I’m often met with shock when I tell people that I’ve owned two PR agencies.
Sure, I’m a millennial, but I started my PR career at a relatively young age. When I ran Urbane Imagery from 2004-2012 I hired two millennials in part-time senior roles, and when I was in charge at duGard Ellis Public Relations from 2012-2015 we had seven millennials on staff, two of whom had director titles.
Unfortunately, the culture at many PR agencies is not conducive to cultivate millennial employees for senior roles.
Millennials understand how the biggest misconceptions surrounding our generation may annoy agency leaders. We’re portrayed as being overconfident, self-centered, self-entitled and preoccupied with our hand-held devices to the detriment of face-to-face contact.
However, underneath myriad labels, millennials posses key attributes that PR agency owners need in order to enhance the longevity of their agencies and embrace social media marketing.
As millennials move into the management ranks PR agency owners have an opportunity to leverage our energetic, ambitious and entrepreneurial spirits for the continued success of their firms.
With that in mind, here’s three tips for how to groom millennials for senior management:
1. Explain why. Millennials need to know “why.” We are curious problem-solvers. We need to know why precise operational procedures are in place. Why a distinct strategic solution is implemented for a particular client and why billing and accounting policies are structured in a certain fashion. Why do managers need to explain things frequently? Because providing clear explanations reveal the thought process behind your leadership decisions and creates knowledge-sharing opportunities. Rather than assigning repetitive tasks, take a moment to give millennials focused responses as to how their contributions fit into the bigger picture (and the bottom line). Explaining “why” lets millennials know that your agency has a business imperative to make their career growth a priority.
2. Learn how to coach failure. Millennials don’t fail well. We often have expectations to win at every turn. The desire to win comes naturally to us, so senior agency executives need to show us what to do when things don’t work out. Get millennials to use their critical thinking skills by talking through what went wrong and how to improve the conversation for the next time. Make failure a teachable moment. Point out the hiccups and make recommendations for a fix. This allows agency owners to assess potential leadership behaviors and attitudes among those millennials who are most willing to harness their strengths and openly address their weaknesses.
3. Provide for a sense of ownership. Millennials embrace ownership. We like to say, “I led that project” or “That’s my campaign.” We desire quick promotion, rapid progression and various interesting tasks and assignments. But, for owners and managers, it can be unnerving to relinquish control and critical decisions to millennials. Don’t fret. First, test responsibility by sharing all your projects and letting millennial employees choose which ones they want to tackle. Then, by providing needed resources and being available for questions, managers can offer millennial team members ownership of specific assignments/projects. Remember, millennials are the most ethnically and socially diverse generation to enter the workforce, not to mention the first generation weaned on social media and online communications. They don’t call us “digital natives” for nothing.
As the face of current agency leaders changes, millennials will need to step into the second tier. It is up to agency owners to transform us from swift and savvy technicians to strategic and visionary leaders. The above recommendations are your blueprint.
Let us know what you think we might be missing here.
Aerial Ellis is a consultant specializing in strategic communication and diversity/inclusion and author of the soon-to-be published “The Original Millennial.” She teaches public relations at Lipscomb University and serves as secretary for PRSA’s national diversity and committee and as director-at-large for the PRSA Nashville chapter. She can be reached at [email protected].