13 May 2016

How to retain unloyal millennial audiences as media owners

Start by understanding what makes them tick at work, says Deloitte

By Brad Rees

We’ve all had that job that never makes it to the CV or LinkedIn halls of fame.

Mine was working for Alternative Corporate Entertainment PLC or ‘ACE’, where I was tasked to sell ‘Novelty Entertainment Acts’ (NEAs) to global business monoliths from the boss’s front room in Vauxhall.

I had got dangerously close to placing faux 1970s teddy boy schlock ‘n’ rollers, Showaddywaddy, at the Reuters Fleet Street 1989 Christmas party, before their Brummie agent shot me down with the ultimate reality check as I tried to knock him down on fees:

“Listen son, if you want Under the Moon of Love on a stick you’ll have to cough up with the readies; these fellas are a bit long in the tooth for all of this jam-for-tomorrow bullshit.”

I remember putting down the phone, lighting up a cigarette, with my feet now on the table and drawing deeply on a Marlboro Red before saying to my boss, “The corporate entertainment world is not for me, I’m going to Brazil, I quit.” I was 22 and I’d been in the role a grand total of three-and-a-half days.

My next job lasted a good deal longer in the Southern Hemisphere and then a timeline of two-year workhopping stints throughout my twenties and early thirties, before the stabilising influence of marriage, kids, mortgages, pensions, staycations, mortality.

Deloitte’s fifth global Millennial Survey of hipsters’ hopes and dreams paints a picture of an emerging decision-making workforce who have not so much one eye on the door as one foot out of it. The management consultancy firm warns of an emerging epidemic of what it calls ‘loyalty challenge’.

Out of the 7,700 participants born after 1982 from 29 countries, one in four of the buggers are planning ‘near-term exits’ from their current employers. The days of working the way up the greasy corporate pole is so last century, with a stonking 82% of Peruvian under-34-year-olds saying they will be doing a ‘Paddington Bear’ and leaving their current organisation within the next five years.

And it’s not just emerging nations where the workhopping bug is biting deep, in the UK 71% of the same demographic said their five-year plan included a career move.

There’s a great Urban Dictionary quote which says Millennials believe ‘themselves to be overachievers who just aren’t understood by their loser bosses’. This superiority complex seems to be borne out in the Deloitte data with six in ten of them complaining their “leadership skills are not being fully developed.”

It looks like employers aren’t doing enough to bridge the gap between outgoing workhoppers and incoming workhoppees, and neglecting their responsiblity of ensuring a new generation of business leaders.

The elephant the Deloitte research elegantly leaves lingering in the room, near the retro Shoreditch standard lamp, is the potential drop-out rates of 18-34-year-olds who decide to spin out of the traditional job market altogether, with life outweighing work.

The research comes close to annunciating the emerging slacker phenomenon when approaching the subject of flexible working, striking a balance.

Central to the issue of flexible working is the mobile phone. According to the survey 70% were able to access email and relevant applications from mobile devices with less of them able to work flexible hours and only 43% of them being allowed to work from home or other locations.

This current level of flexibility is not consistent with Millennials’ desires with 88% wishing they could start and finish work at the times they choose – while 77% of them wish to have greater mobile connectivity via tablets and smartphones, with a view to working remotely more frequently – with the belief they will be more productive.

It’s the WFH metric which would increase levels of satisfaction and in this generation’s opinion, boost productivity; 51% of them expected productivity to increase if people in their organisations could work from home or outside of the workplace at least.

That warm and fuzzy ‘freedom’ feeling loops back into the loyalty challenge, where most of the survey respondents expressed that if they felt more in control of their careers, they would feel more empowered and would therefore stick around longer.

All the insights need to be read in the context of a missing variable, which is that work/life balance comes before career progression ONLY when salary and other financial benefits are removed from the research dialogue. A bit like the insight gleaned from Showaddywaddy’s agent all those years ago, I guess.