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  • Building a URR Program in Just Six Months

    August 12, 2019 | By NACE Staff

    Best Practices
Nickovich discusses how she set up a university relations and recruiting program at AECOM in just six months.

    TAGS: best practices, operations, program development, nace insights, strategic planning

    Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals

    Six months might seem like a good amount of time to complete a project. However, when tasked with constructing a university relations and recruiting (URR) program—especially a large-scale one for a Fortune 500 company—that deadline for delivery does not offer much leeway.   

    That was the challenge facing Kellie Nickovich, senior manager, university relations, talent acquisition at AECOM.

    “Prior to revamping AECOM’s URR program,” Nickovich says, “we were operating under a decentralized and, truthfully, a stale model. While the volume of hiring in the URR program was high—more than 1,500 hires annually—the model lacked strategy, vision, and purpose.” 

    She adds that these, plus other factors such as a lack of true service-level agreements the URR team was to deliver against, were the catalysts for the decision to build a centralized and formalized URR program at AECOM

    However, the aforementioned time frame for development and implementation was problematic.

    “We had from January to June to assess, diagnose, design, build, and implement a new program to ensure we were ready for the fall 2018 recruiting season and the 2018-19 academic year,” Nickovich says.

    Another hurdle was the structure of AECOM’s organization. As Nickovich explains, “AECOM is a very matrixed and layered organization, so one of the biggest challenges was ensuring every stakeholder was consulted on their priorities in needs and wants of a new URR model.”

    This group included every business line president and region executive; in total, it was comprised of more than 15 members of AECOM’s executive leadership team.   

    “We overcame this by following the rule of three Cs,” Nickovich says. “Always be credible. Always be capable. And always be consistent.” 

    Nickovich and her team determined AECOM’s 50 partner universities and the break in its Tier 1 and Tier 2 schools, and aligned the campus recruiters from the URR team.

    “We then did formal outreach to each school’s career center, college of engineering dean/faculty, development offices, and other critical departments that needed to know about our new formalized approach to URR,” she notes.

    Although Nickovich and her team are still in the process of measuring their success across various key performance indicators, they do have several lessons learned and best practices to share for building a URR program:

    • Defining stakeholders—especially the executive leadership team—is key.  
    • Including human resource business partners is critical to success.
    • Without data integrity, you will fail.
    • Details can and will bog you down. Focusing on narrow-minded goals—such as what schools you should go to—will not help you achieve success in structuring your foundation. Define your model first, then address the details. High-level thinking is critical to revamping any program.
    • Let the foundation and concept serve as your “thesis statement.” Go back to it when lost.
    • The client (business) is king.
    • Different lines of business will want different things. Build a foundation that is broad, with the flexibility to say “yes” and “no.”
    • “One size fits all” is not always the best approach.
    • The process is painful…but fun!

    Perhaps among the most important lesson learned is that this initiative underscores AECOM’s commitment to university relations and recruiting.

    “AECOM highly values its investment in university recruiting and talent development of early career hires,” Nickovich says.

    “By focusing on building a strong URR program, backed by funding, AECOM has made it clear that early career talent is paramount to our success as an organization as our people are our number one asset.” 

    Kellie Nickovich presented “Building a Fortune 500 University Program…in 6 Months” at the 2019 NACE Conference and Expo.