How Agencies Motivate Millennials

Agency execs frequently grumble about the younger generations that work under them. They’re impatient, demanding and often frustrating to work with, some say. With that in mind Digiday asked some senior agency staffers how they go about managing employees in the millennial generation and what they do to motivate them:

Josh Mandel, Managing Director, 72andSunny
We’ve found that the single most motivating force for this generation is clarity. It’s no longer enough to tell people that experience will come with time. The millennial worker wants to know how to grow, what’s expected of them and how to get there. I think the unintended consequence of this is that agencies should get better as a result. They need to get better at managing people by being more present, available and accountable for everyone’s success.

Leeann Leahy, President and General Manager, The VIA Agency
Motivating millennials in the workplace is really the same as motivating any smart, curious, engaged employee with a short attention span (in our business, that’s more than just the millennials). It is about constantly offering new challenges and then allowing the time and space to apply creative thinking and generate innovative solutions to those challenges. At VIA, in order to be successful in that, we place a high value on letting every employee live a full life inside and outside of the office so that, when faced with those new opportunities and challenges, they have the intellectual tools and open perspective that allow them to rise to the occasion.

Anthony Wolch, executive creative director, Entrinsic
I have found that the key to consistently unlocking the potential of millennials is to treat them like equals from day one. Bring them into every project. Make them sit in on more meetings than they thought possible (including client briefings, presentations, meetings with directors and producers, etc). Our youngest talent is rarely invited into the room for the meetings that provide the most insight, but I’ve found that instead of sheltering them, it’s best to rest their future on their own shoulders and expose them to as much as possible. What you’re hoping to teach them is how to get to ideas faster. It can take a little longer with younger people who aren’t used to the process, but if you treat them like equals, you’ll find that great ideas come from every corner of the room. The best thing about millennials is that they come into work every day thinking they can change the world, and it’s your job to let them know that the can.

Michael Ventura, CEO, Sub Rosa
While at Sub Rosa, we don’t necessarily staff a swath of young, “fresh out of school” employees, I’ve found that the millennial mindset has become a bit of a psychographic factor that impacts even employees with over 10 years of experience. People don’t look to their job to simply fill 10 hours of the day and provide a paycheck. They want more substance and meaning in all aspects of their life – not the least of which is their professional life. There is a common misconception in the industry that perks are the same as culture, and that compensation can be viewed equally across both. Having a ping pong table does not mean you have good company culture. It’s a perk. It means people can play ping pong. The same idea holds true for a litany of other pseudo-cultural benefits ranging from video games to massages to regularly scheduled drinks. It’s not these perks that beget stronger culture or the rewards that this psychographic craves; it’s the knock on effect of closer relationships, camaraderie, a sense of belonging that helps to bridge the gap from perk to culture. In doing so, the value placed on each person’s job is no longer exclusively financial, but it’s personal.

Paul Mareski, President, Team One
My advice to a company looking to improve its millennial relations: Don’t mold this generation, but rather embrace their passion for the world. Inspire and ignite them, and then turn them loose. With this generation in mind, we have several unique awards programs currently in place, including the annual “Launch an Idea” and “Slash” awards. “Launch an Idea” not only provides a level of autonomy – anyone is allowed to put forth an idea; but also an award for the thinking – the winning idea will be funded by Team One and launched; and finally, a prize for the individual – the winner is provided an all-expenses-paid philanthropic trip to put forth more good into the world. A “Slash” award is bestowed upon several employees each year who have exemplified CORE values – a value system we created (C: Collaboration O: Optimism, R: Results-Driven, E: Entrepreneurialism). The peer-nominated recipients are recognized in a company-wide celebration and allowed to take a week-long, expenses-paid, inspirational journey. We believe this generation wants to be heard as well as thanked for their ideas and contributions.

Image via Shutterstock

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