Communication is the key to quick success in attracting young professionals to AFRY

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:

We all want to have an employer brand that is instantly recognizable - 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 %) 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,” says Martina Edwin, Employer Branding at AFRY.

“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.”

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,” says Linda Büchler, Global Talent Acquisition at AFRY. “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.”

The survey YPAI is based on over 16 000 responses collected across six countries and gives an indication of what the most sought-after group in the labor market – young professionals– are looking for when choosing an employer. With the demand for qualified, talented engineers far outstripping the supply, AFRY is 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.

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 believes 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.

“That’s why we need to make a strong impression as early as possible. 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.

What is YPAI?

Young Professional Attraction Index (YPAI) is a yearly study published by Academic Work. YPAI is designed to help employers understand what young professionals value most when choosing a new employer. The results of the YPAI research aim to provide companies with a deeper understanding of how to attract, recruit and engage young professionals.

See the International results of YPAI 2020

Once all this is communicated and the right talents are in place, the work doesn’t stop. The YPAI results in Sweden indicate that having opportunities to develop is a priority.

“With us, we believe it’s your drive that keeps you moving forward, but our culture that makes it possible. We have offices in over 40 countries and are working within a wide range of industries and projects, which means the potential for development and trying new things are huge. We work with all kinds of projects, big and small, so you’ll have a chance to try new things, and our leadership focus means that you have excellent opportunities to grow and develop.” says Martina Edwin.

“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.”

Communication is the key, especially during exceptional times

With the Covid-19 pandemic changing the way we do almost everything, communication became even more important, and AFRY decided to create a job-seeker’s manual 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 itself was created together with our fantastic recruitment team and is now available in Swedish and English from our website and in our social media channels, and the response has been fantastic,” says Linda.

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 knows 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,” Martina Edwin explains.

“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”.

The YPAI results for 2020 and their comprehensive communication directed towards young professionals would suggest this might happen sooner rather than later, and AFRY is 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 shows the way by leveraging diversity and inclusion, empowering others, 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.

AFRY - Fact Box:

  • Over 17,000 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

The view 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 has 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.

Get to know the results of YPAI 2020

This year’s results are divided into three different sections. Download the most interesting ones to yourself and keep developing your employer brand.

Read more (in Finnish)

See the International results of YPAI 2020

16,000 respondents from 6 six countries - that's what we analyzed to provide an understanding of what is crucial when recruiting young professionals internationally.

Download here

How YPAI study was conducted in 2020

The study was conducted in three phases to ensure the reliability of the results. Get to know the research methodology in more detail.

Read more (in Finnish)
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