Susan Baier began her career as a brand manager for companies like Dial and Conoco-Philips. She also worked agency side and within client companies in their research departments, honing her skills as a research professional.
Recognizing that primary research was often too expensive for small to mid-sized agencies, she launched Audience Audit, where she conducts quantitative attitudinal audience segmented research. She helps her agency clients develop marketing strategy for their clients based on customer insights. They find it much easier to develop messaging, strategic plans, and business development plans with real data that helps them understand how customers who look (demographically) the same behave in very different ways and what motives those choices and behaviors.
Over the past few years, AMI and Audience Audit have partnered together for studies on how business owners find agencies, their attitudes towards working with agencies, and more.
What you’ll learn about in this episode:
- Our 2016 Agency Workforce Report
- What made our 2016 research different from other research projects we’ve done in the past
- How we crunched our data
- The three types of agency employees that we found in our research: agency advocates, prosperity partners, and “millennial mindset” (and why the majority of millennials don’t fall in the “millennial mindset” group)
- What your agency can do to have less “millennial mindset” employees than average
- Why the opportunity to learn and grow is the most important thing to all employees (especially millennials)
- How to give your employees ways to learn and grow that don’t break the bank
- Why your employees have to be willing to come back from training and events ready to teach the rest of your agency
- Why treating your employees fairly does not mean treating them equally
- Why making agency advocates happy is easy (and how to cultivate them into the agency leaders of tomorrow)
- Why you have to help prosperity partners develop their own brand
- Why you should avoid using the word millennials
The Golden Nugget:“Agencies need to think about employee attitude, not employee age.” – @susanbaier Click To Tweet
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Ways to Contact Susan Baier:
- Website: www.audienceaudit.com
- Email: [email protected]
- Twitter: @susanbaier
We’re proud to announce that Hubspot is now the presenting sponsor of the Build A Better Agency podcast! Many thanks to them for their support!
If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits, too? Welcome to Build a Better Agency where we show you how to build an agency that can scale and grow with better clients, invested employees, and best of all, more money to the bottom line. Bringing his 25-plus years of expertise as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.
Hey, everybody, Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build a Better Agency. We’re excited to be with you today and to have my guest, actually a repeat guest, Susan Baier, of Audience Audit is with us.
As many of you know, Susan and I embark on a research project every year on behalf of Audience Audit and AMI, and we also have another partner in that that we’ll talk about in a second. But our goal for the first couple of years that we did the research is we spent time talking to CMOs, asking them about their relationships with agencies.
And as we were approaching the 2016 research, we decided that one of the pain points that we’re hearing agency owners talk about over, and over, and over again are the challenges around some of the employee issues, and especially around their millennial employees. And so we embarked on a very aggressive study. We ended up getting almost 1000 respondents, employees of agencies, and we’ll talk a little bit about who they are, and what they look like in a minute.
But first, let me just welcome Susan to the podcast. Susan, welcome back.
Thank you, Drew. It’s always a pleasure to be talking with you.
Always a pleasure to talk to you, as well. All right. So this was a kind of a different study for us. It was a little more introspective than it was the first tour.
Yeah. I mean, that’s one of my favorite things about it, actually. I think we’d done some good work looking at sort of how agency clients make the decisions that they make with regard to agencies, but as you said, as both you and I talked to agencies throughout the year, this other issue would come up. And because of some of the partnerships that we have that enabled us to get access to folks, we were able to actually sort of turn the magnifying glass on ourselves, on agencies, and what’s going on inside them and their employees, which I just found fascinating.
Yeah. So let’s talk about our partners. Let’s make sure we give them proper credit. We certainly reached out to the AMI agencies and asked them to pass it on to their employees, and lots of them generously did that. But we also had some other partners in the mix.
Yeah. We did. One of them is Research Now, which is an international provider of panel respondents and research resources. We’ve worked with them before, on last year’s study as well, and they were able to get us access to full-time agency employees across the country. And then our other partner in this one, our media partner, was HubSpot, who also sent invitations to the survey to their employee partners and attendees for their national inbound conference, and got us a lot of other, again, full-time agency employees in a wide age range, which we’ll talk about. But that was great.
So between your resources through AMI and your agency relationships, and what we were able to access through those two terrific organizations, we ended up with a really robust study.
