Bridging the Trust Deficit in Recruiting

The most successful recruiters and companies must be adept at talking about more than just open jobs.

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Apr 5, 2023

“Most organizations still lack an authentic mission and purpose.”

That mic-dropper comes from a Gallup report highlighting the sharp decline in public trust across industries, institutions, and big business. While the accusation doesn’t seem completely fair, the report’s central premise certainly is — that waning trust is due in part to a widespread failure by organizations to keep pace with the shifting expectations of Millennials and Gen Z.

These generations are exerting more and more influence in the world, and as the report points out, they have higher expectations than previous generations when it comes to how organizations comport themselves.

For instance, they expect businesses to help improve key social issues like DEI and the environment, to openly champion worthy social causes, and to operate in socially responsible ways. Younger generations also place greater importance on the mission, purpose, and values of the companies they work for, buy from, and support.

Alarmingly, many organizations aren’t embracing these shifting expectations and sensibilities. Many continue to operate in socially irresponsible ways despite knowing better. Others are reluctant to even acknowledge that problems and challenges exist. As Gallup warns, these organizations are sowing the seeds of their own demise. Eventually they’ll get left behind.

As I noted, Gallup’s report is fair and sobering. However, its claim that most organizations lack an authentic mission and purpose feels like an overreach. It seems more justifiable to say that many companies do a poor job of defining their mission and purpose, and an even poorer job of communicating these things to their employees and to the outside world.

Operating without a clear mission and purpose (or appearing to) helps breed a lack of public trust. It’s also a massive hindrance when trying to recruit and retain talent.

Situations Wanted: Greater Connection in New Roles

Employers recently experienced one major consequence of the nation’s growing trust deficit: the Great Resignation, when tens of millions of workers quit their jobs. Although issues such as pay and workplace safety helped to drive this exodus, research has shown a significant number of workers quit because they felt at odds with their companies’ cultures, missions, and values.

Each of these things matters more than ever to workers today — especially to those from younger generations. Consider a few facts:

  • Research by Talent Board reveals that company values were, in fact, the most important type of content that candidates looked for last year when researching jobs, second to diversity and inclusion content, especially for Gen Z and Millennials.
  • Gen Z and Millennials now make up nearly half of the full-time U.S. workforce. They prize ethics and ethical leadership in the employers they choose, a trait that’s shared by Gen X and Baby Boomers as well. Indeed, ethics is the top attribute they want in an employer.
  • When members of Gen Z learn that a brand supports a social cause that interests them or is viewed as socially responsible, 85% trust the brand more, 84% are likely to purchase the brand’s products, and 82% are likely to recommend that brand to their friends and family, according to Gallup.

Given these facts, it’s imperative that employers clearly define and communicate their culture, mission, purpose, and values. These attributes not only drive public trust but they also drive the decisions and behaviors of generations of customers, investors, and current as well as future employees.

As recruiters and talent acquisition teams scramble to fill widespread talent gaps, it’s not just their organization’s jobs that will draw qualified candidates to them. Their real draw — especially in engaging new and younger talent — will be their company’s mission and purpose, their culture and values.

Remember, all of those millions of workers who fled their employers in the Great Resignation are not rushing back into the workforce. They’re making their way back gradually, seeking organizations whose missions and purpose excite them, whose values more closely match their own, and whose cultures are more supportive. They’re seeking the trust and connection they lacked with their previous employers.

The most successful recruiters and TA teams will be those who become quickly as adept at talking about their companies’ mission, purpose, and values as they are at talking about their open jobs. This is a fundamental shift for many TA teams, and it will take some getting used to. But it’s a shift they need to make. Fast. It’s key to improving the public trust in their brands…and to attracting and winning Millennial and Gen Z talent.

These generations are crucial to every employer’s future. They’re essential to fostering the innovation, fresh ideas, and new approaches that businesses and institutions of every kind need to go on thriving. But to win them over, many employers need to catch up to their shifting expectations and sensibilities.

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