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Communication key to quick success in attracting young professionals to AFRY

YPAI 2020 Case Study

A major rebranding due to a recent merger posed a serious challenge for AFRY in their recruitment of young professionals – would they still be able to attract the talent they need in a highly-competitive marketplace?

Key Points:

  • Listen to candidates – they'll tell you where they want to work
  • Make sure they understand your company and the role you are offering
  • Be clear about their career path with you

Sustainability and environment important for young professionals

We all want to have an employer brand that is instantly recognisable - one that tells young professionals that we should be at the top of their list when looking for a new job, but that takes time and a lot of effort, and more often than not, the need for skills is urgent.

In 2020, YPAI respondents gave a clear message as to what such brands should be about, and one of the main focus areas for them is sustainability and the environment. More than four in five (82 percent) say it is important to them that a prospective employer actively works with these issues, and Swedish firm AFRY scored highly for their engagement.

– AFRY’s core business is based around providing sustainable engineering and design solutions, and we want to contribute to a changing society. We have 17.000 people working with some of the toughest challenges of our time, and we have a responsibility to set ambitious targets for ourselves as we strive for a more sustainable society says Martina Edwin,  Employer Branding at AFRY.

AFRY’s challenge in terms of brand-building was made even tougher by a recent rebranding exercise, but the message from young professionals in YPAI was simple - clear, concise communication about who the company is and what they had to offer would make the talents of the future sit up and take notice of them.

"We listen to our candidates and learn from them"

Created after a 2019 merger between Swedish firm ÅF and Finnish company Pöyry, engineering, design and advisory firm AFRY has worked hard to establish such a brand. Carried out during a rebranding that came about as a result of the merger, that hard work is reflected in their eighth place among Sweden’s most attractive companies in the 2020 Young Professionals Attraction Index. One of the keys to their long-term success is their short-term conviction that communication is vital to attracting the young talents they need.

– The key here is communication – we listen to our candidates and we learn so much from them. A simple but concrete example is that, during job interviews with candidates, we show a corporate presentation that is tailored for young professionals where we tell them a little more about what we have to offer as an employer and how it is to start your career here, says Linda Büchler, Global Talent Acquisition at AFRY.

The survey YPAI is based on over 16 000 responses collected across six countries and gives an indication what the most sought-after group in the labour market – young professionals– are looking for when choosing an employer. With the demand for qualified, talented engineers far outstripping the supply, AFRY are well aware of the competition they face as they seek to find the perfect short- and long-term strategies to attract and retain them.

– We create sustainable solutions and societies for future generations, and to succeed we obviously need the talents of the future. It’s vital for us not only to connect with young professionals already in the workplace, but also with students and even younger people who haven’t yet started on their path,” says Martina Edwin.

The AFRY Future Stars program aims to attract final-year students to begin their careers with the firm, but their plans are even more long-term than that. They also work with inspiring young people, especially young girls who are underrepresented in technical educations today, to choose technical education. AFRY believe this is done by letting them try out various jobs and creating a clearer picture of what an engineer does, and by showing role models within the industry.

– Young professionals are our future, whether they start their careers with us or not, says Linda Büchler.

What are the similarities and differences when it comes to attracting young professionals? YPAI International is based on insights from over 16,000 respondents and compares the results from six countries. Take part in the attributes that are important for tomorrow's talents when choosing an employer - and the factors that will make them exclude you.

Communication has become even more important during the pandemic

At a time when the pandemic has changed our entire way of life, communication has become even more important. To help the candidates, AFRY has created a job search guide.

– We decided to create a job application guide to help candidates. Even if we can’t employ everyone who applies, we want them all to have a positive impression of us. The guide was created together with our fantastic recruitment team and is available on our website career pages, and in our social media channels. The response has been fantastic, says Linda Büchler.

But the work does not end here. The results from YPAI show that the opportunity for development is an important factor in attracting young professionals.

– With us, it’s your drive that keeps you moving forward, but our culture that makes it possible. We have offices in over 40 countries, which means the potential for development is huge. We work with all kinds of projects, big and small, so you’ll have a chance to try everything, and our leadership focus means that you have excellent opportunities to grow and develop, says Martina Edwin.

Culture and leadership in focus

As the positive feedback from respondents in the 2020 YPAI results have shown, the rebranding has been a great success, but the team at AFRY know that there is still a lot of work to be done.

– We’ve seen in polls and studies like the YPAI that many now know us by our new name, but we believe it might take a few years until it’s as well known as ÅF once was in Sweden. We believe and hope that AFRY can be an even more attractive employer than what ÅF used to be, offering career opportunities in a modern workplace with challenging assignments and exciting projects all over the world, Martina Edwin explains.

The YPAI results for 2020 and their comprehensive communication directed towards young professionals would suggest this might happen sooner rather than later, and AFRY are already implementing the lessons learned from the YPAI responses.

– We focus on our culture more than ever, and our leadership criteria are central in this. A leader at AFRY show the way by leveraging diversity and inclusion, empowering others, by taking a stand, being flexible and finding new ways. Together we build an inclusive culture where we all are brave enough to stand up for what we believe in, says Martina Edwin.

Reflection from Academic Work

Our YPAI survey shows that name-changes, mergers and acquisitions can often cause companies to drop in the rankings of attractive employers for young professionals. The reason for this is usually a lack of clarity in the communication around the new brand and what they have to offer as an employer.

With AFRY, we see the opposite. They haven’t just chosen to communicate with young professionals – they have actively listened to them as a target group and they take the information they receive, such as from the YPAI report, to heart. This means that they can tailor their communication to the target group, as well as developing their offer as an employer over time based on what is important to young professionals.

In a market where there is a shortage of competence, AFRY have understood that this is key to attracting and recruiting the employees of the future – those who will have a decisive role in the company’s continued growth.

Facts about AFRY

  • Over 17000 employees worldwide
  • At least 50 different languages spoken by the workforce
  • Offices in more than 40 countries
  • Achieved net sales of €2 billion in 2019

Download the reports from YPAI 2020

The results from YPAI 2020 are divided into three reports with different focus areas, and in addition we have an international report. Download all, or only the one that is most interesting to you, and let the results guide you and your organization to become an even more attractive employer.

  1. The most attractive employers: The 25 most attractive employers according to young professionals in Denmark.
  2. Most important when choosing an employer: The most important attributes for young professionals when choosing an employer.
  3. How to become an attractive employer: Analysis of the results and a summary of how you can become a more attractive employer for young professionals
  4. YPAI International: Compares the results from 6 different countries and looks at some exciting similarities and surprising differences.