Evaluating the effectiveness of employer engagement: New report presents findings of research with universities and graduate recruiters

21 September 2020

The AGCAS Employer Engagement Task Group, supported by the Institute of Student Employers (ISE), has produced a report exploring the range of careers or employability-related interactions taking place at universities between students and employers.

The research, based on a survey of 108 AGCAS members across 69 institutions and interviews with eight graduate recruiters, was intended to test frequently held assumptions about employer engagement – for example that ‘the careers fair is dead’ – and to track the changing landscape of careers-related employer engagement. A typography of careers or employability-related interactions has been produced, and the research explores the effectiveness of different activities from a university and employer perspective.

The research was conducted in January-February 2020, so this report also considers how the findings of the report can be applied in a post-Covid world, and whether all the research conclusions still stand. The report’s findings will form the basis of a series of short pulse surveys, allowing the impact of Covid-19 on employer engagement to be tracked against the benchmark of ‘normal’ employer engagement activity established in this report.

View the summary report

Read the full report

Key findings:

  • The careers fair is not dead. In face-to-face interactions, careers fairs are still seen as one of the most effective employer engagement activities for both universities and employers.
  • Employer-led skills sessions/presentations were the most commonly offered activity, and rated one of the most effective activities according to employers.
  • Work-based learning such as placements, and embedded curricula activity are considered most effective by universities, despite the majority of employer engagement activities being extra-curricular.
  • From a university perspective, generic advertising services are considered to be the least effective employer engagement activity
  • Before March 2020, a minority (only 21%) of careers-related employer engagement was delivered virtually and only 30% was embedded. Virtual was also not considered to be as effective as face-to-face delivery.
  • To measure effectiveness, universities tend to focus on experiential feedback, while employers look for quantitative numbers of hires or applicants and return on investment.
  • Employers want to know that the information they are sharing will reach students, so they are often keen to speak to student-facing staff as well as employer engagement professionals/their account manager.
  • The majority of careers services have specialist employer engagement teams with some form of employer engagement strategy, and most use an account management model to personalise the service they offer employers.

If you have questions about this research, please contact Gabi Binnie, AGCAS Policy and Research Manager, or members of the Employer Engagement Task Group. The Task Group is planning online events for members to explore this research, further information will follow via AGCAS communication channels.