6 New Strategies for Engaging Millennial Talent

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Evan H. LesserBy Evan H. Lesser, General Manager, getTalent

An untold number of articles and advice columns have been written about how the Millennial generation will impact the workforce as it becomes an ever-growing presence. In fact, by 2025 Millennials will make up roughly 75% of the workforce. That means companies will have to work even harder to source the best talent for their short and long-term hiring needs. Because Millennials have a much different set of values, motivators and expectations than previous generations, many companies are struggling with how to engage them effectively. Millennials have a strong desire for work that gives them a  sense of purpose and value, not just ample compensation, and they’re looking for employers that meet these needs. Complicating matters for recruiters,  3 out 5 Millennials expect to switch jobs in less than five years.

These new dynamics mean that many of the conventional tricks of the trade may not work to entice this new generation of workers. Many recruiters are finding they need a new approach, one predicated on engaging Millennials when, where and how they’ve come to expect it, not where conventional best practices would dictate. Recruiters must focus on the audience—their wants, needs, desires, and expectations. They must think like marketers, and that means implementing some new strategies to better engage Millennial talent.

1)     “The medium is the message.” Although coined more than 50 years ago, this famous phrase by communications research pioneer Marshall McLuhan remains just as relevant today. McLuhan’s premise, that the medium itself influences how the message is perceived, is a crucial factor in Millennial recruitment. Most companies rely on email as a primary engagement tool. While this might work extremely well for a GenXer, it’s decidedly “old school” for the Millennial set. Instead, they communicate primarily on social sites like Twitter, Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Instagram. One could consider SMS texting to be the Millennial’s version of GenXer’s email. Why does this matter? Not only does using the wrong channel mean that your message may not be well received—if it’s received at all—but it also says something about your company. Perception is key, and most Millennials would expect an exciting,company–the type they’d want to work for– to be on the cutting edge of technology. Send them an email, and you may lose their interest before they even get to read the message.

2)     Personalization is critical. Millennials have grown up in the data era in which their favorite retailers, brands and social sites have trained them to expect a personalized experience, customized for their specific likes, interests and behaviors. Quite simply, reaching out to Millennials with a bulk message sent from a generic email account clearly shows you’ve got zero details on their dossier. As the adage goes, you only get one chance to make a good first impression.  Analyze and leverage social networking and behavioral data in your recruiting outreach to deliver the personal, (perceived) one-to-one communication Millennials have come to expect. Rather than reaching out with a blind pitch, find common connections, provide relevant information and cultivate a personal relationship with your target candidates. Provide them with something useful—information, connection or entertainment—to show that you understand them and speak their language. While narrowing your focus also narrows the candidate pool, just as in marketing, it’s far more effective to engage with a small group that’s highly targeted, than it is to “spray and pray.”  You’ll earn bonus points if you can have someone in the skill sector within your company reach out with a personal message. For example, if you’re looking for software engineers, have your head of development send out correspondence containing info on the type of exciting projects the team works on.

3)     Timing is everything. The best message sent over the perfect channel can still be ignored if the timing is all wrong. Of course, chronological timing is important—day of the week, time of day—but also the best timing for the candidate, industry or job skill matters perhaps more. When reaching out, take into account how long candidates have been at their current job, their perceived age, perhaps even their gender and job skills. Do you know that, among your target audience, men change jobs on average every 3 years? Do financial analysts  respond better to messages sent in the early morning hours, where IT programmers are late night  targets? Understanding these nuances can help you fine-tune your approach to get the timing of outreach just right.

4)     Use unconventional tactics. In the current healthy job market, millennials, especially passive candidates, are not likely to respond to a direct solicitation or job opening announcement. It’s got to be interesting in order to be enticing. For example, use special events to engage them in learning about or participating with your company: host a community service project, a hackathon or an open house, spread the word about a cause you’re sponsoring or an event you’ll be participating in. This not only provides an interesting hook, but also provides candidates with a glimpse into your company culture.

5)     Focus on your brand. Millennials are keenly aware of a potential employer’s brand, and how it’s perceived by their peers. They’re “shopping” for an employer long before they ever apply for a job based on whether the culture, community and purpose fit their own values, and they care what their friends think. The best way to promote a positive brand image as an employer is to be a good employer. Providing opportunities for growth, volunteering and activism, and fostering a supportive work environment cultivates positive employee engagement, and builds advocates from within. Not only should you work as a company to showcase your culture on social media and your company blog, but these advocates will also carry the message about what a great place it is to work through their peer groups and their own over social media accounts, etc. building a positive brand image from within.

6)     Be dynamic. Millennials have grown up in a fast-changing, tech-driven era, so they’re extremely dynamic, establishing major new trends in a matter of days or even hours. You must be  progressive in order to snag their attention. Using tools that allow you to measure your recruiting outreach efforts in real time gives you the opportunity to change tactics on the fly, fine tune messages and media for the specific audiences and skills you need to reach and see an immediate impact on results.

Millennials are the trailblazers in the digital/mobile revolution. They’ve grown up with the power of a supercomputer and the entire Internet at their fingertips. As a result, they expect more than conventional recruitment methods, and if their expectations are not met, they’re quick to move on to another opportunity. By engaging millennials in the media, methods and moments that resonate with them—just like a marketer goes after a target audience—recruiters will have much greater success in building a pipeline for the “me” generation and beyond.

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