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Millennial Magnets: Next generation employer branding

June 2016, by Stephanie Matthews, Director

Generation Y. The Entitlement Generation. The Echo Boomers. The Boomlets. The Me Me Mes.

Whatever you call them, last year this demanding group (-anyone born between 1980 and 2000-) officially became the largest generation in the US workforce. By 2025 they will account for three quarters of the entire global workforce. With high expectations and challenging attitudes the new Millennial majority is forcing the world’s employers to rethink their talent strategies and take employee engagement to a whole new level.

One of the trickiest issues organisations are grappling with is loyalty, or the lack of it. The job for life aspiration so ingrained in previous generations is quickly being replaced by a ‘grow and go’ mentality. In fact a recent Deloitte report showed that a whopping 44% of Millennials surveyed expressed a desire to leave their employers in 2 years. Serial job-hopping is fast becoming the norm. This not only damages retention it also sends recruitment costs skyrocketing in even the most attractive companies to work for. So what’s to be done?

First and foremost, organisations must understand their audience and tap into what motivates them to go above and beyond. The Gen Y stereotype is unhelpful. Far from being work shy, this is the most globally minded, educated generation ever. They know their own value and are prepared to shop around. To stand out, employers have to tap into what inspires their loyalty.

Many Millennials have grown up with an expectation that work can and should be an enjoyable and rewarding part of life but not the be all and end all. Self-actualisation is the name of the game. Instead of chasing loyalty it’s more about nurturing a network of ardent, active brand supporters who appreciate the value you’ve created for them, whether they choose to stay with your company or move on. It’s crucial to answer the ‘what’s in it for me?’ question for your people regardless of their role, giving them fulfilling meaningful work, a healthy work: life balance, opportunities to master new transferrable skills and the autonomy, flexibility and freedom to be themselves and manage their own career trajectories.

Of course, brand leaders like Google, GE, Unilever, John Lewis and Oxfam have this down to a fine art. But for every one of these companies with a winning formula there are millions more at risk of losing out in the war for talent. Here are just a few of the tactics leading brands are using to create workplace experiences that click with Millennials:

Magnetic employer brands built for the digital world

Employer brand strategies are increasingly omnichannel to appeal to digital natives. Career sites must lead with a highly visual brand message and be responsive across devices. Disruptive recruitment marketing campaigns and gamified elements challenge conventions and inject a bit of fun into the process. And finally, real people stories – often through bite-sized videos – shed light on life inside the company and give the company a human face.

Virgin Group – one of the most desirable UK businesses to work for – has been predictably innovative. In 2014 Virgin Money famously conducted ‘the world’s most creative job interview’ which included a Crystal Maze-style space in a disused tower block. Promoted across social media, applicants were taken through an immersive interview process involving actors in which their challenger brand mindset – resilience, lateral thinking, curiosity and entrepreneurialism – was put through its paces. For instance, one chamber featured a mock football dressing room with despirited England footballers in need of a motivational half-time talk. The result? One creative genius hired and a lot of buzz.

Agile people practices

Many organisations are aware that the way they evaluate their people is out of date. The reinvention of performance management is a movement that began in Silicon Valley in the late 00s and has since inspired others to follow suit: GE, Adobe, Netflix, Accenture and Google to name a few. The new style practices tap into a few well-known Millennial traits – their need for regular feedback and desire for rapid acceleration, plus their distrust of authority and intolerance for slow processes. Forgoing top-down, formal annual reviews many leading companies are now instituting more iterative, nimble, real-time and individualised systems focused on supporting future performance and growth instead of looking in the rear-view mirror.

Fostering talent communities

Professional services companies know their people are the sources of their competitive advantage and invest in them heavily. McKinsey’s famous alumni programme came from the idea that every one of their colleagues is a potential future client and other sector leaders have now followed suit. One notable transformation in the sector is SAP. Over the past two years the company has increased its appeal to Millennials by changing its communication style, pushing out a strong brand message and increasing their visibility and transparency. Beyond the obvious changes to their careers website they’ve taken bold steps to democratise the recruitment process using social media channels to avoid simply targeting the top colleges. They now have 500k active members in a talent community that they describe as a solid base of people interested in working for SAP but not yet applying.

Encouraging greater impact

We know they’re ambitious and expect more from work. And it’s not just about offering time to pursue passions beyond work – it’s more pointed than that. Millenials want to contribute to their industry – they want to influence and have lasting impact. Embracing this through the development of initiatives that encourage this kind of thinking and participation have great appeal.

Taken together, these tactics combine to give companies an edge in an ever-more competitive job market. When creating a new employer brand strategy, it pays to think like a Millennial.