How to hire in an unpopular industry

The HRD of a global tobacco company explains how he competes with hip start-ups and humanitarian non-profits.

How to hire in an unpopular industry
Despite being a Fortune 100 company, attracting graduates to Philip Morris International is not without its challenges, said director of HR Graeme Smith.
To find talented individuals in one of the world’s toughest markets, the global tobacco firm has had to develop a new global internship program, INKOMPASS, which offers university students the chance to work at Philip Morris and potentially take up a job there.
“This program is not just an ordinary internship; rather it’s a journey of learning through self-discovery,” Smith said.
Developed by all business departments and HR, the program features a two-cycle structure through which interns are placed in multiple departments for some hands-on experience.
“Interns are trusted to deliver against tangible business objectives,” he said. “For example, this year a pair of interns working in procurement are executing a project to implement our ‘paperless office’ program which will remove a business expense as well as help the environment.”
Smith said that while INKOMPASS was meant to demonstrate precisely what was needed to work at Philip Morris, this was only half the journey.
“While we have a great program we still faced the challenge of connecting with the best new talent,” he said. “The solution to recruiting … was to roll up our sleeves, get into the weeds and find them ourselves.”
In order to reach Generation Y, Philip Morris implemented a bold campaign, interactive website and two-way communication via social media networks. In this way, the firm was able to identify possible students who were the best fit, he said.
During the internship, continuous feedback and individual mentors are used to develop the interns. Project ‘buddies’ are also there to provide professional workplace training.
“As part of our two-cycle structure, interns who are successful in reaching the second cycle will be given the opportunity to delve deeper into a specific department or functional area.”
At this stage, interns work on individual projects which aim at revealing the function’s challenges, opportunities and processes. Top performers will then be offered a job, Smith said.
“While it’s difficult for companies to recruit great young talent, our experience is showing that dedicated, engaging programs pitched where your target audience gathers is beginning to yield promising results.”
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