How to Build an Early Career Program for Your Organization

Ten Thousand Coffees Team -
January 16, 2024

When it comes to talent retention and development, organizations often focus on employees at the top. While, of course, there’s something to be said about the value of established and experienced employees, it’s crucial to not overlook an equally vital segment of employees: early talent. Early career programs help organizations nurture the next generation of employees in the beginning stages of their careers. 

But how do early talent development programs benefit organizations? What do they entail? And most importantly, how can you set your early career program up for success?

Table of Contents

  1. What is an early career program? 
  2. Benefits of early career programs
  3. What’s involved with early career talent management? 
  4. Steps for creating an early career development program

What is an early career program? 

Early career programs are structured learning and development opportunities targeted toward students, recent graduates and junior employees early on in their careers. 

Employees who are new to the workforce often have a significantly different workplace experience than their senior counterparts. Early career programs are designed to help them navigate this transition while providing them with the skills, opportunities, and networks they need to thrive in the workplace.

Benefits of early career programs

Early career programs aren’t just a springboard for new talent. Nurturing the future of your workforce can also propel your organization into a realm of long-term success. 

Here are four key benefits of early career programs.

1. Early career programs help attract top talent

Companies often find themselves in competition with other organizations for top talent—even for entry-level and junior roles. This is especially true when hiring early talent with highly in-demand skills like AI development or software engineering. In a competitive hiring environment, employer branding matters. 

Sure, most companies have some form of talent experience initiatives, ranging from employee benefits to training programs. But new grads and students are often looking for opportunities that are more specifically tailored to guiding their professional growth at the onset of their careers. 

Many organizations offer leadership training. While that benefit is clearly enticing for more established employees, it’s less beneficial for new employees who are still trying to find their professional footing.

Dedicated early talent programs show potential candidates that your organization makes junior team members a priority. 

2. Structured early talent development programs promote diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)

In the early stages of their careers, diverse and underrepresented talent often faces an uphill battle. Unfortunately, this can stem from a variety of reasons, whether it’s due to a lack of mentors in their own networks or the influence of unconscious (and sometimes conscious) bias in their workplace. It's essential to recognize that even small discrepancies in supporting diverse employees within early talent pools can give rise to significant gaps in representation when it comes to leadership and senior management roles. 

By elevating diverse talent early on in their careers, organizations are providing underrepresented talent with equitable opportunities for advancement. And by intentionally elevating underrepresented talent, organizations can foster belonging and improve representation in managerial and leadership roles.

3. Early career programs future-proof your talent pipeline

External hires can cost organizations up to 18% more than internal hires. The best way to improve internal hire rates? By building internal talent pipelines.

Internal talent pipelines are made up of existing employees who are ready and willing to step into future open roles within your organization. While early talent might not be ready for leadership roles just yet, development and career programs can guide them in the right direction. This way, they’re prepared to advance to the next stage in their careers when the time is right.

A culture of nurturing talent from the bottom up is critical for long-term succession planning. Promoting top talent also preserves institutional knowledge. As such, by increasing employee loyalty, you can improve overall business performance.

4. Early talent development drives employee engagement and retention

Life-long employee retention is a thing of the past. Most employees will change employers at least a couple of times throughout their careers. And millennials and Gen Z employees are more likely to jump ship than their predecessors. But that doesn’t mean employee turnover should be left to run amok—and it starts with early talent.

The reasons for high employee turnover in early talent can vary, ranging from lack of purpose and employee burnout, to poor career guidance. But surveys have shown that 65% of younger employees are likely to leave their current company and join one with more opportunities for mentorship. 

“Finding a mentor you admire, both personally and professionally, can be transformational in giving you a sense of control, a direction over your career development—and perhaps most importantly, the confidence you need to maximize it.” - Fast Company

Of course, there are many ways you can promote employee retention and engagement. But it’s clear that when employers invest in young talent, they’re more likely to stay within the organization.

10KC helps you launch and scale early talent mentorship programs to develop, retain, and engage top talent. Learn more.

What’s involved with early career talent management? 

Early career talent management can look a bit different depending on your organization and team’s needs. A holistic approach often includes multiple components. Some common ways to elevate the early talent experience include:

  • Skills development: As employees step into their first professional roles, learning and development opportunities can help them develop the skills they need to succeed and make an impact on your organization. 
  • Mentorship and sponsorship: Early talent are still building their networks. Mentorship and sponsorship ensure that employees have access to networks and peers to support their growth.
  • Career pathing: Modern career pathing can be confusing. Providing clear career paths can help early talent navigate growth opportunities within the organization as they advance through their careers, keeping them engaged and motivated.

