Millennials — those born between 1981 and 1996 — are the largest generation in history. This cohort of 83.1 million in the United States alone is digitally adept, social and connected, encumbered with debt and spending less. They have markedly different priorities in their professional lives, valuing purpose, personal growth opportunities, company culture and engagement in their work over salary and company loyalty. A Brookings report shows that millennials will comprise more than 75 percent of the workforce by 2025. It’s important for companies, large and small alike, to understand what is important to this generation of employees in order to attract and retain the top talent.
The Digital Marketing & Media Network and YNG+ recently held a global conference call with Jenny Dearborn, Executive Vice President, Global Head: Talent, Leadership and Learning at SAP, and Robin Dagostino, Global Director, Employer Branding and Creative Media at SAP, on “Developing a Pipeline of Next Generation Leaders.” As an employer, SAP has received wide-range recognition: Most Innovative Companies by Boston Consulting Group, Best Places to Work in Technology by Indeed, and FlexJobs’ Top 100 Companies to Watch for Remote Jobs in 2018. Here are a few strategies presented by Dearborn and Dagostino that can help you create an enticing employer brand and a culture that enables growth to attract potential millennial employees.
Create a Learning & Development (L&D) program for all levels
Guide incoming talent as they progress in their careers and become the pipeline for the next generation of leaders. For SAP, Dearborn says, that means having a robust leadership development curriculum at every level of the organization — from global executives, senior executives and mid-level managers to first-level managers and aspiring leaders who are high-potential contributing individuals. Set clear expectations about the number of hours to meet the curriculum requirements for each specific level and function. All SAP employees are expected to actively learn and grow, dedicating between a half hour to two hours every week based on the individual’s level and role.
Build experiential learning into your programs
Most executives and employees agree that a facilitated, experiential learning experience is more impactful than in-classroom training. SAP dedicates 10 to 15 percent of L&D to formal learning offerings, such as classes online, virtual and in person, and the balance to informal experiential and relationship-based learning, including coaching, mentoring, fellowships, job rotation, job shadowing, sabbatical and sponsorship programs. Growth opportunities — especially ones that are more likely to result in new skills, connections and success — are key to retaining this generation of talent.
Align external and internal messaging
In order to attract and develop talent, it’s important to not only have an Employee Value Proposition (EVP) but to promote it as well. “We could have the very best programs in the world,” says Dearborn, “but if people don’t know about them and they don’t feel emotionally connected to our organization then they won’t come here in the first place to participate in our programs.” Ensure that the internal talent and leadership programs are in align with the externally facing employee value proposition messaging.
Use data to understand your employer brand
Creating an EVP is one of the most important steps you can take. “Employer brand isn’t something you fabricate,” says Dagostino. “It needs to be the DNA of your company.” First become aware of how your brand is perceived internally and externally through social media, job boards and more. There is a wealth of knowledge available — from Glassdoor and social listening to the competition’s value propositions — to help you understand your brand better, what differentiates your company and what resonates with your employees and potential hires.
Define and unlock the EVP
Conduct workshops internally to help develop your strategy, gain employee insights and define your key messaging. Remember that one size doesn’t fit all. Different target groups have different desires. Take the time to understand your target group to deliver relevance. Set realistic KPIs and keep in mind that the strategy needs to support the business plan and organizational objectives.
Activate, engage and evaluate your content strategy
It’s critical to be active where millennials are active — whether through podcasts and videos or on social media. “Being where those candidates are, showing them what life is like in an authentic way and allowing employees to be the voice of that really helps,” says Dagostino. Employees can be your biggest advocates. Empower them to share their stories and to communicate why they like working at your company. Engaging employees in the process goes a lot further than simply broadcasting a message.