The Ri5 interview: 
David Palmer, trendence UK

The Ri5 interview:
David Palmer, trendence UK


Data has never been more important for employers looking to engage with potential candidates. It offers crucial insight, helping to form attraction and recruitment strategies.

For those organisations without the means to generate meaningful data of their own, this is where a team like trendence helps out. Part of Group GTI, trendence has been operating in the UK for 16 years, during which time a range of employers have been able to use its student data to help drive their recruitment activity.

trendence carries out annual student research at university and school level, as well as conducting bespoke research to tackle specific client needs. The research gathers data from tens of thousands of respondents – over 52,000 university students and 10,000 school students – and by gauging their career intentions it gives organisations the knowledge they need to reach out to their respective talent pools.

David Palmer, UK research manager at trendence, talked us through the process of gathering the data, and why employers find it useful.

“Our data captures the employment intentions of students – not just what they aspire to do in their career, but who they want to work for,” he says. “It also captures demographic info, meaning employers can understand the students who want to apply to them - and to their competitors.”

“It also asks students about their decision making process and intentions – the reasons for wanting to join particular employers,” he adds. 

The annual survey takes the form of an online questionnaire, distributed through university careers services with which trendence has partnered. The breadth of institutions represented in the data benefits employers who might want to focus on specific institutions, as well as enabling the Trendence team to advise employers on targeting institutions they might not have previously considered, based on demographics and other findings. An additional benefit is that participating universities have access to ongoing career-related information relating to their students.

But it’s not simply a case of annual research measuring the same data every year. The depth of the data means it can be analysed in numerous different ways to meet the specific needs of individual employers – and Palmer offers a very clear example of this. 

He says: “A client wanted to attract graduates to roles at their offices in a Yorkshire city. Their initial aim was to target and hire students graduating from universities in that city, but they were having no luck

“However, our research at those local institutions gave a key insight into the intentions of students there,” he continues, “and it showed that very few of them actually planned to stay in the area after they had graduated. So, they were highly unlikely to be seeking employment nearby. Therefore, we advised the employer to reach out to students from the city next door instead – which turned out to be a far more effective approach.”

While the employer could have reached this conclusion through trial and error, use of trendence’s existing data meant this question was answered within two days – a far better outcome.

As well as driving attraction and recruitment strategies, the research offers the additional benefit of contributing to organisations’ efforts on social mobility. trendence has expanded the social profile aspect of its research to include three areas: whether a student attended a state or private school; whether they are eligible for means-tested funding; and whether their parents attended university.

Palmer describes: “Social mobility has been a big talking point for the past few years, so these measures were introduced to help us track social profile. We found it useful to divide the data into two socioeconomic groups – one higher and one lower, and we can then tell organisations what their balance looks like across those two groups.”

He adds “And we can also interpret the data along the same lines for gender, ethnicity and disability. It’s another metric that organisations find really useful.”

Palmer continues: “Social mobility is by far the most common diversity measurement that clients ask for at the moment - it’s critical to them. And our data allows them to understand what they should be doing and what targets they should be working towards.”

Another benefit of carrying out research into both university and school students is that it enables the measurement of intentions and representation across the student lifecycle. Palmer explains that, for example, in trendence’s school data, there is around a 34% representation for BAME students from the lower socioeconomic groups. But in the university space that proportion drops to around 22%.

“So,” says Palmer, “when you look at the transition from school to university, certain groups simply change or drop significantly. And when we look at how the university population is made up of particular groups, we’re the only organisation that’s measuring socioeconomic data in this way.”

Something else that becomes clear when talking to Palmer is that trendence’s research isn’t just about traditional academic routes that result in a graduate job. The work highlights how students are better informed about non-university routes into work than ever before.

He says: "It’s great that students are increasing their awareness of the different options available to them, and that’s certainly evident in what we’ve seen.

"School students are considering careers with employers they barely knew a few years ago. For example, the majority of students weren’t looking at employers like the big city firms – they were more likely to aim for consumer brands they had an existing relationship with. But slowly that’s changing – in the schools space there’s still that ‘high street’ brand affinity, but there’s certainly a movement away from that.”

Palmer is also keen to underline how, while students across the spectrum are more keen to explore non-university option, they also want reassurance that they will receive the same career opportunities through, for example, an apprenticeship as they would have if they went to university.

“Apprenticeships need to be a different route – not an inferior one,” he says. “That’s a big worry for students, so employers must demonstrate that going through an apprenticeship is a valid, equal route to a solid career. That’s what students want to hear.”

Palmer concludes: “One thing I’m really excited about is marrying together our schools and university research projects, which we’ve been doing over the past year. Employers are using both sets of data side by side, to establish what happens throughout the student lifecycle.

“Insight into the demographic changes across those groups is new and not something these organisations will have had sight of before. So, to provide a view of the entire student population is a really valuable thing for employers. It’s also how we’d recommend employers do it, as it’s more organic and tells a complete story across the whole student journey. It’s a really exciting part of what we’re doing and it’d going to be a big part of our work in future.”

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

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Anonymous Date: Sep 16, 2016

"when we look at how the university population is made up of particular groups, we’re the only organisation that’s measuring socioeconomic data in this way" - pretty sure HESA does this doesn't it? And they have full data from the universities, not just survey answers of those who chose to respond. Would be good to understand what Trendence's survey captures on this that isn't available from HESA.

David Palmer Date: Sep 19, 2016

Thank you for your comment. When measuring socio-economic profile we take a look at sector of pre-university education, eligibility for means-tested funding, and parental education. Using those three factors together we create socio-economic categories: for example, students who come from the state sector, who are eligible for means-tested funding and whose parents did not got to university become ‘lower socio-economic’ students. We can then analyse – and better understand – the students in these groups. If you’re interested in hearing more about how trendence research works it would be great to talk you through it – you’re welcome to get in touch with us via our website (please see the link)