The key to recruiting millennials

Professional development, opportunities for advancement and corporate ethics are key when recruiting millennials.

Employers recruiting “millennials” need to understand how they differ from older job candidates. Clodagh O’Reilly, science and analytics practice leader at IBM Smarter Workforce EMEA, offers some tips on attracting younger workers.

If you don’t think generation makes a difference, think again. When asked to recall how and where
John F Kennedy died, Baby Boomers would say “gunshots in Dallas, Texas”; Generation X remembers a plane crash near Martha’s Vineyard; and Generation Y (Gen Y) and the millennials might say, “Kennedy who?”

As it stands, about one-third of the current workforce is either Gen Y or millennial, but this is predicted to rise over the next decade to around the three-quarters mark. By 2025, companies of all shapes and sizes will be reliant on these groups to maintain productivity and competitive edge.

As this transition occurs however, it does represent some major obstacles for employers. The first problem that springs to mind is the management of a workforce that could soon comprise as many as five generations. Individuals with different values, different ideas, different ways of operating and different ways of communicating in the workplace have always existed, and, while these are challenges for practices and processes, there is a more pressing issue on the agenda for companies – how do you attract the brightest candidates of the millennial generation?

Conducting a dialogue when recruiting millennials

Candidates today – especially millennials – are smart, well informed, and unwilling to consider one-size-fits-all recruitment strategies. Instead, they favour companies that are able to conduct a dialogue with them, understand them as individuals, build relationships, and offer a hiring and employee experience that looks at not just their skills, but also at their needs and aspirations.

Thanks to the social tools they have at their disposal, they are able to research companies thoroughly before they even apply. In short, candidates are increasingly treating the job application process like a consumer undertaking a major purchase decision.

Gen Y and millennials are not that different from past generations. They are asking for the same things that everybody else wants, but they just go about it in different ways. This means that companies targeting the Gen Y and millennial groups need to rethink the traditional rulebook when it comes to attracting and retention.

This raises a fundamental question: if companies are trying to recruit a new breed of employees, why would they continue to use the same approaches that worked for previous generations? If recruits are becoming increasingly “consumerised”, recruiters and HR departments alike need to start thinking like marketers – thinking more like the talent they are trying to attract.

What motivates younger job candidates?

First, it is necessary to fundamentally understand what actually motivates them. Benefits, perks, and other advantages, not just salary and rank, are hugely important, as are professional development, opportunities for advancement and a company’s corporate social responsibility strategy and ethics.

A sense of “team” and “belonging” should not be underestimated and organisations must look to emphasise training, mentorship and company/team culture as important selling points. This is especially true in our time of evolving working patterns that may not see teams physically coming together in a traditional office setting.

Another strategy for attracting recruits is for companies to use their own communication channels (not just Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) to market a story, just like any brand would do for prospective customers. With more than one billion employees predicted to be using smartphones by 2018, the opportunity for social connection is huge, as well as highly relevant.

LinkedIn’s 2015 Talent Trends Report showed that 62% of millennials visit a company’s social media sites to find out information about jobs, and the majority of this browsing is done through apps on mobile devices. More often than not, what they are looking for is culture in the social presence. Company culture is paramount.

IBM’s own research showed that 92% of companies are now using social media for recruiting but, as with the consumer-marketing balance, it is important for companies to see social media as a platform for engagement, rather than a push marketing tool. LinkedIn’s same report found that 61% of millennials reported a positive interview experience when they received answers to all their questions. To do that, you have to show them what they want to hear and see.

More often than not, in addition to simply a list of open positions, millennials are looking for those cultural markers among corporate feeds. Why then are the majority of interviews conducted in a conference room in one corner of the office as people cycle in and out? Millennials want to see the space, meet the people, hear the conversations, and get a feel for the general atmosphere.

As with many business and cultural shifts, it can take a long time for institutional changes to take effect. With the business and cultural landscapes evolving at the greatest pace since the industrial revolution, businesses cannot afford, or wait for, millennials to reach the board level before changes happen.


About Clodagh O'Reilly

Clodagh O'Reilly is science and analytics practice leader at IBM Smarter Workforce EMEA.
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