Yeah. So almost 1000 respondents, right?
Yeah. I think it was about 950, finally, when we cleaned the data and everything. So, yeah. That was great. I mean, and all full-time agency folks, all different sizes of agencies, all different ages of respondents, people who’d been working at agencies for different lengths of time, some of whom, this was their first agency job, and others who had had many agency jobs. So, really, just a good group, a very engaged group. We got a lot of really good information out of this one.
And for the folks who are listening, who may not be familiar with the kind of research you do, do you want to explain a little bit about the methodology of how we… When I say, “We,” I mean you. I want to be really clear about that… how we crunched the data and came up with the results that we did.
Yeah. So our research is a little different than that that a lot of folks may have experience with, not in how it’s developed, really. We do online survey research. It’s anonymous, and ask folks a bunch of questions, right, pretty standard sort of survey approach. But-
It was about 15 minutes worth of questions, right?
It was about 15 minutes. That’s right. But we believe that, and have seen evidence that folks make decisions, not based on sort of the typical things people look at, like, “How old are you,” or “How big is your agency,” or those kind of measures, but really, sort of their attitudes about things, or what are driving the decisions that they make and how they feel about situations that they’re in.
And that’s called, attitudinal segmentation. So that’s a particular analytical approach, based on how we build the survey and the kinds of questions we ask. We then can crunch that data and look at how folks are grouped, not by how old they are, or how tall they are, or how much money they make, or their gender, but by how they feel about things.
And as a result of that kind of analysis, we often see really different patterns among groups of folks in terms of how they approach problems that they’re trying to solve, the kinds of things that they are interested in and that they think would help them, et cetera. And that was how we approached this study, as well, because it’s revealed some really interesting things in the past for our work together, as well as the work we do with clients and agencies.
And sure enough, we saw some very interesting things this time around when we applied that same approach.
So, one of the things that the research afforded us, because we had such a large number of respondents, it allowed us to slice and dice the data in a lot of ways. And while we didn’t tell anybody what our sort of underlying goal was, which was we really wanted to see if millennials were different from other agency employees, and how their attitudes and beliefs were different, because they’re showing up at work differently, and that’s what we’re hearing from agency owners.
But we were also able to slice and dice it in lots of other ways, and one of the ways I want to talk about later is, how AMI agencies showed up a little differently than non-AMI agencies, because that was fascinating.
Yep. Yep. Absolutely.
But when we really sliced and diced the data, what we found is that there are three very distinct groups of agency employees that are living and breathing inside of all of your shops, and that they had very distinct and different and really quite, in some cases, polarizing attitudes about work, and about the workplace, and about their value at the workplace.
So let’s talk a little bit about how this segment shaped up, and what we know about those three segments.
Okay. Perfect. Well, as you said, one approach to this work that is kind of unique for us is, we don’t decide ahead of time what we think these attitudinal buckets are going to be, right? What’s going to define these groups, and how many there are, and then just stick people in them based on what they say. We really don’t know until we do the analysis how many groups we’re going to have, and what’s going to define them. It’s all organic, based on how people respond to the questions we ask them.
So when we crunched the data on this study, it revealed three very different, very distinctive groups within this population of full-time agency employees of all ages. About 55% of them were millennials, meaning 35 or under, and 45% were older than that. So we had a really nice distribution of ages.
And by the way, we also divided the millennials by older millennials and younger millennials, and we’ll talk about that down the road, too, right?
Yep. Yep. Absolutely. So in terms of the attitudes, as you said, we found three different groups, and we named them based on sort of the characteristics that we saw associated with them when we took a deep-dive in looked at sort of what was defining these populations.
The first group, which ended up being 37% of our total respondent group, we call agency advocates. Do you want to talk about each one of these sort of individually as we go along?
Yeah. Let’s do that.
Okay. So, agency advocates are sort of the employees that we all want, right, as an agency owner. These folks love their job. They love working in the agency they’re working in. They feel respected and valued at work. They feel like their compensation is good. They feel like their employers are focused on keeping them happy and very importantly, as we’ll talk about shortly, really feel that their job provides a lot of opportunities for them to learn important skills.
So these folks really love what they’re doing and really value the agency they’re at for sort of providing those things like compensation, and appreciation, and respect, and opportunities to learn, and don’t appear to put a lot more demands on the agency than that. They’re very satisfied and certainly good advocates for the agency that they’re working in.