Steps for creating an early career development program

Here are some steps you can take to start, scale, and improve your early career development program. 

1. Identify your early career program goals

There are a dozen ways you can approach an early career program. It’s easy to spread yourself too thin. So instead of trying to tackle everything at once, start by identifying one or two specific goals. This allows you to focus your program efforts on reaching that goal.

Some examples of early talent program goals might include:

  • Providing more opportunities for new hires and junior employees to engage with senior leadership and executives.
  • Attracting top early talent through a mentorship program that creates learning and growth opportunities.

2. Build a curriculum to reach your objectives

Development programs thrive on structure—especially with early talent where employees may have less understanding of the skills and experience they need to grow. This is where a development curriculum comes in.

Development curriculums are intentionally designed to help early talent reach their own goals. They might include discussion guides, meeting goals, or even learning roadmaps. 

But it’s not just about individual learning objectives. When you have the right development programs in place, it can help you reach your organization’s early talent development goals as well.

10KC Development Programs. Choose from one of 10KC’s off-the-shelf mentorship and development programs, or design your own. Learn more.


3. Define how you’ll select participants

Unlike a broader development or mentorship program, early talent programs are targeted toward a very specific subset of employees. So how do you decide who will take part?

Having clear program eligibility guidelines can help you get the right participants and prevent other employees from feeling left out. 

For example, you might choose to include employees in all entry-level roles. Or perhaps your early talent development program is a part of the onboarding experience for new hires in junior roles.

If you’re focusing on students in short-term internship or co-op roles, your career development programs might even be embedded into their overall co-op or internship experience. 

Ten Thousand Coffees (10KC) allows students to build their network, learn new skills, and gain confidence, particularly for students who maybe are not quite sure yet what they want to do in their career.” - Brien Convery, National Director, Early Talent Communities at RBC 

4. Choose tools to help you deploy your program at scale

Particularly within larger organizations, it can be difficult to deploy talent experience programs at scale. Consider mentoring matches as an example—you can probably imagine how tedious it might be to manually match mentees with mentors in a spreadsheet.

The right tools and early talent development platforms can help automate and deploy programs faster and more effectively. They can also help you track progress and gather feedback so you can easily iterate and improve outcomes.

5. Expand employee professional networks

Networks are key to helping early talent experience different perspectives and learn from seasoned staff. These relationships can be difficult to facilitate organically, especially if junior employees work in siloed or remote organizations.


Early talent programs should provide opportunities for employees to build networks and relationships that they can leverage in their careers. For example, facilitating employee Introductions can connect employees with peers across departments and teams. Meanwhile, Office Hours and group networking opportunities provide valuable face time for new talent with busy senior leaders.

6. Gather and implement employee feedback

It can be difficult  to nail an early talent program the first go around. To make sure your organization and your employees are making the most of your program, you need to gather employee feedback and make improvements over time.

Don’t make the mistake of waiting until the program is over to make changes. Instead of simply sending pre- and post-program surveys, collect feedback throughout the program or even after individual interactions. Staying on top of your employees’ program experience can help you get ahead of the curve and make changes along the way.

7. Measure outcomes

We know that early talent programs work. But measuring insights is the only way to be certain that you’re delivering ROI and that you’re on track to reaching your early talent goals.

The metrics that matter to you will depend on your program goals. Here are some common KPIs and metrics for early talent development programs:

  • Program engagement and adoption rates
  • Diversity and representation rates
  • Internal promotion rates
  • Employee retention and turnover rates

Our top tip for measuring outcomes? Use Data Dashboards so you can easily review and gather program insights in one place.

Say goodbye to guesswork, and gather all the insights you need. Check out 10KC’s Data Dashboard. 

How 10KC helps to create early career development programs

10KC’s all-in-one mentoring and networking platform helps organizations engage and retain early talent from day one. Our Early Talent Solution makes it easy to launch and scale early career development programs with: 

  • Smart-match algorithms that empower employees to build networks, increase visibility, and connect with peers who have shared interests and goals.
Engage early talent with an all-in-one mentoring experience that attract, retain, and develop top talent. Get a demo today.
Webinar

How to Build an Early Career Program for Your Organization

When it comes to talent retention and development, organizations often focus on employees at the top. While, of course, there’s something to be said about the value of established and experienced employees, it’s crucial to not overlook an equally vital segment of employees: early talent. Early career programs help organizations nurture the next generation of employees in the beginning stages of their careers. 

