Tips from Kimberly-Clark on Recruiting Digital-Native Employees

As digitization takes over nearly every vertical and puts new demands and opportunities in front of companies that predated the Internet, one of CEOs’ most important challenges is to make sure they can hire and train enough technologically savvy talent to help them cope.

That can be an especially difficult task for companies wedded to a place other than Silicon Valley, Austin or Boston. But Kimberly-Clark nevertheless is trying to rise to the challenge of attracting digitally enterprising millennials to its North American consumer-products business, which is headquartered in relatively bucolic northeastern Wisconsin. Generation Y accounts for half of the new hires for the maker of Kleenex, Huggies and Depends.

Kimberly-Clark’s success tactics
Their effort includes the Original Thinkers Quiz, a series of questions that help people identify their individual thinking styles by asking how they would attend a music festival, organize a neighborhood recycling drive, or approach other scenarios. Based on their responses, participants are matched with one of eight distinct thinking styles, such as “The Dreamer,” whose belief that anything is possible helps him accomplish what others consider impossible, and “The Muse,” who may seem quiet, but only because she is considering all her creative options.

“Our program doesn’t just talk to creative thinkers, but engages with them; that’s the key,” Frans Mahieu, global marketing director of people strategy, told Chief Executive.

“The Original Thinkers quiz helps establish the idea that “if they work for our brands, they can do their own original thinking.”

To date, more than 35,000 people have taken the quiz. More than 80,000 people have visited the related website. More than 30% go on to the company’s job-listing site to check for open positions.

Mahieu shared 4 pointers with CEOs and HR executives who are concerned about recruiting and retaining enough millennials to fuel their digital strategies.

1. Use your marketing chops. Companies that succeed in B2C or B2B marketing also can recruit millennials to their workforces. “We apply the same process we use in supermarkets” selling consumer packaged goods, Mahieu said. “We use exactly the same formats in terms of what we do for insight recovery, how we develop a brand profile and how we develop integrated marketing plans.” He explained that, “in consumer marketing, you have strong engagement plans, such as the ‘Kleenex moment,’ and strong engagement programs, such as we have with Kotex. So how can we engage potential millennial employees similarly?”

2. Sell the company first. Instead of selling a millennial candidate on a particular job, Kimberly-Clark likes to sell the company first. “Instead of saying, ‘Come to Neenah,’” where its headquarters is located, “first people need to understand that we’re a great company to work for,” Mahieu said. The Original Thinkers quiz helps establish the idea that “if they work for our brands, they can do their own original thinking.”

3. Play up your location, wherever it is. Old-line companies can throw up their hands in frustration at having to market their geography against digital meccas such as San Francisco, Seattle and Austin. But given that millennials now are America’s most numerous generation, there are plenty of different folks to enjoy different strokes—even a company in the middle of the Heartland. Kimberly-Clark, for instance, plays up the fact that within 18 minutes of work, anyone can be in a kayak on a lake or a river. “Plus we take them out to experience the area, which has lots of unique farm-to-table restaurants and bars and an interesting atmosphere,” Mahieu said, “that many millennials seem to like.”

4. Don’t forget to communicate sustainability. Millennials pretty much are of like mind when it comes to environmental sympathies and a concern that their employer practice sustainability, though sometimes that is difficult to define. “We might not do it overtly, in terms of talking about it, but if you look at our 2022 sustainability report, we have very aggressive goals, not just about the environment but also about social impact and communications, and that’s something we see millennials being fully engaged in.”