Okay. What was the second group?
So the second group we call, prosperity partners. These folks have a really interesting perspective. I found this group particularly fascinating, Drew, because they really see a shared responsibility between their agency employer and themselves in making each other successful. So we sort of understand… We’ve probably all worked with people who sit there and think that their employer owes them everything, and these folks aren’t like that. They really believe that they have a responsibility to make their agency successful, and their agency has a responsibility to help them build their own acumen, their own expertise, their own reputation and brand, and that the collaboration of the two together is really where it’s at.
So these folks work hard and put in their side of the bargain, and expect their employers to do the same, and that’s from allowing them some visibility, being active in the local community that they work in, building their network, the employer providing opportunities for folks to socialize and have fun, and learn, and so it’s a really interesting group. That’s the second group. We call them, prosperity partners.
And then, the third group-
Hang on a second. So again, just a reminder for those of you who aren’t as familiar with research, I want to make sure you understand that there’s no age distinction in these groups. There are people from every age group in the first two groups that we talked about. So there are millennials who showed up as agency advocates, there are millennials… So it’s not age-dependent and it-
No. And it’s not an artificial construct where we said, “Let’s put equal numbers of all age groups in each of these buckets.” It’s just how it shakes out, and as you know, and we’ve seen before in the work we’ve done together, those kind of characteristics often don’t fall into these sharply-delineated attitudinal groups. In our previous research, we saw large companies and small companies fall into the same sort of attitudinal groups, and we see the same thing here with a really interesting distribution of age across all of these segments.
Yeah. And now the third group, by its name you might think is all about the millennials, but we’re going to clarify that for you in a second.
Yeah. So we call this group, millennial mindset in quotes, and that name is based on sort of what I think we all have come to carry around with us in terms of generalizations about this age group, right? These days, if somebody says, “Oh, they’re a millennial,” I think we all, unfortunately… That brings to mind a set of expectations, or set of beliefs about this group.
And we don’t say it like, “Oh, they’re millennial. That is awesome.” We say it with sort of a, “Oh. Yeah. They’re a millennial.” Right.
Unfortunately. Yeah. Unfortunately not. So this group of people in this particular segment that we’re calling, millennial mindset, have some very interesting perspectives and characteristics.
A couple of them are around the difference between younger workers and older workers. So these folks believe that younger workers are better at managing their time than older workers are, that they understand today’s marketing environment much better than older people do, and that they deserve more responsibility at work than they are typically given. They believe that younger workers are typically undervalued, right, so that that is a sort of baseline level of expectation that they have.
They also carry this interesting perspective on a couple of fronts, that work is really something that they have to do until they can do something else. Whether that’s like owning their own business someday, or just doing things that need money for them to enjoy doing, whether it’s travel, or whatever, that work is sort of just a necessary evil in those regards.
Yeah. It’s a means to an end. The end is not about their career, as a general rule.
Right. The fascinating thing about this, when you look at this group in particular, is that these are attitudes that I think most of us would look at and go, “Oh, yeah. That’s the young people. That’s the millennials in that group.”
But what we found is that a majority, 59% of the millennial respondents in our study, are not in this segment. They are in one of the other two segments. They are agency advocates or prosperity partners, not in this millennial mindset. And 20% of the older employees in our study are in this group. So, this sort of millennial mindset, quote-unquote, segment, like the others includes folks of all ages, and the majority of our millennials aren’t in this group, and 20% of our non-millennials are, so that was fascinating to me.
So the good news to those of you who own agencies are, there are good millennials out there, and there are millennials who have the attitudes, and the behaviors, and the motivation that you want in all your employees. The bad news is, there is a millennial mindset in your shop, and assuming that your shop… Again, we have big enough numbers that we can say that it would be unlikely that a shop of even three, four, five, six people wouldn’t have at least one or two millennial mindset employees in it.
The challenging thing is, you can’t recognize them by their age, so you’re going to have to start looking deeper into behaviors, and attitudes, and language, and how they show up at work, and recognize that the 53-year-old that is causing you to pull your hair out because they just don’t really seem to want to put in the extra mile, or go above and beyond, or learn new skills, that’s your millennial mindset right there. They don’t look like a millennial, but they’re sure behaving like the stereotype that we have assigned that work.