But how do early talent development programs benefit organizations? What do they entail? And most importantly, how can you set your early career program up for success?

Table of Contents

  1. What is an early career program? 
  2. Benefits of early career programs
  3. What’s involved with early career talent management? 
  4. Steps for creating an early career development program

What is an early career program? 

Early career programs are structured learning and development opportunities targeted toward students, recent graduates and junior employees early on in their careers. 

Employees who are new to the workforce often have a significantly different workplace experience than their senior counterparts. Early career programs are designed to help them navigate this transition while providing them with the skills, opportunities, and networks they need to thrive in the workplace.

Benefits of early career programs

Early career programs aren’t just a springboard for new talent. Nurturing the future of your workforce can also propel your organization into a realm of long-term success. 

Here are four key benefits of early career programs.

1. Early career programs help attract top talent

Companies often find themselves in competition with other organizations for top talent—even for entry-level and junior roles. This is especially true when hiring early talent with highly in-demand skills like AI development or software engineering. In a competitive hiring environment, employer branding matters. 

Sure, most companies have some form of talent experience initiatives, ranging from employee benefits to training programs. But new grads and students are often looking for opportunities that are more specifically tailored to guiding their professional growth at the onset of their careers. 

Many organizations offer leadership training. While that benefit is clearly enticing for more established employees, it’s less beneficial for new employees who are still trying to find their professional footing.

Dedicated early talent programs show potential candidates that your organization makes junior team members a priority. 

2. Structured early talent development programs promote diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)

In the early stages of their careers, diverse and underrepresented talent often faces an uphill battle. Unfortunately, this can stem from a variety of reasons, whether it’s due to a lack of mentors in their own networks or the influence of unconscious (and sometimes conscious) bias in their workplace. It's essential to recognize that even small discrepancies in supporting diverse employees within early talent pools can give rise to significant gaps in representation when it comes to leadership and senior management roles. 

By elevating diverse talent early on in their careers, organizations are providing underrepresented talent with equitable opportunities for advancement. And by intentionally elevating underrepresented talent, organizations can foster belonging and improve representation in managerial and leadership roles.

3. Early career programs future-proof your talent pipeline

External hires can cost organizations up to 18% more than internal hires. The best way to improve internal hire rates? By building internal talent pipelines.

Internal talent pipelines are made up of existing employees who are ready and willing to step into future open roles within your organization. While early talent might not be ready for leadership roles just yet, development and career programs can guide them in the right direction. This way, they’re prepared to advance to the next stage in their careers when the time is right.

A culture of nurturing talent from the bottom up is critical for long-term succession planning. Promoting top talent also preserves institutional knowledge. As such, by increasing employee loyalty, you can improve overall business performance.

4. Early talent development drives employee engagement and retention

Life-long employee retention is a thing of the past. Most employees will change employers at least a couple of times throughout their careers. And millennials and Gen Z employees are more likely to jump ship than their predecessors. But that doesn’t mean employee turnover should be left to run amok—and it starts with early talent.

The reasons for high employee turnover in early talent can vary, ranging from lack of purpose and employee burnout, to poor career guidance. But surveys have shown that 65% of younger employees are likely to leave their current company and join one with more opportunities for mentorship. 

“Finding a mentor you admire, both personally and professionally, can be transformational in giving you a sense of control, a direction over your career development—and perhaps most importantly, the confidence you need to maximize it.” - Fast Company

Of course, there are many ways you can promote employee retention and engagement. But it’s clear that when employers invest in young talent, they’re more likely to stay within the organization.

10KC helps you launch and scale early talent mentorship programs to develop, retain, and engage top talent. Learn more.

What’s involved with early career talent management? 

Early career talent management can look a bit different depending on your organization and team’s needs. A holistic approach often includes multiple components. Some common ways to elevate the early talent experience include:

  • Skills development: As employees step into their first professional roles, learning and development opportunities can help them develop the skills they need to succeed and make an impact on your organization. 
  • Mentorship and sponsorship: Early talent are still building their networks. Mentorship and sponsorship ensure that employees have access to networks and peers to support their growth.
  • Career pathing: Modern career pathing can be confusing. Providing clear career paths can help early talent navigate growth opportunities within the organization as they advance through their careers, keeping them engaged and motivated.

Steps for creating an early career development program

Here are some steps you can take to start, scale, and improve your early career development program. 

1. Identify your early career program goals

There are a dozen ways you can approach an early career program. It’s easy to spread yourself too thin. So instead of trying to tackle everything at once, start by identifying one or two specific goals. This allows you to focus your program efforts on reaching that goal.

