Moments of communication
I’m a firm believer in the power associated with purposeful communication when it comes to delivering a message, and I only have to look back across the last 12 years of my career to date to find plenty of examples of where I myself have failed in my own work – a Geography lesson that took hours of immaculate planning derailed in minutes by overlooking the explanation of how to complete the learning activity; my firsts attempt at coaching where I gave advice rather than listening and guiding the conversation; a response to a difficult question posed in the middle of a campus presentation that contradicted what I had moments before told an entire room, to name just a few. When it comes to communication this is not something that employers are the experts that they think they are. Especially when it comes to recruiting students, whether they join straight from school, or upon graduating from university.
I believe that many of today’s business leaders are out of touch with the youngest members of their workforce, speaking about their businesses in a way which other adults would even struggle to understand. The world of work is changing, and fast. We don’t have the luxury of time anymore when it comes to succession planning, so when they do communicate to young people exploring their career options, it needs to be clear, consistent and spoken in a shared language that is relatable.
The next generation of employer branding
Recent research published* shows that there is an underlying desire to connect through meaningful and valuable conversations, peer-to-peer. The talent young people are most interested in engaging with isn’t who I’d have expected either – those who are just ahead of them having taken their first steps onto the career ladder, rather than those who are sitting at the top. It’s something I saw time and time again during my time at EY before I left earlier this year to pursue my dream of owning, and running, a business. A business that has in fact been inspired by this drive we can now see for authentic peer-to-peer content. Real conversations, with real people. If this is the case, then the question I ask is: Are your apprentices and graduates ready to communicate your employer brand in a way which connects, engages and inspires them to join your organisation? And perhaps more importantly, are you ready to support them in becoming effective communicators and brand advocates?
Our young people are not engaged…
…in exploring the world of work. In 2016 the Careers and Enterprise Company published ‘Moments of Choice’ – a report which I would implore anyone working in the early talent space to read to better understand how young people think about career decisions and how they use the huge volume of information provided to them. To summarise, the cognitive burden that we are placing upon our young people is making it harder for them to choose a career. There are too many options for them, and very few ways to compare them. Combine this with their limited frame of reference about what the world beyond the classroom is like and it’s no surprise to me that the majority are disengaged. They simply can’t find the answers to three important questions at key moments of choice:
- What are the possible careers available to me?
- What will it be like to work there?
- How do I get there?
Now as hard as it might be to understand how this is the case, when employers’ career websites are packed full of the answers to these questions, the issue that I’m highlighting here isn’t about a lack of information, it’s that our young people can’t make sense of any of it. Which is why this shift that the research has found towards peer-to-peer communication via live chat and conversation is so interesting to me because I interpret it as a cry for help. A cry that we need to pay attention to and use to fuel changes in the way that employers invest their time, resource and budgets towards enriching the candidate experience by actively supporting informed career choices.
Communicating, with impact
This brings me to the what I consider to be imperative to the success of any future employer brand campaigns – moments of communication.
When we are uncertain, we look for social proof and to others’ behaviours. People similar to us can greatly influence our choices – the so-called ‘likability’ factor can go a long way here. This is not a place for facts, figures and fancy Powerpoint presentations. Skilfully using our emotions is the key to ensuring the ‘moments of inspiration’ during interactions with young people land with impact. To illustrate my point consider the following approach:
- Speak in plain English. No buzzwords, no jargon, and certainly not any acronyms.
- Spark curiosity by varying the form, function and style of the conversation.
- Don’t fight resistance, use it. It’s a great opportunity to agree, empathise and understand the candidate better.
- Help them to see their situation in a new light and from new angles.
- Inspire action
Apprentices and graduates are now one of, if not the, most effective marketing tools employers looking to attract the best talent to their student programmes have to offer. Engaging them through encouraging advocacy now hinges on the ability of employers to shift focus away from moments of choice (where hard decisions need to be made, and where doors are often closed) towards moments of inspiration where our young people are asking questions around what’s important to them, what works for them (and is achievable) and which career pathway will support this. If you’re looking for the best way to inspire the next generation, then this most certainly is going to be it.
*Attracting and Engaging our Future Workforce
This article was originally published as featured editorial within Meet and Engage’s whitepaper entitled ‘Understanding our Emerging Talent’, with support from EY and Bright Network. You can download your copy here.
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