Gen Y – the good guys!


There has been a shortage of talent in the media industry since when I was a boy, and that is a very long time ago! With staff turnover of over 30% it’s hard to build a stable business, and certainly expensive with recruiting costs, and lost productivity, let alone the harm to client relationships.

The industry’s response has always been one of two: 1. Steal talent from the competition or 2. Train existing talent, create a great culture and pay market competitive salaries to retain your talent.

The easy and traditional route is to steal but I’m glad to say that media agencies are increasing recognising the futility of this approach, and the greater return on investment in a retention strategy.

I’m proud that OMD were first out of the blocks to employ a People and Development Director way back in 2006 and most media agencies have now followed suit.

But the industry still can’t crack the 30% turnover number, so you’d be right to ask why don’t we go back to the ‘steal’ route?

The alternative question could be what would the turnover rate be if agencies weren’t investing in their people – 40 or 50% or more?

gen-yThe retention task is tougher than ever, and this is largely down to the much talked about (and maligned) Gen Y’s (Millennial’s). With an industry average age of below 30, we are now majority Gen Y – and this generation brings with them new challenges. I’ll declare my hand now and say that I’m a big Gen Y fan and that many of the challenges they pose to traditional working environments are because those workplaces haven’t moved with the times. If you don’t motivate Gen Y’s they will move on, and you will only have yourself to blame.

Gen Y want a workplace to provide them with a career path, they want to be trained, they want new challenges, regular promotion, recognition, and salary increases. Gen Y won’t respect you unless you’ve earned it, whatever your title. Personally I see nothing wrong with these expectations and wish I’d had the confidence and nouse to demand the same in the early part of my career. My experience of Gen Y is that they also understand that it’s a two way street and fulfilment of their demands is dependent on their performance.

At OMD we spend big on people development and believe there is a massive return on investment in lower churn rates but also in the increased productivity that happy challenged Gen Y’s produce, because like every generation they are smarter than the previous.

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  1. Avatar

    Well said Marv. I do think automation will help alleviate a lot of the frustrations Gen Y have with the media industry. So what’s happening on this front? Ideally their creativity and smarts can be put to better use within the business and wider industry rather that loading spreadsheets and data.

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      Martin Cowie

      Carolyn – I think we are aligned on our views that the manual tasks of media have barely changed in many years. Automation is happening but at a much slower rate than is ideal. OMD are making efforts as are the MFA but the industry retention rate will still be far too high until we get this right.

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    I agree with some of the comments around the fact work places did not evolve.
    That said, respect, politeness and resilience are some values we don’t see displayed very often by the Gen Y. They want to be trained, they want pay rises, they want to do the exciting things, but they also have to prove they are up for the challenge and that not everything is due to them. Regardless of the age or generation we are from, those values are the basics.

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      Martin Cowie

      Dorothee, Your right that there should never be any excuse for a lack of politeness from anyone in any generation. Gen Y seem to challenge authority more than other generations but vital they do this in a respectful and constructive manner. So its an imperative that their Managers push back and educate them if they are ever rude – maybe we have to make up for the poor parenting of the baby boomers!

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