Yep. I think you’re right in that statistically, the likelihood is that you’ve got all of these going in your shop. But one of the interesting things we did see, is that there are some groups of agencies that appear to be better at not having millennial mindset employees.
So for example, when we look at the participants who work in your AMI agencies, which is a large group in the study, large enough to sort of break down as an independent group, 22% of the respondents from AMI agencies are in this millennial mindset. They probably don’t realize it, but that’s where the analysis stuck them, right, compared to 36% of respondents in non-AMI agencies.
So who knows whether it’s a cause-and-effect thing, but certainly, as we’re going to talk about a little bit later, I think there are things you could do in your agency to minimize the presence of that particular group, which is, I think, one you would want to, right-
… and maximize the presence of the other two, which have tremendous potential, I think, as great employees for your agency.
Yeah. I think one of the reasons why the AMI folks have fewer of the millennial mindset is, hopefully, they’re following a lot of the best practices we teach around hiring and interviewing, and also not tolerating mediocre employees, or employees who really aren’t there heart and soul, for very long. And that’s one of the things that I harp on all the time is that small agencies, and when I say small, I’m talking 150 people or less… Small agencies cannot afford mediocre employees. They just can’t.
Yep. No. I think you’re completely right. I think the wrinkle that our study can add for agencies, even those who are pretty good at spotting these attitudes and avoiding people who have them, is this revelation that it’s not just the millennial age group that has this problem.
So I think that there are probably lots of cases where folks are very wary, very aware of these opinions, these perspectives and attitudes, and very determined and practiced at avoiding them, but may only really be sort of targeting that effort against applicants in a particular age group, because they’re assuming that it’s only those applicants that are really the risky ones from the standpoint of these perspectives.
And what this research shows so clearly is, in fact, the majority of folks in that age group aren’t going to be in this segment, statistically, and that there’s a sizable chunk, 20% of folks older than that who are. So I think the research really reveals that yes, we need to watch out for these attitudes and learn how to uncover them and avoid them in potential candidates, but that we need to not limit that effort to folks within a certain age group.
Because all it’s going to do is, first of all, preclude us from discovering whether that exists in somebody older because we don’t ask the right questions, and also as we’ve talked about extensively through this research, Drew, paint all of our millennial candidates and employees with a negative brush that simply doesn’t apply to them.
Right. It’s not fair. Right.
It’s not fair.
And you’re losing out on potentially great employees by this. In general, it’s the old, you know what you get when you assume. So if you assume an older candidate is not of the millennial mindset, or if you assume a millennial automatically has the millennial mindset, in both cases, if you walk into an interview with that bias, it may skew you to either hiring somebody you shouldn’t hire, or not hiring somebody who could be a great candidate.
And on the flip side, I think it also is, as you continue to evaluate and put together growth plans for your existing employees, being able to identify which one of these categories these employees are in, and I want to dig into this more in terms of how you invest in them differently based on how you, in essence, categorize them.
But before we do that, I want to talk about one of the things that the study, again, 15 minutes worth of questions, so it wasn’t just about this millennial mindset or the lack thereof, but we talked a lot about sort of what they value about working in an agency, how long they want to stay at an agency, and all those sort of things.
And there was one thing that I think is critical for all of you to hear, that is without a doubt the most universal finding we found. It did not matter which of the segments an agency employee fell in, there was one thing that for all of them was absolutely paramount to them having a good work experience. And that was when we asked them what they valued most, in terms of how you reward them, and what made their work rewarding. Across every segment, the number one answer, by a pretty sizeable number, and Susan, I know you have the numbers handy. But by a pretty sizeable number, was that they want to continue to be given learning and growing opportunities. That was number one for all of them by a pretty large margin.
Yeah. I mean, we saw this manifest in a couple of places. One of the main questions we asked was, “How important are this whole list of things when you considered whether to take a job at your current agency?” The job you have, how important were all of these things?
And as you point out, one of the striking findings in the responses to this particular question was that opportunities to learn and improve my skills was far and away the most important across all age groups and all segments. We had stuff on the list like, my salary, a flexible work schedule, vacation and time off, whether my agency is prestigious, or a fun place to work, whether I have got health insurance, all of these things. And universally, opportunities to learn and improve my skills were rated the highest.
