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Employer Branding That Really Works for Recruiting Gen Y Workers.

Craig Fisher
By Craig Fisher
on June 20, 2018

OK. I get it. You're probably tired of hearing about Millennials by now. I can't say I blame you, if we're being honest. But as much hiring hype as Gen Y has received in recruiting over the years, the fact is that no employer can afford to ignore a group that's grown into about 35% of the entire global workforce.

By comparison, Gen X represents 33% of the workforce, followed by Boomers, currently estimated to constitute around 25% of all workers - a number that's expected to drop precipitously over the coming years as the latter ages out of the workforce.

They are already being replaced by Gen Z (at least if you believe the bloggers), though, so it's not like reconciling the manifold issues that come with making a multigenerational workforce work are getting any easier. If anything, it's only becoming more challenging.

Of course, while Gen Z might be a trendy trending topic, demographically, they currently represent a fractional amount of the workforce, and the few Gen Z workers out there are just beginning their careers; Gen X employees, conversely, have largely already peaked in terms of their overall influence and average career trajectory.

They remain the most powerful cohort in terms of leadership and management positions across the board, but their tenure at the top seems temporal, at best.

For Millennials, though, their careers are largely peaking in the present- and as they increasingly move into leadership roles and the executive ranks of many employers, there's no doubt that after years of talking about the impact of Gen Y workers, that theory has largely become a recruiting reality.

This means as far as recruitment marketing is concerned, they're the target audience most every employer out there is shooting for. And like all marketing strategies, to successfully capture and convert Gen Y workers, it's important that talent leaders understand their audience.

The Why of Gen Y: Audience Persona Creation

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First off, when we talk about "Gen Y," we're talking about someone between the ages of 22 and 36 (at least according to the most widely adopted and commonly accepted definition), which means we shouldn't look at Millennial talent as a monolith. Rather, Gen Y workers represent a wide range of career ambitions, aspirations, experience and expertise, and their priorities and professional goals are similarly varied.

Often, the divergent and diverse wants and needs of these employees can seem confusing, like some weird mashup of messaging and branding, particularly when it comes to fundamental stuff like benefits and perks.

What Gen Y workers want really runs the gamut, which is why before building inducements and incentives designed specifically with Millennials in mind, it's important to remember that the best benefits package in the world doesn't mean a whole lot if Gen Y workers won't work for you in the first place.

Even before they enter the hiring process, these tech savvy workers have already done their research on social media, review sites, your career content and collateral, and probably asked their friends and family, too. If there's one thing Millennials know how to do, it's due diligence.

That's why you have to do yours, too, understanding not only what makes Gen Y workers tick, but also, how to attract and engage them efficiently and effectively.

Remember, you only have one chance to make a good first impression, and those impressions are now made every time a candidate searches for company or career information online.

Think Different: How to Make Your Employer Brand Stand Out to Millennials

Finding the right talent means finding the right message for the right audience at the right time, all the time. And while this isn't easy with Gen Y workers, there are a few unique employer brand tricks I've learned over the years that seem to really resonate with Millennial candidates and produce real recruiting results.

No matter what your strategy might be, standing out from the competition is imperative, so forget hackneyed advice like, "get on social media" or "make sure your career site is mobile friendly."

You already know that (I hope), but let's go a step further and look at some cool tactics that every recruiter and hiring pro should incorporate when creating a Gen Y recruiting strategy for success.

Highlight Employee Journeys.

People don't want to work with companies. People want to work with people. This is why your employer brand needs to put your current workers front and center.

As humans, we're hard wired to respond to stories, and even as AI becomes such a significant part of how we hire, the impact of the empathy (and affinity) real stories from real employees can have when attracting Gen Y workers has the propensity to be an equally powerful tool in your TA arsenal.

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Videos and other online content are a great way to capture and convey what the employee experience is like at your company, particularly when the stories you tell highlight the personal side of the professional experience.

Surveys repeatedly show that a primary driver for Gen Y workers when considering employers are opportunities for career growth and development, so it's important your employer brand collateral captures not only where your workers are going, but also, where they've come from, too. The combination proves pretty powerful.

A lot of companies utilize "Day in the Life" videos to capture their culture, but the fact is, those are better for specific jobs than holistically highlighting how that job fits into the bigger business picture, and how that job aligns with other opportunities and career growth in your company. By highlighting career paths, internal mobility and the journeys your real employees have already experienced, you'll be able to tangibly show your company is committed to development and a long term career destination.

