roadIt’s important that businesses take the time to understand millennials, given that they are the largest generation in the workforce. Companies with outdated recruiting practices will fail to connect with top talent – and they’ll struggle to attract even mid-level candidates. Companies that refuse to update their recruiting methods for our modern workforce risk consigning themselves to more mediocre corners of the talent pool.

Organizations that would rather not suffer this fate should take note of consumer goods company Unilever. Instead of ignoring the ways in which generational differences impact recruiting, Unilever embraced them.

“Our executive team realized the rapidly changing and dynamic consumer demands and knew we’d need to attract global talent and appeal to the millennial workforce,” says Melissa Gee Kee, strategy director to the chief human resources officer and global HR4HR director for Unilever.

Reckoning with its recruiting practices, Unilever decided that its Future Leaders Program (FLP), a three-year on-the-job graduate program, needed a little refreshing.

“The existing process was an out-of-date method rooted in paper-based applications, phone interviews with recruiters, and manual assessment tests,” Gee Kee explains. “It took 4-6 months to sift through 250,000 applications and ultimately hire 800 individuals. In addition, the process was not in line with candidate expectations for a company like Unilever or with the company’s goal of moving rapidly and using technology to do so.”

Update Now, or Pay the Price Later

In 2015, Gee Kee and one of Unilever’s HR directors based in South Africa began working together to brainstorm new visions of the company’s FLP recruiting process.

“We assessed the issues that were problematic with the existing process – it was cumbersome, expensive, and time-consuming – and then researched solutions,” Gee Kee says. “We examined early adopters of novel technologies and looked at neuroscience, data analysis, gamification, and other different ways of assessing and defining talent.”

Uncertain whether your recruiting process could use a similar reevaluation? Gee Kee lists the following four signs that your recruiting game is out of touch:

  1. The inability to attract talented individuals from around the world, and in particular, today’s millennial workforce.
  2. The inability to accurately identify talent that would excel at your particular organization via static resumes and inconsistent interview processes.
  3. Failure to meet consumer demand and expectation of your brand by offering candidates a personalized, convenient, and speedy application process.
  4. Lack of diversity in the talent pool.

Recognizing these issues isn’t enough, however. Businesses must then address the issues in ways that talent will find attractive.

wheat“Companies that thrive in today’s increasingly dynamic talent environment will be those best able to respond quickly and innovatively to rapidly changing consumer and talent preferences,” Gee Kee says.

Unilever expects 60 percent of its employees to be millennials by 2020. As a result, the company has considered millennials’ particular desires in order to tailor its recruiting process more to their liking.

“Like our global consumers, today’s millennial talent typically has extremely high expectations of the companies they seek to join,” Gee Kee says. “They tend to be digitally sophisticated and look to have a meaningful impact on their society through their work. To help attract these individuals, we must not only have a meaningful purpose, but also be able to move quickly in effectively engaging with this generation. Leveraging innovative technology in our recruiting interactions with them from the start is a key part of this journey.”

Lose the Paperwork; Embrace Technology

Since we’re talking here about a generation of people who practically grew up with the internet in their pockets, it should go without saying that paper processes aren’t appealing to millennials or the Gen. Z-ers coming after them.

Unilever choose to work with HireVue in order to inject some tech into its recruiting process. HireVue’s video interview assessment technology has been a useful tool for Unilever.

““We had to ensure we had a digital process, but one that felt very human, not robotic, and it had to be better and more efficient at selecting candidates than an in-person interview,” Gee Kee says. “The environment of recruitment has changed, and the world is much more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous than it was yesterday. Being able to move quickly yet effectively leveraging the latest technologies is key to success. So, more than anything, we’d encourage companies to embrace the change. It may seem dramatic, but it’s certainly no longer a ‘nice to have.’ At Unilever, we decided to go all in on digital, and our business – and our candidates – have been better for it.”

To enact a successful transition from outdated processes to new ones based on the latest technologies, Gee Kee recommends aligning a company’s strategy with the following four concerns:

  1. Move quickly: “Unilever’s digital recruitment program team launched its new FLP hiring process within six months.”
  2. Focus on your consumer: “During the stakeholder review process, some stakeholders voiced concern that the process was too digital and would alienate some prospects. However, the program team knew from its research and experience with millennials that candidates wanted a hiring process that reflected how they interact and socialize on an everyday basis.”
  3. Bring partners together: “Unilever’s digital recruitment process required its three outside vendors to work together efficiently to help ensure success. To accomplish this, the Unilever team kicked off the initiative by bringing those vendors together with internal stakeholders to develop the solution as a unit.”
  4. Leverage the global team: “By working with our executives around the world, the team enabled widespread and rapid adoption.”


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