And we’re not talking like this was marginally better. When we look at the percentage of respondents who said that this was extremely important, on a scale of not-at-all-important to extremely-important, and the percentage of respondents who gave this that extremely important rating, it was over 70% of the respondents that said that particular thing, opportunities to learn and improve my skills, was extremely important.
For example, flexible work schedule, 42%, compared to 71% for the learning opportunities. Health insurance, 31%. So, we see big differentials on this particular thing, and as you pointed out, to the extent that there are differences in this between millennials and non-millennials, first of all, its importance relative to everything else is consistent. But both groups said this was way more important than anything else on the list, and millennials even more so. For millennials, this is just strikingly even more so important.
So that was one place we saw this. And then when we asked them later in the survey, what their employer could best do for them, like if your employer could do one thing for them, this is what came up consistently, overall, more than anything else, is help me learn, help me develop, help me improve my skills, help me grow. Give me opportunities to do that.
So a very powerful finding, and it’s always interesting… I do segmentation research, so I look a lot at the differences between groups, and it’s always striking in the context of those differences to see something that is so universally valued, across all different permutations. So that was a really striking finding.
Yeah. And I want to make sure that as we’re talking about that, that all of you are thinking about this learning and growing in the broadest context. It doesn’t necessarily mean paying for their masters program. It doesn’t necessarily mean sending them to a conference every month. Although those are lovely and I’m sure they would welcome them, I want you to think broader than that, and I think it starts with the relationship that they have with their direct supervisor.
You all know, and I’ve done podcasts on it, I am a huge proponent of the one-on-one meetings, and if you haven’t listened to that podcast, or you haven’t downloaded that form that I think you should be using with your folks, please do that. We’ll put a link to it in the show notes.
But on that form, the very first thing, and remember, the employee owns that meeting, but the very first thing on that form that they fill out every week, or every time they have the meeting, if you do them every other week is, “Here’s my growth goal for the quarter.”
And so I teach, as you all know, that professional development is a shared responsibility, and the employee owns part of it, and the employer owns part of it. But you creating a context when they can talk about what they want to learn, how they are working on learning it, and that you can support them either financially, through mentorship, through helping them connect to other people in the community or other professionals that you may know, where they can do maybe a job shadow. There are lots of ways for you to create learning opportunities. Lunch and learns, where you bring in other experts, exposing them to some of the webinars that AMI and some of the other agency consultants do, lots of-
Even leadership opportunities, like regularly contributing to the agency blog under their own byline, or representing the agency at community events or conferences, or things like that. I mean, I just think there’s a lot of really neat stuff you can do. And once you understand sort of what’s really motivating these people and what they’re interested in, I think you can come up with a lot more ideas just by understanding sort of what these folks are into, what they’re looking for, what matters.
Well, and I think the biggest thing is that you make it clear to them that you care about them continuing to grow and learn, and you’re willing to invest your attention, and your time, and to a certain extent some money, into that, and create those sort of learning opportunities inside the entire agency, also doesn’t have to be by the individual. It can also be for groups, your account service group, or your creative group, or anything like that.
But you can’t ignore this data point because it is so universal, and it was so significant in terms of the number of respondents who ranked it their number one response. Right now, a lot of you are growing and you’re struggling to find and keep great employees, and the employee shortage is not going to better any time soon. So you want to create an environment that makes all of them feel like they can’t afford to leave you because it’s such a great environment.
Yeah. And the other thing I think the research revealed was that agencies shouldn’t be afraid to ask employees to contribute in return. I think that what we saw from our respondents is an acceptance of their role in helping the agency be successful, as well. So I think that owners shouldn’t be afraid to say, “Hey. I’m willing to help you do this, and you could really help us by doing this.”
Yeah. By coming back and teaching what you learned, or whatever. And by the way, that’s a great litmus test. So the first two groups, the agency advocate and the prosperity partners, they get that they owe the agency something, and they are willing to do a quid pro quo, “Look. You sent me to the conference,” or “You let me take this class,” “You let me do that,” and “Yes. I will do a lunch and learn.”
One of the signs to you that perhaps an employee is more of a millennial mindset is if they push back on that, that that just seems like a burden that they would have to then turn and teach all of that, that’s a sign to you that perhaps that’s what you have in front of you.
