The rise of the Millennial executive

Andrew Bulloss of Odgers Berndtson executive search looks at what iGaming companies can do to attract the best talent from the next wave of leadership talent.


Andrew Bulloss of Odgers Berndtson executive search looks at what sets the Millennial executive apart and what iGaming companies can do to attract the best and the brightest from this next wave of leadership talent.

Millennials (Generation Y) will make up 75% of our workforce in the next 10 years.

Many of these individuals will hold senior director and executive positions and with the average age of board members reducing, we expect some of them to hold influential board positions too.

The betting and gaming industry, with regards to talent, is younger than most, and the industry has grown up on the backs of budding entrepreneurs setting up new online sportsbooks, casinos and poker rooms.

Even now, the established operators and platform providers are being challenged by start-up businesses with new product ideas and technology platforms – many of them with Millennial leaders at the helm.

With Millennials rapidly becoming the next executive and non-executive generation, it’s time to look at them and their characteristics to see how they will change our businesses.

Companies need to embrace the fact that our youngest generations are the most engaged, creative, technology-savvy group we have ever known, and they’re changing the face of business today at a ridiculously rapid pace.

Millennials are eager to make their own way in the world as they suspect the traditional roads may lead nowhere. They believe there is a better way.

In this article, we look at why Millennials are different, and what you can do as an organisation to attract them, keep them and get the best out of them.

Who are the Millennials? Millennials are mostly described as those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s. This is the generation that grew up when technology made some of its biggest leaps, such as the internet and cell phone use as well as the explosion in the use of social media.

The term is quite loosely thrown around. A barrage of articles and commentators has stamped today’s youth as “Millennials” — workers who are said to be difficult to manage and likely to quit at a moment’s notice.

They are seen as having over-optimistic expectations and feel they are owed more respect, opportunity and pay than their experience, ability or knowledge merit. Millennials often get a raw deal.

Their motivations Millennials have grown up in an internet-enabled world, with different expectations and values from those of us who grew up offline.

If you want them to elect you, or work for you or if you are investing in a company selling them something, you need to understand this and adapt much more quickly than you probably imagine.

Additionally, understanding Millennials’ motivations is where we see the most amount of conflicting information. Many resources will tell you that Millennials are less motivated by money than by purpose.

In our research from a range of sources, pay and financial benefits seem to drive Millennials’ choice of organisation more than anything else. However, organisations cannot afford to engage in a bidding war for talent.

Therefore it is still important to play to the other aspects of what Millennials would call their ‘perfect’ job.

Values are king Millennials appear to be steered by strong values at all stages of their careers. It’s apparent in the employers they choose, the assignments they’re willing to accept, and the decisions they make as they take on more senior-level roles.

More than previous generations, Millennials judge the performance of a business on what it does and how it treats people. They believe that businesses should put employees first, and they should have a solid foundation of trust and integrity.

This is the potential “silver lining” for organisations aiming to retain these young professionals. Thus, those organisations that “do the right thing” may be less likely to lose their Millennial employees.

No more jobs for life The common view is that Millennials don’t want a job for life, they want a job for now. They are happy to reduce job security to increase income and build experience. They are more willing to take a portfolio of appointments than be tied to one organisation.

If they are to stay with one organisation, flexible working arrangements are key and almost feel like a necessity to engage and retain this community.

Life balance This also plays into another motivator: life balance. This is not ‘work/life’ balance, as the Millennials see that being one in the same, it’s all in their sphere of living. Importantly, to this community, work-life balance is described as enough leisure time for their private life.

Culture This in part goes back to the earlier motivator of values. Millennials seek out organisations whose traits and behaviours promote a sense of positivity within the business.

They are more likely to report high levels of satisfaction where there is a creative, inclusive working culture as well as free-flowing communication and the active encouragement of ideas among all employees. A strong commitment to equality and inclusiveness is also important.

Certainly in the markets in which we work day to day, we are surrounded by young entrepreneurial leaders in jeans and t-shirts. Many Millennials appreciate the opportunity to keep their “casual wardrobe” but have the ability to keep formal meetings professional.

Millennial executives have the ability to appear sincere and get the job done, without wearing a suit. We suspect businesses will need to go further than just dress-down Fridays.

Career development and mentorship Millennials actively want to be coached and seek these opportunities out. They want to learn from the experience of others as much as doing the job themselves. They also want to be actively encouraged to aim for leadership roles.

A mentor can help with this aspect of their career development and guidance. Millennials with a mentor feel somebody is interested in their professional development. As with any good mentor programme it offers the opportunity to learn from others whilst importantly, giving them a voice.

Leadership opportunities The opportunity for Millennials to progress and become leaders is of most interest to us as executive headhunters as we look down the food chain for the next wave of C-level talent.

Millennial executives, in particular, value impact and are primarily looking to change how everyday things are done by creating products and services that go beyond solving problems. They want to make a real change in the world.

This new breed of executives also expects results. Simply going through the motions is not enough. Continuous improvement is expected.

It seems that Millennials aspiring to be executives or leaders would be less focused on personal income but would focus on employee growth and development as tenets for a sound corporate strategy.

Millennials are willing to work hard, but they want access to high-level information about things like corporate strategy, particularly those aspiring to leadership roles. Accessibility is very important to them.

They want effective communication to understand how their role feeds into the larger organisational plan.

