Dalhousie University, Management Career Services

Expanding your team can come with certain challenges. Organizations want to ensure their new hires are well-qualified, that they are a good fit with the team, and that they can quickly come up to speed with organizational policies, procedures, and systems.  With limited time and resources, how can employers minimize the risks involved and enable their new staff to hit the ground running?

From the Davis Pier Consulting team: Darryl Pierrynowski and Marcia Peters

Halifax Chamber of Commerce members such as Colliers International (Nova Scotia) Inc., Marsh Canada Limited, and Davis Pier Consulting can speak to one cost-efficient and effective solution: hiring and retaining Dalhousie business students. These employers have experienced positive results when they offered student employees the opportunity to return for a subsequent work term, or to work for their organization full time upon graduating. And they’re not alone. In fact, 29% of Dalhousie Commerce Co-op students returned to work for a previous co-op employer in 2016. Of those students, 92% received a final evaluation of ‘Very Good’ or better from their supervisor. So retaining student talent is clearly a worthwhile method of growing and strengthening your team.

A Win-Win

When it comes to rehiring a former co-op student, Greg Taylor, Vice President & Managing Director for Colliers, sees several distinct advantages.

“Bringing a Commerce Co-op student back for a second or third work term means they can immediately integrate into our work flow and start contributing, picking up relationships within the organization from where they left off.”

Michelle Sivanayson, Senior Vice President of Marsh Captive Solutions for Marsh Canada agrees that for returning co-op students the learning curve and time spent on training and supervision is reduced while their ability to achieve results and handle responsibility is heightened.

“It helps us to transition complex work to a co-op as well as provide a challenge to the student, making their work term more interesting – it’s a win-win,” she adds.

From the student perspective, there are definite benefits to being able to jump back into the work routine.

“I was familiar with the product and the work so I was capable of better quality work and higher efficiencies,” says Ryan Berry, a 3rd year Commerce Co-op student currently on his third co-op with Marsh Canada working as a Captive Associate in their Halifax office.

Creating the Conditions for Success

From the Colliers International (Nova Scotia) Inc. team: Greg Taylor, Mitch O’Neill, and Andrew Rieder

In order to get the best return on their human resource investment, most employers make a concerted effort to foster the growth and development of their student employees over the course of their work term.

“We try to provide opportunities that are of interest to the student, of value to the firm and ones that will stretch the student in their skills. We will also assign increasingly more responsibility as the residency term progresses,” says Darryl Pierrynowski, founder and partner of Davis Pier Consulting.

According to Pierrynowski’s former Corporate Residency MBA intern, Marcia Peters, who was recently hired on as a full time Analyst with the firm, their support was integral to her success.

“They exposed me to the skills I would need to be a valuable full time employee, so that when I returned to school, I was able to focus on pursuing them even further. Their trust and belief in me allowed me to exceed expectations, and deliver my best self.”

Commerce Co-op student, Andrew Rieder, who returned to Colliers International this summer as a Research Analyst, shares another example of supportive employer practices.

“By allowing me to attend events such as the Atlantic Real Estate Forum and the Burnside Business Association Luncheon, Colliers has helped me grow professionally.”

From the Marsh Canada Limited team (L to R): Curtis Honsberger, Callum White, Ryan Berry, Rachel Bonang, Michelle Sivanayson, Drew Oxner, Dan Martin

Talent You Can Test Drive

Employing a Dalhousie business student enables organizations to sample talent without a making a long term commitment and assess their fit for future opportunities. This works both ways, with students appreciating the opportunity to understand the business from the inside and decide whether they see themselves wanting to work there full time.

“The advantage was that we and the student were able to test the waters of working together through the residency,” says Pierrynowski.

But how do organizations evaluate whether a student employee might make a good full time hire post-graduation?

Based on his experience at Colliers, Taylor shares that, “we evaluate how interested they are in our industry. Then we ask ourselves how the student would fit into our corporate culture long term, and look for indications of a strong internal drive to succeed in a competitive environment.”

Sivanayson suggests soliciting feedback from colleagues who worked with the student, which is what they do at Marsh.

Making the Segue From Student to Staffer

Organizations looking to hire a former co-op student or intern for a post-grad job are well advised to plan for the future.

Dalhousie Commerce alumnus, Mitch O’Neill was so impressed with his how co-op work experience with Colliers developed into a career in commercial real estate, that he nominated them for a Top Co-op Employer Award last year.

“Once I figured out that I wanted to pursue commercial real estate as a career, I mapped out a 3 year plan with my supervisor, Greg Taylor, so I could hit the ground running the week after I graduated from Dalhousie. We basically followed that plan and re-evaluated where I was every quarter. Sure enough, it all worked out and I was a licensed commercial real estate advisor before graduation,” says O’Neill.

For Drew Oxner, who has worked for Marsh full time since graduating in 2015, completing all three co-op work terms with the organization made the transition easy. “By the time I was hired on as a full time employee, I felt like I already had the ability to take on a full client portfolio.”

Take the Next Step

Follow in the footsteps of your fellow Chamber members and learn grow your team from within by recruiting and retaining Dalhousie business students or recent grads.  Contact Management Career Services at Dalhousie University to access our programs, events and services.