Both messages are  salient with Millennials, particularly when its your real employees and their real stories that are doing the talking instead of your career site or recruitment marketing materials. It's easy to talk the talk, but if you can't show you walk the walk, trust me: Gen Y candidates will walk away.

Last, remember that another principal driver for Gen Y candidates considering career opportunities is work life balance, which is why any employee advocacy or brand ambassador initiatives shouldn't be all about what happens at the office, but instead, show a bit of the personal interests, proclivities and pastimes of the workers you're profiling.

Because you can't have work life balance without that whole "life" thing.

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TL;DR:

87% of Millennials say career growth and professional development are either "important" or "very important" in a job. The misconception that Gen Y workers lack loyalty often comes from the desire to gain experiences across functions and industries, te

sting a variety of companies and career paths, something all workers are prone to early in their careers.

But if you can provide a compelling career path and long term growth opportunities, you're not only giving Gen Y workers a reason to join your company, but a reason to stick around, too. After all, the more experience and exposure you can provide Gen Y workers within your organization, the fewer reasons top Millennial talent will have to leave. 

Help them move up, not on.

Ditch the JD and Rethink the Resume.

As most recruiters already know, emerging workers and entry level employees at the beginning of their careers are often hard to tell apart on paper; the relative lack of experience, skills or expertise can make it hard to distinguish between candidates (much less find the needle in the haystack every employer is looking for). 

That's why - strange as this sounds - it might not be a bad idea to consider ditching the resume when targeting Gen Y workers, and not because they objectively come across as a little old school to candidates who grew up with Google and Facebook at their fingertips.

Instead, it's because not only are many Gen Y resumes difficult to distinguish or differentiate, they're also limited in scope to showing what a candidate has done. With Gen Y workers, knowing what they're capable of in the long term is a far more important consideration than than any short term need. 

While all processes differ, if possible, consider replacing (or augmenting) that resume requirement with open ended questions, instead. Build these questions around company fit and professional aspirations instead of testing for skills and focusing on the job, and you'll soon see that unlike resumes, the original responses you'll generate speak specifically about how the candidate fits with your company and opportunity - in their own words.

That's a pretty powerful prescreen.

 

 

Also, it might be a good idea to consider trying alternatives to the traditional job description or posting. These are great ways to find out who might fit a specific set of basic qualifications or even preferred requirements, but these are inherently limited in scope to only one job, not long term potential or cultural fit.

Additionally, they're essentially rewritten compensation documents, and bulleted lists and boilerplates are obviously not the most effective way to engage candidates of any age, much less differentiate your company from the thousands of similar opportunities out there. Just like most entry level or emerging workforce resumes all mostly look alike, every job description says more or less the same thing. 

If you want to stand out, don't sound the same as everyone else - and actually speak to the Gen Y workers you're trying to hire instead of simply having your message lost in the noise.

TL;DR: 86% of Millennials consider a fun and social work environment important when considering a company; a similar percentage state that the less work feels like work, the more satisfied and engaged they're likely to be - and to stick around, too. This isn't to say that you have to change your culture for Millennial workers, but rather, that you successfully find the ones that will thrive in yours - which is only possible if you look beyond the standard resume and application and consider that every candidate is a future coworker.

In the case of Millennials, those candidates are more than just future coworkers, however. They're the future of work. Which is why when you're hiring for your future, your employer brand can't stay stuck in the past. Period.

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Craig Fisher
Written by Craig Fisher
Craig Fisher is Head of Marketing and Employer Brand SME at Allegis Global Solutions. He has consulted with companies like CA Technologies, Hootsuite, Yum! Brands, LinkedIn, FOX News and many more on sales, brand, and recruitment strategy. Craig created the first Twitter chat for recruiters, and partnered in the first LinkedIn certified training company in North America. He’s been detailed in the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Forbes, Mashable, NBC News, The Huffington Post, and NPR; and is listed among HR and Recruiting's top influencers and most engaging conference speakers. Craig co-hosts the Cool Tools Show podcast with Lars Schmidt - www.CoolToolShow.com. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram @fishdogs and on his blog at www.fishdogs.com.

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