How do we attract the next generation of FMCG talent?

Gabrielle Spinks - October 08, 2018

When was the last time you spoke to soon-to-be graduates? Did you ask them who were their dream companies to work for?

When I started in recruitment ten years ago, there was a steady stream of FMCG organisations that were rattled off by these bright-eyed, full-of-confidence grads. But the world has changed in the last ten years, faster than at any other time in the history of the world. Ask a young person now for their ideal workplaces and you’ll hear a mixed list of start-up fin-techs, up-and-coming and established disruptor apps, and social causes. Interestingly, this flies in the face of FMCG and Retail organisations ranking highly on the Australian 2018 50 Best Places to Work survey and Diversity & Inclusion surveys in 2018.

The answer to attracting the next generation isn’t a simple box tick and move on; unfortunately, it’s not going to be solved by one rogue hiring manager trying something new. The relevancy and attraction to the FMCG industry for recent graduates is a whole company challenge, if not a whole industry challenge. How do we, as a collective, change the perception of our industry to these optimistic next-generation leaders, full of ideas and passion?

Talk to Grads – start early, start often, start local.

In doing some research on Career Fairs with Sydney’s major universities, attendees of FMCG organisations totalled three. Let me repeat that for effect: three. Only three major FMCG organisations chose to book a stand at a career fair (and surprisingly, they each picked only one university to visit). This is up against the vast numbers of finance, engineering, law, software, technology and start-ups that booked stands across several universities. It’s no wonder our voice as an industry is no longer being heard.

Of those that were at these Career Fairs, all three were global FMCG organisations, (hopefully) each with strong graduate programs in place. However, one could argue that these global FMCGs shouldn’t be the sole champions of our industry when it comes to attracting talent. With continued globalisation of the major FMCG organisations, we see more execution of globally generated strategy with the resultant skill base diminution amongst local marketers. As this happens, retailers increasingly target promotional budgets as their future source of profit and we see a downward spiral in the quality of marketing. Unsurprisingly, marketing talent starts to look for more interesting canvases for their creativity. The global players own the hearts of incoming talent through their big iconic brands, but the increasing trend to globally led marketing is leaving many, who entered with great aspirations, disillusioned.

What these career fairs and graduate conversations are missing is participation from the smaller, locally owned and led FMCG organisations. In Australia, the trend for smaller organisations continues to emerge. These organisations are capable of nimble decision making and have supply chains to develop and gain consumer acceptance and market share with Australian consumers and retailers. They are carefully identified consumers that are under-serviced by the major brands or are motivated by social causes, and these local organisations are quickly building consumer and potential employee credibility. These players could ‘steal a march’ on their more global competitors by serving as an entry point into the industry for the younger generation.

As a whole, the industry needs to remember that, in order to attract future talent, we need to re-establish relevance in their lives, developing and delivering a stronger share of voice in those critical stages of their career formation, offering new and innovative ways to let them ‘try before they buy’ through paid internships and cadetships, research projects and case studies developed and intertwined into learning throughout their education. How many university undergraduate courses utilise Australian FMCG marketing case studies? As an industry collectively, we need to be getting in front of our next generation at a time in their lives where we can build relevancy and offer them opportunities to convert their theoretical knowledge into interesting real-life challenges.

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