Some examples of early talent program goals might include:

  • Providing more opportunities for new hires and junior employees to engage with senior leadership and executives.
  • Attracting top early talent through a mentorship program that creates learning and growth opportunities.

2. Build a curriculum to reach your objectives

Development programs thrive on structure—especially with early talent where employees may have less understanding of the skills and experience they need to grow. This is where a development curriculum comes in.

Development curriculums are intentionally designed to help early talent reach their own goals. They might include discussion guides, meeting goals, or even learning roadmaps. 

But it’s not just about individual learning objectives. When you have the right development programs in place, it can help you reach your organization’s early talent development goals as well.

10KC Development Programs. Choose from one of 10KC’s off-the-shelf mentorship and development programs, or design your own. Learn more.


3. Define how you’ll select participants

Unlike a broader development or mentorship program, early talent programs are targeted toward a very specific subset of employees. So how do you decide who will take part?

Having clear program eligibility guidelines can help you get the right participants and prevent other employees from feeling left out. 

For example, you might choose to include employees in all entry-level roles. Or perhaps your early talent development program is a part of the onboarding experience for new hires in junior roles.

If you’re focusing on students in short-term internship or co-op roles, your career development programs might even be embedded into their overall co-op or internship experience. 

Ten Thousand Coffees (10KC) allows students to build their network, learn new skills, and gain confidence, particularly for students who maybe are not quite sure yet what they want to do in their career.” - Brien Convery, National Director, Early Talent Communities at RBC 

4. Choose tools to help you deploy your program at scale

Particularly within larger organizations, it can be difficult to deploy talent experience programs at scale. Consider mentoring matches as an example—you can probably imagine how tedious it might be to manually match mentees with mentors in a spreadsheet.

The right tools and early talent development platforms can help automate and deploy programs faster and more effectively. They can also help you track progress and gather feedback so you can easily iterate and improve outcomes.

5. Expand employee professional networks

Networks are key to helping early talent experience different perspectives and learn from seasoned staff. These relationships can be difficult to facilitate organically, especially if junior employees work in siloed or remote organizations.


Early talent programs should provide opportunities for employees to build networks and relationships that they can leverage in their careers. For example, facilitating employee Introductions can connect employees with peers across departments and teams. Meanwhile, Office Hours and group networking opportunities provide valuable face time for new talent with busy senior leaders.

6. Gather and implement employee feedback

It can be difficult  to nail an early talent program the first go around. To make sure your organization and your employees are making the most of your program, you need to gather employee feedback and make improvements over time.

Don’t make the mistake of waiting until the program is over to make changes. Instead of simply sending pre- and post-program surveys, collect feedback throughout the program or even after individual interactions. Staying on top of your employees’ program experience can help you get ahead of the curve and make changes along the way.

7. Measure outcomes

We know that early talent programs work. But measuring insights is the only way to be certain that you’re delivering ROI and that you’re on track to reaching your early talent goals.

The metrics that matter to you will depend on your program goals. Here are some common KPIs and metrics for early talent development programs:

  • Program engagement and adoption rates
  • Diversity and representation rates
  • Internal promotion rates
  • Employee retention and turnover rates

Our top tip for measuring outcomes? Use Data Dashboards so you can easily review and gather program insights in one place.

Say goodbye to guesswork, and gather all the insights you need. Check out 10KC’s Data Dashboard. 

How 10KC helps to create early career development programs

10KC’s all-in-one mentoring and networking platform helps organizations engage and retain early talent from day one. Our Early Talent Solution makes it easy to launch and scale early career development programs with: 

  • Smart-match algorithms that empower employees to build networks, increase visibility, and connect with peers who have shared interests and goals.
Engage early talent with an all-in-one mentoring experience that attract, retain, and develop top talent. Get a demo today.

We’re committed to your privacy. Ten Thousand Coffees uses the information you provide to us to contact you about our relevant content, products, and services. You may unsubscribe from these communications at any time. For more information, check out our Privacy Policy.

Here's the recording of the webinar:
Ready to supercharge your talent development and connectivity at your organization using Ten Thousand Coffees? Book a demo today!
Book a demo
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Boost employee engagement, retention, and development with 10KC.

Book a demo to learn more about 10KC's all-in-one platform for inclusive mentoring, networking, and skills development.
Copyright © 2023 Ten Thousand Coffees

Continue reading

x

Let's Stay in Touch

Sign up to hear about our latest insights, product updates, events and more.
I agree to receive digital communications from Ten Thousand Coffees and can unsubscribe at any time. Visit our Privacy Policy for more information.