How many times have business leaders rolled their eyes and sighed as the subject of engaging the younger generation in our industry rises once more to the top of a management agenda?
It’s a topic many grapple with, yet all too often there is a disconnection between the well-intentioned initiatives of the generation in the boardroom and those we hope will lead our businesses in the future.
It seemed wise to consult the latter group, so I seized the opportunity to talk to some of the younger talent out there and hear from them what they really want from our industry if we are serious about retaining their talent for the future.
Some key themes emerged across the responses. They may not be a surprise, but it is important that we focus on them.
Fun, stimulating and learning environments
It was encouraging to see ‘fun’ appear. They don’t expect party central, but do want to enjoy coming to work, have a huge appetite for learning and are ambitious. They just may not be prepared to give their life to the job in order to advance. We need to focus on what makes them tick and balance our demands between commitment, engagement and reward.
Walk the talk
Across a range of issues, including diversity and equality, there is a demand and expectation that employers should be transparent about progress, candid about the improvements needed and make a real commitment to behaving well and doing the right thing – as we would advise our clients.
The only way is ethics
Putting purpose before profits, behaving ethically and caring about the consequence of actions was another theme. This generation expects continuous commitment and improvement in corporate behaviours. It isn’t afraid to help an organisation make a profit, but expects it to be responsible.
We underestimate how all-consuming a career in comms can be. While there is greater flexibility these days, more needs to be done to provide a sustainable work/life balance.
Promote the industry
It was encouraging to learn that this career is a long-term play for many and they want their chosen profession to be taken more seriously in the commercial world. How great that tomorrow’s leaders care about our very own reputation.
It is clear leaders today need to make a real commitment to evolving and improving our business model and offer if we are to capture and retain the bright minds with leadership potential. No more eye-rolling – we need to take action now.
Alison Clarke is a business consultant and mentor @pitchwitch