Strategy

L’Oréal is boosting its appeal to new graduates

horloge copy 7 Created with Sketch. 5 MIN


Jean-Claude Legrand

At a time when more and more young people are joining start-ups or starting their own company, L’Oréal remains one of the most hotly sought-after firms among recent graduates. Head of International HR Development Jean-Claude Le Grand tells us how the Group is maintaining and boosting its appeal on an increasingly volatile market.

Young people are looking for meaning on an increasingly fragmented job market

Jean-Claude claims it has never been harder for major groups to recruit new graduates. “They’re not like their parents, who dreamed of building their career in a large company. More and more of them are turning away from that path. From setting up on their own to joining a start-up or freelancing, the array of options for the best and brightest talents is much broader than it used to be, and the competition is much fiercer for recruiters”, he says. A recent study by Accenture Strategy found that only 25% of 2017 graduates want their first work experience to be with a large group. This is good news for start-ups, which are the target for 35% of students, according to a JobTeaser survey. Meanwhile, 60% of people aged 18 to 29 would like to set up their own company, according to OpinionWay.

The loss of meaning that young people often associate with working in big companies is another reason for the disinterest. “They have witnessed the rise and spread of ‘bullshit jobs’ in the service economy. Since they see no social purpose or professional satisfaction in these positions, they would rather seek out other environments to escape the supposed meaninglessness”, says Jean-Claude. Priorities and motivations have changed too. At the top of the list for these young folks come job interest, working conditions, possibilities for career progression and total flexibility, which they do not think are possible in big business. All of which is causing sleepless nights for HR departments at large corporations.

Harnessing a digital strategy and close relations to woo new talent

L’Oréal has turned this lack of trust into an opportunity to reinvent the way it interacts with potential job applicants. The idea is to develop a digital ecosystem based on a close analysis of targets. “With 90% of graduates looking for information and employment online, this is not something you can afford to do without”, says Jean-Claude.

With this in mind, the Group invested massively in search engine optimisation. “We set up a specific recruitment website called L’Oréal Talent to increase awareness about us among recent graduates, providing content that ensures a good Google rating so that we capture active job seekers”, he says. To attract top talent, L’Oréal is also building its employer brand value on social media, crafting a specific strategy for each social network. “We have 20 Facebook pages and several Twitter accounts, and specific teams for each of these channels”, Jean-Claude tells us. Of these, LinkedIn is now an essential tool for L’Oréal to reach out to talented young people. “We look at the published content, and identify and interact with key profiles to transform passive applicants into potential colleagues. We are among a few dozen companies to have more than one million people on LinkedIn. The digital route has become our primary channel for sourcing and recruitment, with 32% of our recruitments coming through this professional network in 2016”, he says.

For best results, provide truthful, real information

That is not all. L’Oréal works to communicate as concretely and openly as possible with recent graduates: “They are fed up with being misled and they are not interested in doublespeak. That is why, whatever we do and whenever we share information about L’Oréal, we put the emphasis on real information, close relations and do our best to be completely transparent”, says Jean-Claude.

To ensure that the transparency is genuine, L’Oréal encourages employee-generated content. “When it comes to getting information about a company, employees are the most believable sources. On L’Oréal Talent, employees talk about life in the Group.” Likewise, he tells us that L’Oréal is actively present on Glassdoor, a rating site that lets employees anonymously rate companies: “Our employees’ ratings and opinions, good or bad, can be seen by anyone”. L’Oréal is also introducing a swathe of initiatives to address expectations among students. This includes overhauling Brandstorm, a long-running student competition. After more than 25 years and 100,000 participants, the game is being transformed in 2017 into a talent and project incubator. “The game was always designed to give participants a taste of what it’s like to work at L’Oréal. But the way the projects were presented before a jury was still a bit academic. We wanted to ring the changes: since the youth are increasingly drawn to setting up their own business, we created an Innovation Fair where participants present and pitch their projects to roving jury members. This also sends a strong signal to students saying that big companies are not blind to change. In fact, we are anticipating it”, explains Jean-Claude.

Strong and sustainable commitments that resonate with young people on a quest for meaning

The Group’s initiatives are paying off. L’Oréal receives 1.3 million applications annually on average, and each year the Group strengthens its place in the top-ten best places to work, according to global rankings compiled by Universum. The Group’s name gets better known with every passing year, including among young engineers, who used to be less inclined to consider a job in the beauty industry.

But the company wants to climb even higher in rankings and it boasts three major advantages that will help to do just that. “Our sustainability commitments, ethical focus and active diversity policy are three key elements in L’Oréal’s identity, and play a big role by showing students and recent graduates that they can work for something more than the corporate bottom line. We need to keep heading in this direction”, says Jean-Claude. Another central concern when engaging with new talents is to maintain the agility and entrepreneurial ethos that originally made the firm’s name.

Innovation | June 2017