Are you afraid of millennials? It’s okay if you are. I’m a millennial, and there are plenty of my peers who scare the youth right out of me – some for good reasons like their intimidating ambition, and yes, others for their stereotypical sense of entitlement. Whether you’re afraid or not, though, if you’re in a leadership position in marketing, ours is the generation that you’ll most likely be leading. Despite our generational differences, as your organization’s marketing commander in chief, you need your millennial troops to rally behind you. To help you see that we’re not entirely as terrible as we may seem, and actually happy to stand behind you, here are a few things that we respect, admire, and even aspire to emulate in an effective CMO.
The Chief Movement Officer Vs. The Cranky Managerial Obstacle:
As millennials, we’re often criticized for growing up in a time when everyone got a trophy just for participating. Sure, even I have a few Little League participation trophies back home in a memory box somewhere, but that’s how my generation played ball. For better or worse, we were taught to value activity and commitment – the only kids who didn’t earn trophies were either couch potatoes or quitters. That’s why when we look to our leaders, we want to see people who are making things happen, and who are willing to own their initiatives to the end –regardless if those initiatives get chalked up as wins or losses. It’s not unheard of; generational segments aside, when organizations have executives who are engaged and invested, initiatives measurably move forward with less resistance. Looking at the adoption rate of predictive analytics tools, for example, Aberdeen’s business intelligence research shows that 79 percent of organizations that do adopt predictive analytics have an executive-level champion. Since our generation has been conditioned to appreciate the people who are willing to go to bat for something, so to speak, we tend to respect CMOs and other leaders who visibly support initiatives or actively work to move the organization forward.
- The Point: Millennials don’t buy into “business as usual” executives who only do what’s always been done. We want leaders who drive growth along with progressive momentum, and who empower us to be a part of that movement. We want Chief Movement Officers, not Cranky Managerial Obstacles who slow things down.
The Challenging Coach Who Builds On Our Potential:
Millennials aren’t the only generation that appreciates a challenging work environment, but it is definitely something that keeps us active and engaged. In his post, Productive Millennials: Oxymoron or Opportunity, Zach Lahey shared some of his research which indicated that the top occupational appeal among professionals across the board was to be challenged and intrigued by the work they do. From our initial candidacy for a role at an organization, to our onboarding, even to our last day when it’s time to move on, we want to feel like we’re being challenged in areas that will help us to grow in our careers. Contrary to popular assumptions about millennials, we’re not a thankless generation, so the leaders who do challenge us in positive ways often do earn our appreciation and admiration. For organizations aiming to cater to millennials in order to expand their teams, it’s not just a trendy tactic either; it’s a research-backed competitive advantage. A human capital management study showed that when companies focus on improving the candidate experience (which includes attracting talent based on interests and expectations – instead of just a need to fill a role) they improve their year-over-year cost per hire at twice the rate of organizations without such a focus. From marketing leaders who appeal to us with an honest disclosure about the challenges ahead in the hiring phase, to those who push us to improve – either directly through interactions or indirectly through clearly evident elements in programs or objectives –as employees, we are always willing to follow those who know how to make us better.
- The Point: Millennials don’t want to be babied, underestimated, or written off as pawns. The more we can see the merits of meeting or beating challenges, the more driven we will be to do so. CMOs who provide us with such challenging opportunities to improve also improve their own ability to gain value from our efforts.
Confident, Measured, And Objective:
Well before us uppity millennials came along, up-and-coming generations have been consistently questioning and challenging the practices and opinions of their predecessors. Being of the internet age, however, when a millennial questions something you’ve said or done, it’s not necessarily a naïve or disrespectful inquisition on your authority; instead, it may very well be intended as a respectful inquiry into why you did what you did in an attempt to learn from your experience. Since we’ve had the modern web for the majority of our lives (or the entirety for some of our younger members), we’ve become accustomed to having unrestricted access to information. Whenever we wanted to know something, all we had to do was ask Google, or search the internet, and the collective knowledge of the world was at our fingertips. That’s why we appreciate leaders who confidently understand and entertain our questions, and provide honest, practical answers. If a millennial wanted to know why his or her CMO had to emphasize a particular hue of blue to use in a campaign, for example, the ideal CMO would answer by highlighting past A/B testing results, established rendering capabilities, or other forms of objective data in order to explain the methodology. It may sound like a rather demanding tendency, but today’s marketers are rarely ever without the necessary information. In fact, according to marketing effectiveness research, 58 percent of leading marketing organizations already report an ability to identify the specific campaign attributes that optimize overall results. Even if millennial marketers can find the answers we’re seeking on our own, the leaders we respect the most are the ones who are confident enough to point us in the right direction.
- The Point: Effective marketing leaders don’t interpret questions of methodology from millennials as questions of their own authority. Millennials have grown up accustomed to knowledge sharing, so whenever you can, share the wealth. Even for unexpected questions where you may not have all the answers, have confidence that through your experience, you can still guide your millennial employees toward the most effective paths.
Stability Through Accountability:
To millennial marketers, the old days, when marketing was a gut-feel-driven, unaccountable cost center which could still be cut on a moment’s notice if an organization’s budget got too tight, were just that – the old days before our time, which only serve as a contrast to how we market today. When many of us entered the workforce, the world was still in the grips of the last major economic recession, or just coming out of it, so we learned very early in our careers how important it is to make ourselves assets to our organizations, as opposed to costs that can easily be cut. When we see CMOs who make their marketing departments into measurable, accountable, revenue engines for their organizations, we see leaders who are working to ensure our own security and stability as well. Even though being held accountable – either as a team or individually – to measurable revenue or business objectives makes for a higher stakes marketing environment, we see the value in being able to dictate our own fate through our successes and failures. From lead nurturing – whose practitioners measurably drive a higher contribution to sales-forecasted pipeline, as compared to non-practitioners – to sales enablement, when CMOs connect their marketing efforts to revenue, they ensure the job security and stability of their employees, which is something that even us “ungrateful millennials” can appreciate.
- The Point: Ensuring accountability within marketing to drive revenue and distinct value for the business does not go unnoticed among millennial marketers. CMOs and marketing leaders who cement marketing as a value center for a business provide security and stability for their millennial employees, and as a result, earn substantial trust and respect.
All-in-all, we millennials have plenty of unique strengths, along with plenty of uniquely challenging qualities, but as we grow in our careers, the more effectively our CMOs and marketing leaders manage us today, the more effective we’ll be when it’s our day to lead in the future.
Whether you’re a millennial who has something to add to the story, or an experienced executive who has valuable experiences or insights of your own to contribute to the conversation, please share your thoughts in the comments below.Business & Finance Articles on Business 2 Community