For some major BtoB companies, the battle to recruit young talent is extremely taxing. Faced with trendy, world-famous groups, they are forced to redouble their efforts to make themselves known and win over their future employees. And yet some companies that are barely known to the general public still manage to position themselves as dream employers. The secret? Using open innovation as a tool to revitalize their employer brand. We take a look at three success stories.
1. Tarkett – boosting a B2B company's employer brand
It can be difficult to give your employer brand a boost when your company uses a B2B model! Unknown companies need to redouble their efforts to attract applications. Recruitment becomes a lengthy campaign – companies have to introduce themselves, highlight the group’s benefits and put forward an impeccable image. And to do this, first they need the chance to talk to potential candidates! But when your stand is given the cold shoulder by visitors, recruitment salons can quickly become a disaster – especially when just a few metres away, students are flocking to famous companies thanks to their popular brand image.
Businesses need to find a way to reinvent their recruitment and their employer brand. And that’s where open innovation comes in.
Open innovation as an employer brand booster
The idea behind open innovation is simple – to transform an organization through the most innovative ideas, technology and talent, whether internal or external. For Tarkett, the global leader in the flooring sector, this meant organizing an open innovation student challenge. Students were invited to imagine transitions between spaces and surfaces, offering an innovative user experience through flooring.
Flooring solutions aren’t exactly new – Tarkett has been around for over 130 years. But just as in every industry, consumers’ needs are changing and new technologies offer new possibilities that no-one had previously even dreamed of. In this context, why not get creative students involved to design new materials, new effects, or even a smart floor that connects to devices? That’s what Tarkett did with its Great Creative Challenge, a golden opportunity to create close bonds with the world’s most innovative students!
After a skilful marketing campaign based around the innovation challenge, Tarkett managed to identify hundreds of novel ideas and concepts. It also gave the students a positive and attractive vision of the company. Two birds, one stone – as well as boosting its visibility to talented young people, the company also gained the raw materials to revitalize its product range.
2. GRDF: why choose between innovation, marketing and employer brand?
Digital transformation and employer brand are two problems with a single solution. Thanks to an open innovation challenge, GRDF managed to tackle both at once. Perceived as a threat by 48% of French managers, digital transformation means involving digital technology in HR (including recruitment) and marketing processes. Something had to be done!
GRDF’s digital transformation took the form of an innovation challenge designed to reinvent the identity of the natural gas boiler. The challenge facing students was to redesign a product that had been around for decades and was limited by its lack of modernity and technological innovation. Teams had to take social, environmental and economic changes into account when putting forward their proposal.
When GRDF attracts young talent with a boiler
Think students aren’t interested in natural gas? Think again! The challenge attracted 95 teams – a total of 204 participants. It was a resounding success for GRDF, as the company was then in contact with the most motivated, creative and entrepreneurial students in the sector. A win-win situation – GRDF boosted its employer brand and received dozens of new ideas, while the students had the chance to demonstrate the extent of their skills to a major group.
After all, aren’t these innovations from students a form of improved reverse mentoring – the ideal way to combine innovation with promoting your employer brand? Not to mention the fact that companies using open innovation are paving the way to using open management within the company – something that students are really drawn to.
3. FM Logistic: BtoS (Business to students)
FM Logistic, a major family company working in the distribution sector, offers warehousing, transportation and packaging services. Despite its considerable size (almost 20,000 employees across three continents!), FM Logistic isn’t well-known to the general public. The reason? Most of its business is with other companies (BtoB). Just 10% of its turnover comes directly from consumers.
But innovation nonetheless plays an essential role in FM Logistic’s strategy – the company is aiming to become a key e-commerce player and carries out IT flow management. In this context, recruiting innovative and creative young talent became essential.
- Employer brand has a major influence on young people’s career choices: according to a 2016 Deloitte study, employees from Generation Y (young people born between 1982 and 2004) put a lot of emphasis on the values of creativity and integration within a company.
- In companies where Gen Y employees have a high satisfaction rate, 47% of respondents reported free and open communication (compared to 26% in companies with low satisfaction rates).
- Similarly, 38% reported that all employees were actively encouraged towards creativity and innovation (compared to 21%).
It’s clear that the way companies value creativity and initiative is key in recruiting young people. With this in mind, the company organized the FM Logistic Challenge, which was aimed at students from all backgrounds. The aim – to design the supply chain of the future.
Students were tasked with proposing a business project using connected devices, augmented reality or 3D printing. With over 250 participants across 125 teams, the challenge was a success. Finalists had the opportunity to present their projects to a prestigious jury formed of the CEO for France, the Group HR Director and the Director of Innovation. The winning team even got the chance to present their project to FM Logistic’s French and international clients at the company’s Innovation Day.
Ultimately, the experience meant that FM Logistic was able to boost its employer brand and offer internships and jobs to the best students. It was also a chance for the company to take dozens of innovative ideas on board and develop the best ideas with the shortlisted teams.
From outsider to superstar
So what can we learn from these three businesses that turned to open innovation?
Firstly, that it’s an approach that really matters to students. The new generation is sensitive to their employers’ values. For students, the recruitment process is often their first contact with the company, especially BtoB companies – it’s a chance to make your mark.
Secondly, innovation is the key to success for any business. Those that innovate make progress. And the best ideas can come from where you’d least expect – so focusing on young people’s creativity is one of the keys to a successful strategy. Let’s finish with a quote from tech guru Steve Jobs (one that this article on innovation couldn’t have been written without): “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”
Place your bets!