Last summer, the INSEAD Emerging MarSearchkets Institute (EMI), the HEAD Foundation, and employer branding firm Universum teamed up to conduct what these groups call “the largest independent study ever conducted on millennials.” Surveying more than 16,000 millennials from across the globe, the study delves into a variety of topics, including millennials’ fears, hopes, beliefs, and desires. Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll be exploring the results of this massive survey in a six-part series. This is part three, which will focus on the third piece in the study: “Support Me, But Don’t Tell Me What to Do.”

According to Universum et al.’s research, university-aged millennials generally access information about employers through employer websites (55 percent) and social networks (42 percent). This likely comes as no surprise to many, given the millennials’ reputation as “digital natives.”

What may be surprising, however, is that millennials are also quite fond of non-digital channels when it comes to learning about employers. Forty-four percent of university-aged millennials said they often use career fairs to learn about employers. Moreover, millennials seem to want more “face-to-face interactions on campus,” not more social media content.

“The top two preferred channels for information about a potential employer are employer presentations on campus (41 percent) and career fairs (39 percent),” the study says.

So, What Channels Should Employers Use to Contact and Influence Millennials?

Millennials are using digital channels primarily, but they want to use more non-digital channels. Where does this leave employers?

“We’ve found that channel effectiveness depends on where millennials are in the recruitment process,” says Maddie McMaster, Global Head of HR at Universum.  “Generally, broad channels like career fairs are best for millennials who are still exploring their options, while company-specific channels like career websites are most valuable for those who are ready to apply.”

McMaster also notes that, regardless of the channel through which it is delivered, employer content will only resonate with millennials if it is authentic.

“Most millennials want to really understand what the workplace culture is like before working there,” McMaster says. “Organizations who can share authentic stories to get these messages across will be most successful in connecting with this group.”

Employers should also know that social media — believed by many to be every millennial’s favorite source of information — is not universally loved. Globally speaking, 42 percent of millennials prefer to use social networks when learning about employers, but millennials in specific areas are less enthusiastic about social media. In China, France, and Switzerland, for example, only 23 percent of millennials prefer to use social networks to research employers. Employers should plan their social media strategies according to the specific regions in which they recruit, rather than trying to target millennials as a whole.

If employers want to leverage the full potential of social media when it comes to connecting with millennials, McMaster says they’ll need to focus on the data: “In order to be successful on social media, it’s crucial for employers to use data to drive their decisions and make sure they’re sharing stories about the right things.”

The Anxiety of Influence

Asked about who wields the most influence in society, millennials’ answers vary:

  • Millennials in the Middle East, Western Europe, and North America say private businesses are the dominant influence in society.
  • In Latin America and Central/Eastern Europe, millennials say individuals have the strongest influence in society.
  • In the Asia-Pacific region, millennials believe that government has the strongest influence in society.

It’s important to know how millennials perceive influence, because many millennials desire to be influencers themselves. Opportunities to make an impact play large roles in millennials’ career decisions.

“We’ve seen that millennials are very interested in an organization’s overall mission or purpose,” McMaster says. “For this generation, a job is about more than just making money.”

Regardless of millennials’ disparate beliefs about who society’s biggest influencers are, it’s clear that employers of all stripes must show millennials that they really stand for something beyond making a profit.

“The employers that can [do that] will be most successful in attracting talent from this group,” McMaster says. “Millennials want to make an impact, and employers need to demonstrate the opportunities [to do so] from [the] entry level.”

Next up: Part four: “You Got Us Wrong”

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