With the millennials now in their biological primes (18-35 years old) and steadily gaining more corporate, financial, and political power, marketers have begun investing increasingly large amounts of money in efforts to engage and ultimately win over this enigmatic generation.
Of course, we recruiters, too, must now focus on attracting millennials, albeit in a slightly different capacity. Still, I think we may be able to learn something from marketing professionals when it comes to capturing the attentions of millennials. Here are a couple lessons I think the advertising industry can teach recruiters:
1. You Can’t Force an Employer Brand on Millennial Candidates; They Must Discover It Themselves
Most generations are alive to the fact that advertising relies, in some ways, on deception. This likely explains why 51 percent of Americans trust user-generated content over brand-generated content.
The mistrust of brand-generated advertising is especially high in the millennial generation. According to the McCarthy Group, millennials have the least faith in brand messages and advertising: 84 percent of them say they don’t trust it.
If millennials react to employer branding the same way they react to product branding, they may be more immune to the charms of expensive employer branding campaigns and more likely to trust feedback, reviews, and comments from current employees, former employers, and unsuccessful applicants.
In many ways, employers can’t force their brands on millennials. Rather, employers need to create genuinely positive employee experiences, and they need to spread the messages of these experiences organically, via evangelists — that is, current employees, ex-employees, and candidates who can spread positive word about working for the company.
Employers can facilitate this process by ensuring that authentic employee voices are incorporated into their branding communications — but this could look artificial if done poorly. If a company wants to use authentic employee voices to attract talent, then the company must allow employees to authentically initiate and drive the messaging. This may be the most effective way to influence millennial candidates.
2. Your Brand Needs a Socially Responsible Element That Resonates With Millennials
According to a Boston Consulting Group study, 50 percent of millennials aged 18-24 and one-third aged 25-34 identify with consumer brands on much more personal levels than older generations do. They have preferences for brands that represent their personal views and values.
From an employer’s point of view, this fact strongly suggests that candidates will also be drawn to employer brands that echo their values.
However, employers cannot simply jump onto socially conscious bandwagons and blindly pour money into charitable causes, expecting millennial goodwill to follow. If employers want to engage with millennials, they need to take functional, targeted steps toward supporting causes that resonate with millennials.
Employers need to engage with their employees and candidates on personal levels. They need to have have meaningful dialogues that uncover the social issues millennial candidates care about, and they need to build brands that reflect these issues. Doing this will create the essential, socially responsible element to the employer brand that engages millennial talent.
In conclusion, it’s clear that employers can not force their employer branding on millennials. Gen. Y-ers must discover your brand for themselves — particularly via trusted brand evangelists — if you are to win their confidence.