SAP, a market leader in the enterprise application software industry, serves more than 320,000 customers of all sizes around the world. In recent years, the company paid special attention to maximizing the value of Millennials joining its workforce, recognizing these professionals as a source of innovation that can help it access a customer base with changing expectations for the software sales process.

In 2013, SAP America launched its Academy for Early Talent, a program designed to recruit and develop recent graduates as sales and pre-sales professionals. Located in Dublin, California, the academy has trained more than 800 students from more than 50 countries.

Sourced from regional recruiters using the company’s global standards, recruits arrive at the academy in large cohorts. There, they begin either a sales or pre-sales training track that blends experiential classroom learning with on-the-job training. Professionals on the sales track participate in an eight-month program consisting of three separate month-long cycles in the classroom coupled with two months practicing in the field at their regional office. Professionals on the pre-sales training track participate in a 12-month program, with six months in the classroom and six months in the field at their regional office.

Participants on both tracks benefit from a curriculum relevant to their future careers. The Academy for Early Talent hires its entire faculty and develops 80 percent of its learning content internally. After graduating, learners meet regularly with a mentor or coach during their first three years on the job. These mentors and coaches report back to faculty at the academy on the continued development and behavioral changes graduates have made.

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Overall, the Academy for Early Talent has produced strong results. Graduates boast a 95 percent retention rate, and they perform comparably to or better than experienced hires.

Editor’s Note: SAP was an ATD Excellence in Practice Award winner. Applications for the 2017 awards open July 1.