What do millennials really want?

Earlier this year a recruitment survey carried out by C&IT showed 13% of employers in the events industry are concerned about the growing number of millennials coming into the workforce and their expectations.

Despite many event agencies offering flexitime, bonuses and lavish parties or away days, millennials also cherish meaning in their work and an emotional attachment to their brand. This comes through projects they feel invested in, being developed as both an employee and as a person, and getting involved in charity projects.

Millennials are renowned for being tech-savvy and many agencies are finding that “there is a higher demand for technology, with prospective employees selecting employers based on the technology they provide employees (macs or PC’s)”, according to Gemma Chadwick HR manager at Penguins. “We are also finding millennials to be more brand savvy, chasing the event agencies working with the best brands.”

The need for providing a working space that gets the creative juices flowing is emphasised by Janina Monaghan, head of global sales support, at Ashfield M&E, “People don’t thrive in bland spaces; a creative and interesting place which inspires individuals will mean they can draw energy from this environment. This energy produces myriad benefits: productivity increases, ideas are generated, morale is boosted and staff retention is higher,” she says.

“We have creative spaces – complete with Lego bricks, books and Rubik’s Cubes – SPARK THINKING (our sister brand) has sessions to encourage innovation and creativity, running clubs, work/life mentality week, VR experiences, community based projects which incorporate our charity ‘Ashfield Cares’, an award-wining training programme, coffee mornings that encourage departments to gather together and many other initiatives that weave their way through the year,” she adds.

Professional development

Millennials want to feel attached to their brand, and there are several ways this can be achieved. Dan Stevens, MD at Primary explains: “20% of our employees’ roles are business oriented which means they play a role in the day to day running of business in addition to their primary role. This makes them more commercially aware plus allows them direct input. We encourage our people to come to us with challenges and solutions and encourage them to drive these so they can learn and influence the direction of the business. This sense of ownership and responsibility is attractive.”

Agency Brandfuel emphasises the importance of a two-way relationship between employer and employee, and that ‘ownership’ models, whereby an employee belongs to the company are outdated and no longer attractive to millennial employees. “We are looking for people who are learning agile and have something to offer the business, and in turn, invest in helping young people find a career they’re passionate about, faster than they might otherwise,” says CEO David Ball. “Millennials look at your character and values, what you are like as a business: while we devote a large focus, and budget, to training, it is part of a wider culture of ‘enriching experiences’ that is key to who we are as an agency.”

The opportunity to have a 360 oversight of the business is vital according to Donna Howells, event coordinator manager at drp. “At drp we don’t just restrict someone to one area of the business, and if you want to try something else then you can. Being a multi communications agency, we can provide individuals with exposure to various departments, which gives them the opportunity to see where their interests lie. It is crucial to invest the time, attention and money into nurturing new talent too. Once you employ them you should give them a reason or reasons to stay.”


Reward and recognition

As the events sector becomes increasingly globalised and agencies open up new offices around the world, millennials are keen to capitalise on the opportunity to travel as part of their career progression. Harriet Bullen, HR and recruitment advisor at FIRST says: “The ability to travel is a significant factor when millennials choose their next career role, and as an example FIRST recently transferred a project Manager (Lee Jones) from the FIRST London to New York office. This offers workplace flexibility, the chance to grow and develop, and for the employers, retaining great talent. Millennials ultimately want the opportunity for swift promotion, for a clear career path to achieve their career goals, and as such requires employers to offer internal progressions, or  risk losing great talent.”

Agency WRG has launched a new system for employee appraisals “based on what millennials and employees want, which is regular feedback, a less formal structure and empowering them to ask for feedback when they need it,” explains CEO Russ Lidstone.

“This system is modelled on Facebook and Google and relies less on a big moment in time, and is instead rooted in regular ongoing feedback, with the chance for the employee to write up the notes from the session. This is less bureaucratic and fits better with a fast-paced business,” he adds.

But it’s not just all about the bigger agencies; according to Stevens, SMB’s have a unique offering when it comes to attracting millennials. ” Small and medium agencies have a great opportunity, as millennials no longer just want to work for the market leaders. Small to medium businesses can be more flexible and match their desire to progress quickly,” he says.

“Agencies must clearly define boundaries, with key milestones recognised, and a clear definition of where they are going and what they need to get there. Small businesses can more easily accommodate this need for creativity, passion and desire to be harnessed in their work.”


The Millennial perspective

These viewpoints are backed up by millennials themselves. First Event recently carried out an internal survey which gave an insight into the mindset of millennial colleagues. Its findings were that feeling valued, a positive environment and an intrinsic support network is ranked more highly than salary or job title. Also high on the list was opportunities for personal development and having a clear career path. Having an employer show enthusiasm about their role in the business was also a real driving force.

Amey Spink, account executive at First Event, says: “One of the most important things to me is a good working environment. It’s the place where I spend the most time, and to create the kind of events that we do, you really have to love what you do. Being surrounded by like-minded, hardworking individuals who share my passion is what I value most about my workplace, as it reinforces how great the company I work for really is.”

Benjamin Southall, digital marketing manager at First Event agrees: “When looking for a job, I looked for somewhere that offered creative freedom, job satisfaction, and clear career progression – it’s not about the money. I want to make a difference and move forward with the company I work for. Progressing in my career is an indicator that I’m being recognised and valued.”

However, not everyone is in agreement that agencies should be focusing so much on millennial talent. Chadwick stresses that: “For us it’s not just necessarily about attracting the younger generation more an understanding that the events industry is a demanding one. In order to attract but also retain the best, we must give  back. It’s no longer just about financial reward. We offer flexi time, gym membership, pool car and much more to ensure that our team enjoy their place of work.”

Monaghan went a step further, arguing that: “We are in danger of over-thinking the needs of millennials and getting bogged down in how we accommodate their stereotypical requirements. In order to be an excellent and achieving organisation, we need to establish a culture that recognises individuals regardless of which generation they were born into.

“Working in harmony, Generation Y and Generation Everyone Else can share skills, knowledge and experience for mutual benefit and for the advancement of the business.”