Millennials are the most misunderstood generation, These young minds, will someday dominate all industries and become our future leaders.  It has been reported that 63.3% of U.S. executives will be eligible to retire within the next 5 years according to PWC. If that stat is correct, that leaves a large leadership gap that will have to be filled by Millennials. The question is, will they be ready?

In the year 2020, we will not be in the service business, we will be in the marketing innovation business,  moving beyond the question “What do our clients need?” to answering the question “What problems are our clients trying to solve?” The only companies who will be able to answer these questions are companies that are agile, and the only way to become agile is by nurturing, recruiting, and retaining entrepreneurial talent.

Chief marketing officers have a lot of  challenges ahead of them, from reaching millennial consumers, managing big data and training employees with digital skills are some of the top priorities CMOs are facing this year. This was based on a virtual roundtable discussion earlier this year with CMO addressing marketing priorities for the new year from advertising age.

Time reported that by 2025, 3 out of every 4 workers globally will be millennials. If that’s not scary enough, Odesk  reports that 89% of millennials would prefer to choose when and where they work rather than having a 9-to-5 routine. It doesn’t stop there, 45% of Millennials will choose workplace balance over pay according to millennial branding. If this is not enough, the average tenure for millennials is reported to be 2 years this is comparing data to 5 years for Gen X and 7 years for Baby Boomers according to PayScale study.

We need to ask ourselves – how do we correct this? How do we provide an incentive to retain top talent? How do we close the leadership gap and transition millennials to step into leadership roles?

The Challenge Chief Marketing Officers Are Experiencing

These are some of the questions that keep me up at night because I know my customers are facing these realities. I read countless books on leadership, coaching, neuroscience, marketing, employee incentive programs, management , HR, sales, and everything in between to answer some of these questions. The closest book that has been able to address these issues is the book “The Alliance” by Reid Hoffman, The co-founder of LinkedIn. He is also a venture capitalist, who made early investments on Facebook , he also owns the six-degree patent which is the fundamental patent of social networking.

Reid Hoffman, argues that the relationship between the employer and employee is build on a dishonest conversation. After reading his book, new questions started to emerge. I started to ask myself,

  • What are companies doing and planning to remain agile with the current economy?
  • Where do you find entrepreneurship talent?
  • If most gifted employees do not trust their employer, and
  • How do you retain entrepreneurship talent?

If these questions are not addressed, all these concerns bleed into the front line directly affecting the customer experience.

The Solution For Chief Marketing Officers

Chief Marketing Officers are facing many challenges. And there is only one solution. It is time, to stop the bleeding.  And start having an open authentic conversation, with your employees, and consider them allies. Here are 5 takeaways I received from the alliance framework.

1) Employers Have To Be More Transparent

As a venture capitalist , Reid Hoffman has helped early investments in everything from Facebook to Airbnb, He has helped some of the world’s most successful companies grow. Reid Hoffman wants both employers and employees to begin having honest conversations that are transparent in the sense that employment isn’t permanent, the only thing that is consistent is change. Loyalty only lasts as long as it coincides with self-interest. And, just because the employer and employee relationship has ended it does not mean that the relationship has to end when the worker leaves. Questions that CMO should ask themselves:

  • What alumni programs are available for previous employees?
  • How can we  maintain a relationship with our ex-employee?
  • Do our employee trust us? If not, have we set up a meeting to discuss widespread mistrust in the workplace?
  • How this impacts the success of the business and careers of our employees?

2) Employees Are Telling Employers What They Want To Hear

It is not only employers who are not transparent, employees are just as guilty. Prospective employees know what the employer wants to hear “I am a loyal employee, and I plan on staying here for the rest of my career” most employees recognize that in order to progress it most likely requires moving to another company. But this conversation never comes up, it’s as both sides chose to ignore it. One of the main reasons millennials are more likely to change jobs is because they are not willing to stick around if they feel that they are not growing or being challenged. Odesk conducted a study and found that 90% of Millennials think being an entrepreneur means having a certain mindset rather than starting a company. Communication is vital to building and maintaining trust, but it seems that managers have been the forgotten ones. Managers cannot be effective without adequate training in coaching to support their sales and marketing teams. When managers build coaching skills, a number of positive outcomes can be achieved such as creating empathy and respect in the work environment.

