Sunday, April 06, 2008

5328: Why Y?


Give Gen Y-ers a Reason to Stay at Your Agency
We All Must Dramatically Re-engineer How We Approach Entry-Level Positions

By Mark Strong

Ever scanned tomorrow’s calendar only to find that a junior member of your team has scheduled 15 minutes with you but offered no specific reason? Any astute manager knows that this dreaded appointment will likely contain either complaining, crying or quitting -- all of which are rather unpleasant but entirely manageable. However, Gen Y employees have begun using these 15-minute sessions for a much more captivating reason: to take their senior-most management through the Four Ps: the Personal-Progress PowerPoint Presentation.

From a design standpoint, the Four Ps I have observed generally were quite stunning and demonstrated tremendous mastery of PowerPoint’s next-generation offerings -- hyperlinks, unusual custom animations, video and the new 2007 Word Art function. But while the form of each varied dramatically, the function did not. All of the presentations were built around three distinct sections:

A comprehensive list of the projects the employees had worked on since joining and a recap of what they had learned about themselves, the agency and our business.

Specific short-term and long-term objectives the employees had set for themselves, often the most significant portion of the presentations. Some key shared desires, such as to marry personal and business passions, to quickly move between jobs, to make lots of money.

Each presentation ended with three asks: a promotion, a specific salary increase and a desired effective date for both.

At the conclusion of each presentation, I was all too happy to give the presenters the positive recognition they wanted and deserved. But beyond that, my hands were tied. If I could have given them the raises and promotions they desired, I would have. But our business model just doesn’t support those actions. These frustrated Gen Y-ers might have begun job searches or, even worse, developed a crushing resentment toward me and the agency and written about it in their blogs. Who can blame them?

The brightest of my junior account folks attended notable universities and graduated with impressive GPAs. They ran fraternities, philanthropic organizations, student governments. And what can I offer them in return? A frequently mind-numbing job filling out insertion orders for newspaper ads, managing Excel budgets, updating status reports and writing up competitive alerts, all for a salary that’s considerably lower than what their client equivalents make.

Agencies need to find a new employment model that better caters to Gen Y’s 21st-century skill set, enviable ambition and vibrant desire for recognition. If we don’t, rest assured we will continue to lose smart and driven people to other, more-Gen-Y-friendly industries.

In a recent survey of our New York office, the majority of our employees under 25 wanted quarterly performance check-ins with their direct supervisors and separate quarterly meetings with their department heads. Right.

We all must dramatically re-engineer how we approach entry-level positions. Here we’re testing rotational department/discipline employment, reverse mentoring, master’s-level strategic education, personalized performance metrics and accelerated compensation models.

Gen Y employees are playing a more active role than ever in managing their careers. Our job is to find new ways to motivate, inspire and reward them. If we don’t, I fear these “Ad”-olescents won’t be taking us through their PowerPoint decks any longer, because there simply will be none of them left.

Mark Strong is group managing director on McCann Erickson’s global MasterCard business.

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