I am a millennial unicorn.
Unique among most people of my generation, I’ve worked at the same company since graduating from college, building a career at Edelman in Chicago and Los Angeles while others around me regularly sought new opportunities.
Millennials are already the largest generation in the U.S. and will make up the majority of the American workforce by 2020. The substantial differences among millennials and the generations before us have been well documented — we evaluate roles differently, want different things and some say we are less loyal to our employers.
In fact, a recent Gallup poll found more than half of all Americans workers are actively seeking new jobs, and a growing number of employees are unafraid to leave their jobs. These statistics should concern any employer, but particularly biotech and life sciences companies. Especially on the West Coast, biotech has seen its talent base wooed by tech companies like Google, Apple and Amazon while it has struggled to pull talent from tech.
What must a company do to stay modern, set itself apart and avoid falling behind its competition?
It starts with trust. The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer found that eight out of 10 Millennial employees (aged 18-34) trust their employer. Adding to this, 79 percent of the general population in the U.S. said they trust a company’s employees to do what’s right. Here are some ways companies can leverage this trust to keep up with the changing employer-employee dynamic:
Define who you are and what you stand for.
Today, a strong employer brand, value proposition and purpose-driven culture are table stakes, especially in the healthcare and technology fields. How you show up as a corporate citizen —through position, policy and practice — defines how you are trusted internally and externally. What attracted me to Edelman was its reputation in the industry — and a powerful corporate narrative should drive home how the company gives back.
Know your ideal candidate and identify what motivates them.
The biotech and healthcare industries can be intimidating for those who haven’t worked in them. Thinking differently about how you position opportunities will be key to understanding your ideal candidate. At its core, our industry is about saving and improving lives. That purpose is inspiring. Now make it clear how your candidates can help make it happen. Remember: we are focused on a generation seeking more purpose-driven and fulfilling opportunities.
Activate your allies.
In today’s highly proliferated media ecosystem, leveraging multi-channel communications to build trust is paramount. Talent acquisition tools have also evolved, and top companies now recruit across channels, many of which may seem unconventional to a company in health. Within Edelman, we evaluate and improve how a company’s vision and values are articulated internally and externally and recommend ways to address gaps with employees. Often faced with complex regulatory guidelines, biotech shouldn’t shy away from arming employees — some of your most fervent champions — with ways to cheerlead, share and advocate for the company inside and outside of work, particularly on social media.
Create connections. Sponsorship is the new mentorship.
The answer to why I’ve stayed at Edelman has centered on the people with whom I’ve been privileged to work. Communications and collaboration across all levels of the organization keep a company moving toward its goals. For leaders, devoting time to “sponsor” a company’s rising talent demonstrates a level of investment and advocacy that can facilitate company growth and longer-term fulfillment.
Though often underrepresented among biotech executives, a demand for equal representation of women in leadership is also growing. Nearly two-thirds of women (73 percent) and more than half of men (58 percent) surveyed by Edelman in California considered equal opportunity for advancement as “very important” when considering a new job — a 15-point increase from last year’s survey. In California, this shift is also now state law: A publicly traded company with headquarters in California must have at least one woman on its Board of Directors by the end of 2019.
As companies continue to transform and future-proof their business models, communicators and human resources professionals must discard the recruitment playbook of the past for the audience-first approach needed to compete for, attract and retain top talent.
Erin Severson is vice president, Health, Los Angeles.