3) Create A Culture Where Entrepreneurship Talent is Nurtured

At LinkedIn one of the leading questions that they ask their prospective employees is “Where do you want to work after LinkedIn?” This question starts the right conversation between employer and the employee. Hoffman says this question is framed as “We’re planning on having a huge impact in your career if you’re working here”  Employees find this question liberating. It also creates a framework with an employee where they feel that their employer still cares about them. It conveys to an employee, just because you left LinkedIn, we will continue to be allies and help each other. This creates an endless  pool of Entrepreneurship talent that can be helpful to their organization. One of the best ways to nurture internal entrepreneurship talent is by asking your employees about their own personal history with managers and whether they felt their trust had been betrayed.  CMO have to acknowledge that trust is earned. Trust is built upon mutual plans together, your team wants you to be an accountability partner. Find ways in where each side makes a commitment to one another.  And plan on layering a foundation of more trust. Structure these plans within Tours of Duty, as described in The Alliance.

4) Employers Should Innovate The Interview Process and Focus on References

“I advise all companies that I affiliate with to take reference checking very seriously,” Says Hoffman. References actually tell you how a person works , and what their work ethic is like. This is critical information considering It costs an average of $24,000 to $36,000 to replace each millennial employee according to Microsoft, especially when the average employee only last two years in a company. Employers are desperate to acquire new talent, and employers are casual about references. Employers either a) Don’t check references or b) only check the ones that prospective employees provide. In fact, employers would check both of these references and others to find out if that prospective employee is a right fit for their culture. Recognizing trust issues and addressing them successfully can correct and even prevent damage to the organization’s performance.

5) It’s Okay to Mix Business and Friends

The case for hiring your friends needs to be handed well, Hoffmann says “If I get to the point where I’m hiring a friend, I say, look, here’s how we keep the friendship and the work stuff different. Here’s how I am going to treat you a little differently as a friend. Here’s how you’re going to act a little differently as a friend. Be clear about the fact that your not going to give any privileges at all in their continuum job and promotions, and bonuses. All of that should be done very fair way. Hoffman continues mentioning “As a friend, I will go out of my way to invest more energy than I normally do to make this work. I am committed to putting a little bit more energy, In return, one thing I want you as a friend to do the same” The benefits that both parties get from this is:

  • a) Higher level of trust among each other and
  • b) both parties get to work with people they actually enjoy spending time with

This mutual interest creates a general positive working relationship.

CMO have a huge hill to climb, along with new responsibilities for revenue, product market fit, mapping customer journey, social selling and taking leading roles in transforming their organization and making it digital. During the last two years, marketing has made its biggest change compared to the last 50 years, according to an Adobe survey. But slowly, technology is changing this and soon we will be able to measure customer behavior in real time and directly impacting the front-line employees. I wish all CMO , the best of luck, it will be an interesting journey as you roll up your sleeves and remake your culture, in shaping the world. but remember this:

“There is no greater weapon, than a prepared mind” – Zhuge Liang

The Alliance Framework solves challenges pervasive in today’s economy, such as lack of trust in management and lack of open communication about uncertainties that employees are facing in the future. We live in the sharing economy now, and it is no longer B2B, but Human to Human economy. By adopting the framework of the alliance CMO can enable their sales and marketing teams to build a more trusting relationship with their employees, this allows them to gain a competitive edge in a tough hiring environment, keeping employees engaged and productive, and virtually eliminating competition because the results will create a long lasting customer experience.

If you haven’t read The Alliance, doing so is a great first step. If your reading time isn’t what it used to be, that’s fine also: Here is an executive Summary, which you can download. If you have any questions or feedback, I’d love to hear from you!

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Ronald Curiel

Ronnie is a Millennial & Generation Z Speaker Disruping Global #Marketing Through Tech, StoryTelling , & SocialSelling

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