I once worked for a company where the average age of employees was under 30, and yet the first thing the new head of HR did when she came onboard was to introduce a new retirement benefit. Had that been a data-based decision, we would have had summer Fridays.
A competitive salary and benefits package is still necessary, but it is what is called a threshold offering — the bare minimum millennials expect a company to offer. A company needs to have it, but it doesn’t need to talk about it unless it is one of the few companies that choose this as the distinctive piece of their employee value proposition. Millennials expect companies to paint a picture of what life would be like working for their organization — the compensation and benefits packages are much less important than they were in the past.
Universum’s research indicates that soft attributes, like job characteristics related to a company’s people and culture, have been consistently important to students in recent years, while remuneration, advancement opportunities and an employer’s reputation have become less important.
Companies that are able to communicate a message that conveys what it would really be like to work there day-to-day are the ones that will stand out and attract the best talent. Unfortunately, this is difficult to do. In fact, more than half of companies surveyed in Universum’s Talent Attraction Barometer listed “differentiation” as their top employer branding challenge.
Why is this challenging? Differentiation is difficult because companies do not take enough time to understand the intersection between what they have to offer and what their ideal employee wants. Marketing executives spend the majority of their time and money in this area. For example, countless surveys and focus groups are conducted to understand what is going to make a mom buy premium diapers vs. the store brand. Every decision is made thoughtfully and with data.
However, companies do not make that investment when it comes to defining the type of people they need to hire and what messaging is necessary to convert them from considering to applying. Instead, they have been fooled by the vast amount of big data about what motivates the millennial generation. The problem with this approach is that all companies are reading the same information.
There is no shortage of information. A Google search for “what do millennials want in a job?” yields 1.7 million results. Reading a few of these articles reveals a consistent theme: The millennial generation wants it all. So companies try to appeal to it all, often by making sweeping generalizations about the demands of the emerging workforce and molding their employer brands to fit.
Since every employer is reading the same articles, every employer has begun to look and sound the same. Students can’t tell them apart, nor do they have a good understanding of what it would be like to work at one organization vs. another. There has been an influx of branding messages and buzzwords — innovation, work-life balance, diversity and collaboration — that every employer has tried to incorporate into its messaging.
Students’ indecision when it comes to choosing an employer is evidence of this phenomenon. They are considering an average of 20 companies when thinking about their future careers — double the amount from 10 years ago. Simply put, students can’t tell the difference between companies and are struggling to identify where they’d actually be a good match. Rather than truly understanding what an employer has to offer, students are casting a wide net and hoping for a catch. While this may seem advantageous for popular companies that have no problem attracting students, it leads to problems with engagement, productivity and retention down the line – not to mention – WAY TOO MANY APPLICATIONS!
About the author
Melissa Murray Bailey
Melissa is President of Universum Americas