MULTINATIONAL corporations and banks are changing tack in their hiring strategies, as they increasingly find themselves in competition with startups  and the gig economy for young talent.

For one, they are adding more entrepreneurial elements into their recruitment processes in order to appeal to a growing pool of millennials, who hold different attitudes towards work compared to their baby boomer or generation X seniors.

"Unlike their predecessors, millennials typically don't place stability as their top priority. It's probably due to the environment and stage of development we are in that created a shift in expectations," said Sam Neo, founder and chief people officer of HR gig platform People Mentality Inc.

Mr Neo also observed a growing interest among fresh graduates to join the entrepreneurship and startup path, partly due to the "over-glamourising of these two areas".

No longer driven by the need to put food on the table, millennials are lured by the ability to "make a difference", flexibility, autonomy, career development and being able to "have fun" at work, he shared.

Chionh Yi Ling, Country HR manager for IBM Singapore, said: "Overall, it's true that we face a lot more competition in attracting talent. New startups may aggressively target talents with better packages, more benefits and they portray hip, trendy images."

To manage this, the technology company has to continually update its talent acquisition strategy and design programmes to keep ahead, she said. Even the process of hiring has changed.

At IBM, video interviewing allows for a faster time to hire, while technology such as IBM Watson - a "supercomputer" using artificial intelligence - helps in hiring by processing language, vocal tones, and facial emotions to infer personality and fit with the company or team.

For employers to reach out to the young people of today, they have to meet them where they are - online.

Jenny Wong, head of Group HR, UOB, said that a "key element" in its millennial recruitment is to have conversations with young talents online, as candidates expect authentic, open communication.

"We use social media to share stories on what it is like to work at UOB, with our management associates and interns providing their perspectives on what it is like to work at UOB," she said.

DBS Bank has taken digital storytelling one step further by producing its own web series DBS Sparks, where fictional bankers solve problems and help clients, inspired by real cases. The high-budget mini-series was rolled out as part of the bank's brand campaign and actively promoted on social platforms such as Facebook and Youtube, where millennials form a large percentage of viewership.

While the series was not created for the purpose of talent acquisition, it has certainly played a part in boosting its brand recognition, if the millions of likes, shares and views online are anything to go by.

One hiring trend that has been gaining traction is gamification, which offers a more interactive and fun experience for candidates to solve problems. This includes hackathons, which is becoming extremely popular in today's digital age.

Employers which organise hackathons include IBM, UOB and DBS Bank.

DBS Bank announced in March that it planned to hire up to 100 tech talents through its Hack2Hire programme - double the number of techies that the bank hired through the initiative in 2017.

Soh Siew Choo, group head of Consumer Banking and Big Data Analytics Technology, DBS, said that it is part of the bank's efforts to transform digitally to keep pace with customers.

"The new tech talents bring fresh perspectives and skillsets, and complement existing teams to enable us to continue making banking simpler and more effortless for customers," she said.

In UOB, retaining talent goes hand in hand with drawing fresh blood. Hackathons are organised not to identify future stars, but for current employees to enhance enterprise thinking and digital skills, said Ms Wong.

Even so, the hackathons indirectly attract millennials - digital natives who value a challenge - by appealing to their desire for growth.

Ms Wong said that the bank has seen potential candidates wanting to find out more about their digital initiatives and opportunities to enhance their skills in areas such as data analytics and design thinking.

Since UOB first held its employee hackathon in Singapore three years ago, the initiative has expanded to include China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Last year, the bank received 380 submissions from 1,500 employees across the group - a jump of 65 per cent from 2016.

To ensure a pipeline of top talent, organisations are also revamping how they traditionally regard internships.

Jacinta Low, head of HR Planning at OCBC Bank, said that its six-month internship programme, known as FRANKpreneurship, is "unlike any other banking internship programme" as it helps to develop an enterprising mindset and equips interns with the skills to be successful entrepreneurs.

Students are immersed in a business environment with hands-on work experience, while working on cross-divisional projects using a "startup approach" where they are exposed to the methodologies, thinking and journey of a startup.

Students who display high levels of adaptability, drive, innovation, strong leadership qualities, and with the right values, will be offered a place in the bank's 12-month trainee programme known as the OCBC Young Bankers Programme.

Professional services firm Deloitte also secures top-tier millennials through its internship programme. But that is not all - it effectively uses referrals and word-of-mouth by ex-interns to reach out to fellow peers.

Its Deloitte Student Ambassador Programme is designed specifically for a selected group of university undergraduates who have accepted priority offers to join the firm after graduation.

Seah Gek Choo, talent partner, Deloitte Singapore, said that the firm has received "numerous referrals" from this group of students who have recommended their peers for internships, supporting the firm's efforts to recruit top talent.

While many employers have been quick to adapt to the changing priorities of millennials, others are not so quick to catch on.

According to Aon Hewitt's 2018 Employee Engagement Trends study, only 56 per cent of the full-time millennial workforce in Singapore is engaged - a two-point drop from last year. At the same time, the number of actively disengaged millennials has gone up by 5 per cent.

In the same study, the top five drivers for engagement in millennials in Singapore were found to be: rewards & recognition, enabling infrastructure, senior leadership, work-life balance, and career & development.

Vikas Verma, director, Talent, Rewards and Performance, Aon Hewitt Singapore, noted: "There are a number of myths around millennials especially, that they are not serious about their work and are jumping jobs."

But he debunked this: "Millennials are not jumping jobs. They are jumping experiences. If you offer them career opportunities within the organisation, they will stay longer with you."


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