Here's how millennials have drastically changed the way SAP hires talent

How do you interview for millennials? Photo: Getty Images

There’s a lot of hype around how millennials are set to change the way the world operates, being the first “digitally native” generation to take the helm of corporations.

This along with the growing economic powers in the Asia Pacific region — where youth make up 60% of the population — has many incumbents looking at ways to harness and retain a millennial talent pool.

Enterprise software specialists SAP Asia Pacific Japan is just one of many corporations looking for opportunities to capitalise on the potential of this “workforce of tomorrow”.

Regional president Adaire Fox-Martin says SAP has made it a priority to look for ways to attract young people to work with them, through corporate social responsibility initiatives, educational programs for university and schooling.

Six years ago in Australia, SAP established the Young ICT Explorers competition, a technology challenge focused on improving primary and high school students’ STEM skills. This year alone the project attracted 874 high school and primary students who showcased 371 projects.

That’s been great for getting SAP front and centre of young minds, but millennials have also changed the way SAP thinks about hiring.

“If we’re targeting millennials or early talent, we do it completely different to how we traditionally hire,” Fox-Martin says.

“For example, we have cocktails nights, because apparently cocktail nights work quite well.

“We don’t use standard interview techniques. We use design thinking techniques, where we take people through a three day workshop and we set certain problems… and then with the design thinking techniques we see how people engage.

“And we have an academy, where if someone is hired in our sales team they spend six months at our academy in Dublin, California,” which she described was somewhat like an SAP university.

“(SAP does this) because what we’re looking for is the next generation of leaders, not the next generation of do-ers.

“Under old hiring techniques we would have hired computer science graduates that were the top performers in their class. Now we hire from multiple disciplines that aren’t even the top performers, but they are the people that are thinking differently. Particularly in Asia, the top performers are the ones who have the best memory, and that’s not going to create the entrepreneurial spirit.

“(Previously) we would use executive recruiters, or our own acquisition team to go after generation Y but for millennials, it is completely different.”

In saying that, she said it was still important to have a cultural balance.

“We have a strong people agenda at SAP. Right now we have four generation under one roof. And when you think about that from a HR perspective you can’t do everything for the millennials because then your going to miss the top end, effectively our management team.

“…But you have to get the balance right for a company like ours; it can’t be all about the early talent and the millennials because you still need that backbone of experience and that grey hair some times.”

The author traveled to Singapore as a guest of SAP.

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