And I think one of the other big findings from this study, one of the big insights, or ah-ha moments for me is to remind all of you that your employees are choosing to invest at different levels, and to show up and give you 70%, or 90%, or 110%, and so it’s okay. I think sometimes we’re a little like the parents who want to make sure that the four kids all have the same number of presents under the Christmas tree, and we try and treat every employee exactly the same. And I think one of the moments of clarity for me around this study is a reminder that there are certain employees that you should invest in more than others, and there’s nothing wrong with treating them… You need to treat them all fairly, but that does not mean you need to treat them all equally.
Yeah. No. I think that’s exactly right, and I think we learned things about these groups that suggest not just varying levels of investment, but sort of what their best use is for the agency, and what the agency’s best use is for them, right?
When I do work with clients and we do this kind of research, it’s the same thing. We all tell our clients, “Don’t treat everybody the same way.” They don’t all want the same thing. You’ve got to differentiate, and it’s the same case here. Agencies need to do it, not just for their clients’ customers, but for their own employees and candidates working in the organization.
Yeah. I mean, in a lot of ways, it’s no different than how we talk to clients about personas, right, and how you talk to every persona differently, and every persona values different things, and we need to do that inside our own agencies.
So I want to dig into each of the segments and sort of that exact thing. So where do they bring the most value and how do we bring value to them so they stay if they’re a great employee? We are going to talk a little more about the segments that came to light in the study that we did, that Audience Audit and AMI did this last summer around the employees inside an agency.
So let’s just take them one-by-one, Susan, and talk about them a little bit.
Okay. Well I mean, I think the first thing we should say before we dive into them individually is, we can’t reinforce it enough, is that agencies need to think about employee attitude, not employee age, because this research really revealed that the age difference is not what’s going on. It’s something more fundamental, right?
So this is a better way to think about your employees than maybe the age group way that you’ve been thinking about them in the past. Having said that, to your point, I think there are some real differences between these groups that can be a big benefit for agencies to understand and work with.
Our first group, agency advocates, as I said, these folks are fans. They’re fans of agency life in general. They’re fans of your agency. They’re fans of you. They’re very happy.
And the nice thing about these folks is that they’re already happy, and anything you do for them is just like icing on the cake for them. They’d just be tickled pink, because they’re already very satisfied.
So the opportunity, I think, with these folks is really to cultivate them into the agency leaders of tomorrow that they can be. Keep them engaged, give them more responsibility and more opportunities, more leadership opportunities. They’re going to just love that. They’re going to eat it up. That’s really what they want.
And the other element is that these are your best referral engine for great new employees, and that’s the other thing that we saw come out of this research. When we asked about where people were hearing about agency jobs and the job that they, in fact, hold now, overwhelmingly, the number one reason across all age groups was from people working in agencies.
So that is a really important sort of tool for agencies and developing their employee resources, new candidates and stuff, is use the people in the agency, and these agency advocates are a prime resource for that kind of thing, because they’re going to say great stuff.
In fact, if I remember right, in all age segments, it was the number one reason they have the job today is because someone inside that agency, in essence, advocated that they apply for the job, right?
Yes. That is true across all age groups. Now for the younger millennials in particular, it was closely followed by finding out about opportunities from things like LinkedIn and Indeed-dot-com, and stuff like that, because they probably don’t have as many contacts already working in agencies.
But it still was number one for that group. It was just much more closely followed by an alternative than it was for any of the other groups, where it was a big difference in terms of hearing about jobs from people in agencies, versus any other source.
Yeah. Yeah. So again, these are the employees who… This is the employee group, the segment that you’d love to have a ton of, right? And these are people who the more you invest in them, the more they give back, and that they really value what you already have created in terms of culture and opportunity. And they’re also the ones not only advocating outside of the agency, but they’re the ones who are advocating inside the agency.
So if there’s something going on inside your shop where people are grumbling, or you’ve had to increase the cost of healthcare insurance, or whatever it is, they’re the ones who have your back. They’re the ones who see the bigger picture of how and why you’re doing what you do, and that they’re just grateful to be there and to contribute.
Yep. So these folks would make great mentors for new employees coming in, and younger employees. I mean, they’re just… And my guess is that everybody who’s listening to this podcast, who’s responsible for managing employees in an agency, has someone in mind right now that they know is part of this group, right? Because the way these folks are going to manifest is going to be very, very evident, I think.
