Recruiting Today: What Are You Promising?

More and more, young talent is looking for companies whose values line up with their own

Posted on Across the Ages: April 9, 2008 1:30 PM

Even as the economy softens in many sectors, competition for top talent remains intense. And, as I've discussed before, just as in consumer marketing, one of the keys to attracting talent is to offer elements of the employee experience that match the values and priorities of the individual being recruited.

What are you promising—or if you're in the job market, hearing—today?

Here are some of the themes that I've heard recently. What would you add?

Some organizations are reassuring key influencers (a.k.a., parents) that they will be a good experience for the loved one. The U.S. Army says: "You made them strong. We'll make them Army strong."

Other organizations are providing key influencers out and out incentives to steer loved ones in their direction! SkyWest Airlines says: "…our employees and their parents have access to worldwide travel discounts on airfare, rental cars, hotels, all inclusive resorts and cruises. So, go ahead, tell your kids to apply …And have them give you the world for a change."

Some firms offer special amenities, most designed to make the new employees' life more productive by making key tasks more convenient and/or enhancing personal health and fitness. Abbott Laboratories offers on-site fitness centers and a "sports and activities" program. Google provides free gourmet lunches and on-site massages.

The degree of opportunity, challenge and responsibility offered continue to be important determinants for many applicants. Enterprise Rent-A-Car is known for offering new hires some of the most independent and entrepreneurial opportunities available. After a management training program that is like an "MBA crash course," new hires get to run their own business. Deloitte & Touche, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Ernst & Young are popular employers because of, ironically, the visibility and importance the accounting profession has come to take on in the wake of the Enron era. Enron taught us that accountants are vital to the fortunes of a company—and that accounting provides employees with an opportunity to be in a position that's responsible.

In some cases, offering young employees a unique opportunity can have special appeal. DHL, which used to hire only experienced salespeople, offered nine recent college grads a shot at sales last year (and a comprehensive training program to support the move). The company, which is expanding the program this year, says the program not only attracted nine top candidates, but the new hires generated more revenue and more shipments per sale.

Time-related policies—whether the job has flexible hours and locations—are big elements of most recruiting pitches. Even more importantly, some discretion around the use of one's time can be a powerful incentive. Google has a policy of letting all employees devote one day a week to developing new ideas.

The career path offered, including the speed of movement and, particularly, the degree of senior coaching and support available, can make a big impression on candidates weighing multiple offers. Abbott Laboratories offers an extended orientation that includes goals for the first, second, and third months on the job, as well as the promise of consistent dialogue with managers. PricewaterhouseCoopers lets employees themselves decide when during their first 90 days they would sit down with their boss for a performance review.

Opportunities for community service or other forms of giving back are increasingly popular. And, some of my personal favorite recruiting promises are those that allow greater—more frequent and more intimate—access to senior executives. This latter theme is consistent with one of the findings from our research on collaborative cultures—the importance of executives who create a "gift culture"—a norm of informal mentoring, feedback, career advice, and frequent coaching. (See Lynda Gratton and Tamara J. Erickson, "Eight Ways to Build Collaborative Teams," Harvard Business Review, November 2007) One major insurance company is offering new recruits the promise that, after 18 months, they will have an opportunity to spend a week in Nicaragua building houses with the CEO—a very clever way to combine two important themes in one great offer.

What are you doing or hearing on the recruiting front today?

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