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Attracting millennials starts with digital tech

Attracting millennials starts with digital tech

A recent survey on corporate branding suggests marketing leaders are missing the boat by failing to embrace digital technologies.

The ways millennials use technology are changing how companies brand themselves to attract young talent. However, according to a new study from the CMO Council and Executive Networks, most marketing and HR leaders don't have brand strategies that align with millennial preferences.

Gen Y is "challenging companies to define what their brand stands for," says Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council. "There is an untapped opportunity for this highly connected generation in the workforce that's interested in capturing moments around what they do and achieve."

Seventy-four percent of the more than 230 marketing and HR leaders surveyed think branding is either essential or very important for recruiting and customer satisfaction, but only 62 percent say they have "extremely" or "pretty well defined" corporate cultures. However, 61 percent have implemented "formal brand platforms" to communicate about their brands, and 21 percent have such platforms "somewhat" in place.

[Related Slideshow: 8 cutting-edge workplaces that millennials will love ]

Despite the fact that many companies have brand platforms, respondents still lean on more traditional communication methods for branding. For example, the top branding methods include internal communications (51 percent), employee meetings (48 percent), and training and development (39 percent). Lower on the list are branding initiatives that use digital technologies such as social media networks (12 percent), instant messaging or social collaboration (10 percent) or online learning (8 percent).

"Millennials have grown up with rich content with real-time interaction and mobile devices," Neale-May says. "The bottom line is, if you want to connect with [those] employees and get them engaged you need to get smart about technology and what platforms are out there."

Approaches for attracting millennials are misguided

The branding efforts business leaders make to accommodate millennial preferences are also somewhat misplaced, according to the report. Respondents say the top changes they've made to attract and retain millennials relate to dress codes (33 percent), corporate social responsibility (32 percent), and work environments and facilities (31 percent). Again, technology-specific undertakings, such mobile device-driven interaction (23 percent) and digital content (9 percent), weren't as popular.

"From a management standpoint, you have a willing workforce that's keen to share content and in turn, with the right mechanisms, to enable you to privatize, capture and release content into social networks," Neale-May says. "These are powerful mechanisms for underscoring what your brand is all about."

[Related Slideshow: 6 ways to attract and retain millennial workers ]

Marketing and HR leaders know they have work to do to enhance workplace branding, and they are interested in using technology to help. Fifty-two percent of respondents cite heavy or increasing use of social media or instant messaging for employee engagement or recruitment, and only 29 percent say they have limited to no use of social or IM for recruiting.

Neale-May says that in addition to embracing technology, marketing and HR leaders need to work more closely together and look to their CEOs for direction in developing stronger workplace brands. "Having an institutionalized view of a company, and making sure everyone shares that, starts at the CEO level," Neale-May says.

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