When it comes to recruiting and retaining top talent, too often too many organizations build failure into the very strategies they design to bring in their best and brightest new employees. The overarching problem? Most organizations’ recruitment messaging does not significantly address what the millennial workforce wants and needs in a job. This creates a gap in understanding; what recruiters are saying is not what the recruited are hearing.
Look at the postings on Indeed, LinkedIn, or another job board. How often do you see the half-hearted appeals to stereotypical millennial priorities? How many postings offer features such as a location near public transportation, flat management, collaborative workspaces, free snacks, foosball, and free-beer Fridays?
Similarly, most recruitment marketing programs claim that employees “can make a difference.” But what does that mean, exactly? Presenting opportunities within your company in platitudes is not a recruitment strategy. The reliance on vague language at the outset, I’ve found, can have a significant impact on how well employees fit – or fail to fit – into their new organizations.
A poor fit can be the product of something as simple as a misunderstanding of expectations. Whatever its cause, that poor fit can lead to friction and stress points across the workplace. That disruption can send shockwaves throughout the workplace, lowering employee engagement, damaging your culture, and leading to turnover.
Constant turnover wears on an organization. With every vacancy, your organization suffers lost productivity, and it must commit time and resources to finding, screening, hiring, and onboarding a replacement.
The High Cost of Low Engagement
Just 24 percent of the global workforce considers itself engaged in their workplace, according to a Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report1. In that same study, 71% of respondents call employee engagement “very important” to achieving overall organizational success.
Turnover, of course, is a symptom of both a poor fit from the start as well as a symptom of poor engagement. Employers are paying dearly for this disconnect. Gallup research, according to Inc.com2, found that “actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion per year…”
Josh Bersin of Deloitte believes the cost of losing an employee3 can range from tens of thousands of dollars to twice the employee’s annual salary. Employee Benefit News4 (EBN) reports that it costs employers 33% of a worker's annual salary to hire a replacement if that worker leaves.
There are also intangible factors to consider, such as the impact on workforce morale of the loss of superstar employees or even just the presence of a steady churn.
A Fresh Look at Recruitment Practices
It’s worthwhile to take a step back and take a prospective hire’s point of view. Ask yourself, why would someone want to work for your organization? What is it about your corporate mission, your workplace culture, or your organization’s reputation that would inspire top talent to want to join you?
Look at your company’s mission statement. Perhaps innovation is a major theme. Ask yourself, why is innovation important to our company? Why should it be important to the individual employee? What behaviors do employees need to embrace in order to enjoy the benefits of innovation? And what might the pursuit of innovation look like for that prospective hire?
Top talent wants to know the benefits associated with an offer. How does your organization align with their goals and beliefs? In what ways can they contribute to the strategic planning and direction of a specific team or department, and, in turn, help drive the success of the larger organization?
When developing a communication strategy around recruitment, it's important that you ladder it down to the “what's in it for me” impulse we all feel when assessing opportunities, as well as the behaviors and the features of what the job offers in regard to “making a difference.”
What is the prospective employee’s priority? Say it’s bringing innovation to her work. What does that mean to her? It may mean that she has the resources and the money to come up with new molecular capabilities that can change the world. Great. You’ve established what’s important to her. And how does she go about addressing that priority? It may be by being in a lab, devoting time, having the equipment to do her job, and by surrounding herself with people who also value innovation.
Too often, companies underscore the platitude of innovation in their organization, but they don't get down to the specifics of what it is prospective hires can do and how they can make that happen.
Focusing on Your Organizational ‘Why’
How well do prospective employees understand your organization’s purpose? What, as Simon Sinek would ask, is your ‘why’? And how well do they understand why they would want to work with you?
By identifying this core idea and pointing to examples of how your organization – and your employees – embody and act on it makes a powerful impression on prospective employees.
It’s that clarity of purpose that makes your brand stand out, attracting and retaining employees during and after the recruitment process. It’s the difference in identity between TOMS shoes and DSW shoes, or Patagonia and LL Bean.
Selective colleges put this concept to work in their student recruitment practices to great effect. Take universities in and around Washington, DC, and the recruitment of students interested in the fields of public policy or international relations. These schools present prospective students with opportunities that other schools simply can’t provide with the same depth or regularity.
Sure, they say, other top schools offer courses taught by former top diplomats. But where else can you take similar courses while also attending with regularity lectures by top diplomats, world leaders and politicians? While also interning and connecting with a dozen or more think tanks, trade associations, and other organizations all just a few blocks down the road?
Similarly, by identifying your organization’s distinctive attributes and the opportunities they present, your recruitment messaging will organically attract employees seeking those opportunities and whose presence will have a significant positive impact on your workplace culture –and its bottom line.
Practicing Corporate Principles in the Day-to-Day
When developing a communication strategy around recruitment, it's important that you show examples of how prospective hires can embody or practice your corporate principles in their day-to-day work. In the example above, where the company and prospective hire both value innovation, there should be no ambiguity about how each approaches the idea.
By the time a prospective hire is in her final interview, or receives her offer letter, she should understand as clearly as possible the specifics of the job, what her responsibilities are, who is it she is going to report to, what is her budget for getting the job done. There’s a balance of “me” and “we” that’s really important to millennials. They want to know, “What I can accomplish today to make me feel good about myself as well as what impact I can have in the long-term interest of this company?”
A recruitment communications strategy that embraces this approach will give prospective hires information they need to make the decision to work with you or not.
There is a direct correlation with how well you select and recruit your talent and the impact that talent has on your company's culture and brand. Simply put, your people are your brand. If your people aren't representing what you stand for and what your purpose is in the marketplace, then you are less likely to succeed. The extra effort at the outset of the recruitment process is well worth it.
About the Author
Allan Steinmetz is the founder and CEO of Inward Strategic Consulting. Allan has over 30 years’ experience in strategy, marketing management, and advertising and communications, having worked for some of the world's most respected advertising and management consulting firms. Prior to establishing Inward Strategic Consulting, he was a senior vice president and corporate director of marketing for Arthur D. Little, one of the world's leading management and technology consulting firms. He was responsible for the firm's brand identity and positioning, business development, strategic awareness, lead generation, advertising, and communications. In 2012, he was named one of the top twenty-five consultants in the United States by Consulting Magazine. In 2017 his firm received an annual award as the first agency of its kind by Enterprise Engagement Alliance at their annual conference and dinner. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.