Marketers debate how to lead millennials in the workforce

‘Let’s stop trying to figuring them out, but understand what motivates them’

Today’s executives need to take a new approach to corporate culture and how they operate in order to develop the up-and-coming millennial generation into the next batch of leaders, marketers participating in this year’s Marketing Academy claim.

Companies need to address shifting demands and market nuances by the younger generation in order to empower future leaders, according to Claire Tenzer, group business director Whybin\TBWA Melbourne.

“It is wrong to think how the generation think today is the way we thought years ago,” Tenzer said. “The people that need to change are us - leaders, future leaders and businesses. And that’s incredibly important because this younger generation are incredibly hungry. They are going to change the world, and they want to change it yesterday. They want to earn more, they want to move faster and they want to have more experiences.”

By 2020, Tenzer said the appetising workforce will be 40 per cent freelance. “And that backs up the fact that people want experience and they want to move on. It is not about 25 years and a gold watch. . . There is huge recruitment churn.

“Let’s stop trying to figure them out, and instead understand what motivates them so we can lead them, rather than manage them.”

Head of customer category for Coles at Carlton United Breweries, Zoey Saunders, agreed millennials need to be properly understood.

“There are 6.4 million millennials in Australia and they are now the largest portion of the workforce,” she said. “They have been collectively grouped together and been called disruptive, which essentially isn’t true. They have a pivotal role as a generation and they have a completely new bent on the world.”

Saunders identified four key motivators influencing this diverse group of individuals: Flexibility; self-direction; real time feedback; and continued training and development.

“They see the effects of work/life balance on older generations and it is no longer the necessary evil of parenting. It is actually a right that everyone should have. They see it as an enabler to unlock their full potential in life,” she said.

“They are incredibly self-aware. They have a strong value set they understand and they will make choices based on that. They want to choose their own path, set their own agenda. They don’t want a career that is controlled by someone else. They will be the captain of their own ship.”

While many in the marketing and advertising space talk about millennials being needy and requiring instant reassurance, the reality is they need a constant conversation that enables them to get feedback, Saunders continues.

“People also say they are all about the result and it’s all about the outcome. Yes, they are hungry for a result, but they want to enjoy the ride as well,” she said. “It is as much about the journey as it is about the destination.”

Saunders said one way to help unlock the potential in this generation is to focus on ‘appmin’ rather than admin.

“If it’s quicker, easier and more intuitive, then it will save everyone time,” she said. “For this generation, the mobile is an extension of their soul and a remote control for life.”

Another key is to foster a shared, positive purpose. “They really believe in the greater good and want to make a difference,” Saunders said. “There’s nothing stopping organisations getting them involved across the board, so allow them to provide feedback on creative, help set strategy, and involve them in company culture. There are a number of things we can do to get them involved in projects to work on and feel proud because they feel like they are making a difference.”

Saunders also suggested companies need to empower startup mentality. “Let them be nimble, agile, flexible. . . Encourage them to try and ensure them it is okay to fail,” she advised.

“And while you’re on this journey, listen with authenticity, with vulnerability and share your experiences because they want to be mentored and coached. They just don’t want to be managed.

“Most importantly, let’s inspire them. They are hungry for information, they have an unquenchable curiosity about life and as the world moves at a faster pace, we can really harness that to stretch their thinking and unlock their potential.”

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