have yet to embrace the need for change over the coming two years. While 18 percent of organisations are seriously considering change, more than 50 percent of leaders have said they are equivocal about the need to change.

Kevin Hannigan, Client Director, HPC Global Ltd, said: “This report offers key insights into the types of challenges facing employers looking to nurture early careers talent within their organisation. With retention the top issue for employers today, it’s clear that business and HR leaders need to re-assess how they present their organisation and ensure that early career talent has a consistent experience at all stages of their Early Career Programmes. With development offerings, programme structure and salary all known to be important to early career professionals, transparency around these elements will help to ensure that candidates do not rethink their decision at offer stage, or even after joining, all of which would impact retention.

“As the world of work changes, it has never been more important for companies to reassess their Early Career Programmes. Given the challenges that organisations are facing in retaining early careers talent and the critical importance of these programmes to their organisation’s talent strategy, it’s surprising that half of the organisations surveyed are equivocal about the need to change. By ensuring their offering is fit for purpose, employers can help first-time employees to thrive in this new world of work and forge their careers in an environment dominated by hybrid working.”



Notes to Editor


In Q3 of 2022, Aon Ireland and HPC Global Limited conducted research into the state of early career programmes at organisations across Ireland. The research received responses from 34 large companies from more than 15 industries, which together employ approximately 150,000 people across Ireland. Industries included in the research include manufacturing, legal, finance and banking.

Aon's Human Capital Solutions provides leaders with a powerful mix of data, analytics and advice to help them make better workforce decisions. The team has 2,000 colleagues in more than 30 countries, including the firm's talent assessment, rewards and performance and analytics practices. To learn more, visit

To download “Emerging Talent – The Irish Early Careers Report,” visit

About Aon
Aon plc (NYSE: AON) exists to shape decisions for the better — to protect and enrich the lives of people around the world. Our colleagues provide our clients in over 120 countries with advice and solutions that give them the clarity and confidence to make better decisions to protect and grow their business.
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About HPC Global Limited
HPC provides a competitive advantage for businesses through bespoke people development solutions. For 40 years, we have partnered with senior leaders and L&D teams to identify the challenges they face and deliver tailored solutions for individuals and teams, managers and leaders across a diverse range of sectors and global locations.

We design and deliver the following tailored solutions: Leadership Development, Management Development, Graduate Development, High Potential Development, Capability Development, Executive Coaching, Leadership Team Coaching.

To learn more, visit Stay connected with HPC through LinkedIn for ongoing insights and observations on the world of L&D. Or start a conversation with us by email at [email protected].

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