Teaching A New Dog Old Tricks – Attracting Younger Talent to “Old” Companies

If we told you that one of the hot new trends for socialising was throwing axes — at a bar, no less – you might tell us that is so early 2018. But if we told you axe-throwing has become an increasingly common corporate event? (Come on, you didn’t see that coming, really. And if you work in the insurance sector, you might not for a while yet.) At best, such unusual corporate-sponsored activities seem inextricably linked with Silicon Valley start-ups. But established, more traditional companies are increasingly realising the importance of modernising their employee recruiting and hiring strategies, in order to attract new, younger talent.

Here are some compelling ways that “older” companies are attracting a younger workforce:

Employee “compensation”

We didn’t put compensation in quotes to imply people are no longer paid money to work – but the definition of compensation has been challenged by the numerous studies that indicate employees will sacrifice salary for other benefits. One survey found that more than 85% of US employees aged 44 or younger would take less pay for robust health insurance. And increasingly, other benefits like paid parental leave, flexible work schedules and unlimited personal time off (PTO) are in high demand.

Traditionally, a company would budget PTO and parental leave like salary, since it is still paid days. But for younger workers, such benefits signal a commitment to quality of life in terms of autonomy and flexibility, not lifestyle as defined by wealth. The good news is that modern benefits are as enticing as a cool brand. While it’s not surprising that a recent article declared Amazon as offering the best benefits, it’s telling that American Express came in as the runner-up.

Modern corporate culture

Of course, benefits packages are an important part of the recruiting process, but getting people to actually stay is tied much closer to them being happy in their jobs. For younger workers, that means working for a company with similar, more liberal social values like gender identity. If you had to guess a major organisation that covers gender reassignment surgery – since 2008 — would it be Goldman Sachs? That hardly reflects the buttoned-up, Wall Street stereotype – but that, of course, is just the point. Attracting employees raised in the digital age doesn’t mean you have to be an organization born of the dot-com boom (they won’t know what that is, anyway).

Happiness works

Putting a premium on being happy at work, as simplistic as it may sound, has become increasingly important. Everything from on-site foosball to fridges stocked with healthy snacks to, yes, axe-throwing team outings, can significantly impact employee loyalty – important to twenty-something workers who now average four different jobs by age 32. Consulting giant Bain & Co., ranked the best place to work by Glassdoor in 2017, has a two-day “Bain World Cup” open to all employees. Last year, it was in Brussels; the next one will be in Los Angeles.

Getting it right

Organisations, particularly those who pre-date the World Wide Web, need to invest time identifying and understanding their talent needs before implementing changes to attract them — it’s only a “benefit” if they want it. For example, a recent UK study shows that nearly 20% of workers receive an employee discount as a company perk. Only problem is … just 11% of employees listed discounts as a benefit that matters to them.

And getting it right matters more than ever before – just 28% of Gen Z employees said their salary impacts their job motivation or company loyalty, compared to 42% of Millennials. If you’re Gen X or a Baby Boomer, “they” might all seem young, but in fact, attracting Gen Z candidates might require revisiting a Millennial-based strategy. Consider yourself warned.


Robert Kovach is the Director of Leader Success for Cisco’s Leadership and Team Intelligence Practice Area. He has been an advisor to leadership teams of Fortune 500, FTSE 100 and FTSE Global 500 companies on driving business strategy through executive leadership effectiveness and organizational agility. The opinions expressed in this blog are his own and not those of Cisco. Contact him for speaking enquiries.

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