One of the best hook-them-while-they’re-young business software tricks came out of computer-aided design specialist Autodesk. The 34-year-old company’s early success was due in large part to its decision to convince influential architectural schools to include its AutoCAD product as part of their core curriculums—and giving the software to students, in order to seal the deal.
I was reminded of that strategy last week when cloud software company Workday announced a new service meant for colleges and universities, a departure from its usual focus on corporate human resource departments.
The product, called Workday Student, is a higher education resource for students and school administrators to access transcripts, change their schedules, gather academic feedback, connect with peers in their fields, and receive financial aid updates. They can even upload samples of their extraordinary coursework and information about internships or real-world experiences that may count more heavily toward a particular degree.
But here’s where things get interesting: As students near graduation, the data in this system could be used to for their resumes. That, in turn, could make it simpler for corporate recruiters at organizations that use Workday’s HR applications to see the backgrounds of potential employees. That’s currently hard to do. Workday senior vice president Leighanne Levensaler puts it this way: “Most of the systems in place today are older than the students themselves.”
And if companies decide to make job offers to those new graduates, all the better.
For starters, new hires will already be familiar with using Workday’s systems (which means they can concentrate on getting down to doing their job more quickly). Chances will also be high that they may be more inclined to use another new Workday application, called Learning, on a more regular basis than their older coworkers. Learning suggests video tutorials, seminars, and other customized career development paths for employees, based on recommendations by their managers, their personal interests, or changes in their job roles. In other words, Workday is encouraging a corporate culture of lifelong learners—starting with undergraduates.
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Heather Clancy is a contributing editor at Fortune. Email her. Share this essay.