What can you do? There is an obvious shift within more forward-thinking organisations from traditional organisation structures and performance management frameworks to something much more flexible and suitable to the Millennial generation.

The organisations that have made this early shift have evidently identified that their workforce is slowly maturing and that their next wave of employees bring different values, thinking and motivations – hence the need for change.

This is not subtle change either; this is something rather more dramatic. An interesting study was undertaken recently by Deloitte’s Human Capital Team.

The paper, entitled The New Organisation – Different by Design, offers an interesting insight into the ways that corporations, both big and small, could adapt to accommodate a changing workforce.

As they put it: “CEOs and HR leaders are focused on understanding and creating a shared culture, designing a work environment that engages people, and constructing a new model of leadership and career development.

“Executives are embracing digital technologies to reinvent the workplace, focusing on diversity and inclusion as a business strategy, and realising that, without a strong learning culture, they will not succeed.”

The reason for raising this particular paper is that it highlights one of the critical things that organisations should be doing right now — finding ways to accommodate Millennials within their business, not just in entry-level positions but in leadership roles.

Any good CEO will be thinking about constant reinvention of their business regardless, and therefore a healthy sprinkling of Millennial leaders within the business, with the right guidance and training and new ideas, can only be a good thing.

Both these ideas throw up considerable challenges for businesses as they look to attract their next wave of leadership talent. We would expect that a number of organisations are already working through sustainable future structures to accommodate different working patterns and contractual arrangements with employees.

If you aren’t as a business, then you may want to question why.

So what can you be doing to attract this talented community? Some of the suggestions below will require strategic and structural changes that will take time and buy-in from a wide range of stakeholders, others we could loosely classify as quick wins.

Introduce a mentor programme Improving or even introducing a mentor programme can not only advance the careers of Millennials, but will also go some way toward strengthening loyalty to the business. Millennials love to be coached and this is a great first step for the high-performing individuals in your business.

Embrace technology as a communication tool (not email...) We know that any company has to provide a strong platform to support Millennials’ natural use of technology or they become frustrated. Companies that learn to embrace change will be the ones who win in the talent acquisition game.

This is important when it comes to communication. Think about different methods of communications to get Millennials’ attention when they are in your business. Instead of PowerPoints and long emails, use text, videos and Twitter.

More flexible reward and benefits schemes - including more ‘skin in the game’ Pay and financial benefits drive Millennials more than anything else, however this does not mean that the traditional package of basic, bonus, pension and healthcare will cut it.

Equally, this doesn’t meant that every company needs to offer free food in funky cafeterias, commuting support, projects abroad or company donations to employees’ chosen charity (there are also some wackier employee benefits in Silicon Valley!), although all these things have been cited as of being of value to Millennials.

However, there is one very important long-term benefit certain companies can offer all employees – equity. This was raised in a recent FT article, and whilst the option isn’t available to all organisations to offer it, the perceived wisdom is, if you can, do.

It allows staff to participate in the upside of their organisation’s performance. According to the FT, companies ranging from FTSE 100 to small privately held firms must recognise this shift in mentality and align benefit packages for all staff accordingly.

Otherwise they will be unable to compete in today’s employment market — particularly for Millennials.

Offer a variety of responsibility Rightly or wrongly, Millennials are confident about finding work so don’t feel wed to corporate structures and permanent contracts. Many young professionals want a chance to be entrepreneurial and get frustrated by flat structures.

Career preferences are also changing. Younger workers are less likely to pursue purely linear career progression. Instead, they are looking for a range of varied and challenging work, while keeping a focus on the organisation’s purpose and mission.

Greater transparency around widerorganisational opportunities — across roles and borders — as well as the possibilities of mobility and allowing employees to switch from one project to another, also helps keep younger workers.

Review your approach to performance management It is unlikely that the once-a-year, traditional performance review will continue to cut it, although that doesn’t mean to say that it should be removed completely for Millennials.

Millennials by dint of their age are relatively inexperienced, but what they might lack in knowledge they make up for in hard work and energy.

Workforce 2020 research shows that Millennials want feedback 50% more often than other employees. Whilst monthly reviews are a good start, they are not the only solution, certainly not if the monthly sessions are based on the same rating and ranking-based systems from the annual appraisals.

What is more important is encouraging growth, development and long-term engagement throughleveraging technology, coaching and guiding individuals to the relevant resources and people to build and develop their skills.

Look at ways to improve your employer branding Organisations need to focus on employer branding in order to attract Millennials to come and work for them. Given how important the aspect of values is to Millennials, any organisation wishing to attract this community needs to get this group invested in the company brand before the roles even arise.

We already know that Millennials place a strong emphasis onemployee well-being, growth, and development. They’re attracted to powerful mission statements andoff-beat corporate cultures.

So a brand that showcases some of these qualities will already be better positioned to recruit talented Millennials. Many firms just have not thought this through enough in our opinion and there is work to do.

Conclusion Ignoring the mood of the next generation has serious ramifications for employers, potentially closing yourself off to two-thirds of the young talent pool.

Of course there will be challenges in accommodating their desires, motivations, working patterns and expectations on rewards, but this has always been the case as workforces shift between the generations. Success will come in knowing how to embrace these individuals and harness their skills to best effect.

Andrew Bulloss is partner and head of betting and gaming practice at Odgers Berndtson.