5 Strategies to Grow Your Marketing Agency’s Millennial Supervisors

Gen Y LeadersLast week, a few members of the PR 20/20 team headed to Austin, Texas for our annual trip to SXSW’s Interactive Conference. The following post summarizes my notes from Jennifer Selke’s (@jennsselke) presentation, Millennials as Supervisors: Strategies for Success,” and how they relate more specifically to growing your agency’s next wave of leadership. Selke had seven great tips for organizations; this post includes my top five.

The old guard of agency leadership was hierarchical (and for many, it still is). Young professionals strove to climb the ladder from assistant account executive to account manager, group director and eventually senior vice president. Within the old guard, professionals looked to their managers for information and guidance. They worked within regimented systems and processes, and they didn’t question authority.

Yet, in more modern, startup-mentality cultures, great ideas and consensus come from a collective team—interns and CEOs alike. We’re each encouraged to think differently, build one another up, and continually improve existing processes.

As the workforce grows younger, businesses must evolve to capture the benefits millennials bring to the table. The millennial generation includes those born between 1980-2000. And by they year 2020, they’ll comprise 46% of the workforce.

The Millennial Profile

So, who is the millennial, and what drives the generation?

Dr. Jennifer Selke, an educational psychologist from U.C. Berkeley, specializes in the millennial workforce, as she hires and supervises 150 millennials each year. She’s been using her first-hand experiences, paired with Gallup Strength Center’s research, to do a deep dive into the generation.

According to Selke, millennials are confident, continual learners, driven to innovate and make impact, and highly tech connected. Yet, the generation has gotten flack for being needy, or relying too heavily on social media over human interaction. Selke continues to explain in Melanie Haput’s (@boxingoctopus) SXSW article, #TheWorstPeopleInTheWorld:

“They care deeply about doing work that is meaningful, but few workplaces know how to manage workers for optimal engagement,” Selke warns. “Where I think millennials will make the biggest impact is in their intolerance of being unhappy at work. Companies that have been able to get by with a workforce waiting for that gold watch and pension are going to have to pay more attention to workers’ well-being.

How to Grow Your Agency with Millennial Supervisors

Harness the power of the millennial leader for your growing marketing agency. Consider the following strategies:

1. Age Diversity

Your agency and its rising young leaders must be able to work across all generations. Know the attributes of each generation, what drives them, and why. The Wall Street Journal’s How to Manage Different Generations offers a good start at learning the different generations, and thinking about strategies to integrate their strengths. Dedicate resources or a workshop to age diversity training for your team. For an example, check out Loreal’s diversity training.

2. Strength-Based Management

Millennials perform best when using their strengths. Discovering what these talents are (for millennials themselves, and your agency) helps make leadership transitions more successful.

Selke compared this management approach to that of a baseball coach. Playing to each athlete’s top abilities allows you to piece together a team with pitchers, a shortstop, outfielders, and so on. No one person can do it all—it’s about getting the pieces to fit together for a win.

Tip: The Gallup Certified Strengths Center helps individuals recognize areas in which they excel. Check out the organization’s survey ($10 per survey) to help your team discover individual strong points.

3. Dedicated Coaching

Many millennials were raised in a praise-based culture. Highly-engaged parents guarded them from failure, and helped many make it to college. This type of praise and coaching translates to professional expectations.

Most millennials want to communicate with their bosses several times a day—and many prefer in-person meetings.

Interestingly, this is also where millennial supervisors struggle: we’re giving feedback all day long and unable to focus! It’s a balance, and it requires setting expectations early. Selke recommended blocking off time for daily check-ins, and as mentioned within point #2 above, seeking out those who want to coach.

Tip: Agencies dedicated to the millennial generation must help them grow beyond core marketing competencies. Provide millennials access to resources that support personal finance, budgeting, health and home. As millennials approach lifetime milestones, it’s a bonus if their workplace is supportive and helpful.

4. Communication Skills

Millennial supervisors must adapt their own communication style to the generation at hand.

Have an open discussion with reports and your boss, and clearly establish your preferred form of communication. Millennials prefer texts and emails over picking up the phone. With this in mind, cover what is okay for a text message, what’s better in an email and what merits a phone call.

5. Bonus “After” Hours

Encourage employees to build trust, camaraderie and just let loose with a few after-hour activities. Carve out time a few hours early to respect the team’s home-life, and set up fun activities for employees to be together outside of client work. It helps with team-building and overall happiness—keeping employees at your agency longer.

As a millennial supervisor, I’m continually reading and learning about the topic. If it’s of interest to you too, check out the related Marketing Agency Insider posts:

Are you a millennial supervisor? What’s your experience, or how is your agency nurturing its millennial team? Would love to continue the conversation below.

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