The second group, prosperity partners, these folks can be terrific for your agency, but what agencies need to understand is, that they need to step up to the plate with these folks. To get the best out of them, they need to recognize the agency’s own responsibility in helping these folks, in particular, develop their own acumen and reputation, visibility, network, those kinds of things.
So the first thing that agencies need to do with regard to these prosperity partners, is embrace that shared responsibility and act on it. So you need to have programs in place to help these folks develop and promote their own success, their own brand, again, a leadership opportunity with regard to the blog, with a byline, is going to be important. Representing the agency speaking at conferences is going to be important. Those kinds of things are really important.
Helping them earn a 40 under 40 nomination, or helping them sit on a local board, all those kind of things where they have prominence and are able to represent the agency in a leadership role. Super important to them.
Yeah. And opportunities, maybe, to attend conferences and meet more senior people at other agencies, and sort of just develop their own resources in terms of their network, and other people working in marketing, and experts, and stuff like that.
The other thing that was really important to this particular group is their belief that the agency has a responsibility to engage with the local community. So here’s another opportunity, right, to help these folks. They’re already going to have an interest in how can they help the agency get out and be visible, and contribute locally, and giving them an opportunity to sort of take a high-visibility leadership role in something like that would be great for these folks. I’m sure they’d just eat it up.
Yep. Now these are also people who still have a very vested interest in the agency, but they may be the candidates for succession planning. So these are people who want to lead, and so the agency advocates are more likely to be perfectly content in the role that they’re in, and again, some of them may be in leadership roles.
But the second group, these are people who are hungry to have a little bit of the spotlight, have a little of the notoriety, and to lead a team, or a group, or maybe the whole agency. So those of you that are sort of beginning to think about succession planning, and part of that for you may be an internal sale to some of your employees, this is a group that you would want to think about and watch very carefully, because odds are… You all know that being entrepreneurial and being one to take the risk of ownership, that’s not a common thing. So if you’ve got employees who display that hunger, my guess is they very well may be in this segment and you’re going to want to cultivate their leadership opportunities and skills so that they may be able to step up and take either a leadership role in your shop or potentially be a buyer.
Yep. Absolutely. And then the last thing that it’s important to note with regard to the research and what it revealed about this group is, these prosperity partners were much less likely than agency advocates to be happy with their compensation.
So again, I think this is probably linked to that, “We’re here for each other,” shared responsibility thing. Every shop has its compensation different. As you pointed out, compensation can take many forms, but I think it’s important to note for these folks that they’re going to expect you to do your part, not just with learning opportunities and stuff like that, but with things like pay, and benefits, and bonuses, and stuff like that.
In our research, this group was strikingly different than the agency advocates in terms of their perspective on how they are being currently compensated. So just a warning sign maybe, a red flag to watch out for. You don’t want to lose great folks because they’re not being compensated appropriately, or don’t feel like they are, so something to be watchful of. These prosperity partners are going to have expectations of you in that regard, maybe greater than the agency advocates group.
But again, because this group is sort of the quid pro quo group, this is the group, or this is an employee where you can sit down and say, “You know what? You’re doing a great job and I know we’re paying you fairly for your wage, because I’m looking at salary surveys and that sort of thing, but I’d like to reward you in other ways. What would be meaningful to you? Would it be more time off? Would it be more learning opportunities? Would it be a more flexible schedule? How can I compensate you?” And I would use that word, how can I compensate you in other ways to demonstrate to you how much we value you being here.
So again, when we talk about compensation, A, it doesn’t have to be money, and B, it can be a shared decision, not something you have to decide what they get. Let them participate in that decision.
Yeah. And is there a conference that we should try to get on the calendar for you? Is there a conference that you’d like to try to speak at, that we might be able to help get you a speaking opportunity at? Something like that, I think those are great conversations to have, for sure.
Right. Yep. All right. And then we have the millennial mindset.
Yeah. I mean, the first thing again, let’s just reiterate. Most millennials aren’t in this group, so know that going in. But the reality is you’re going to have some folks that are like this, both probably existing employees and candidates that are going to come through the door. There’s no really nice way to say this. You need to try to avoid these people if you can.
Yeah. They’re not helpful to you in the long run, right?
Well, I mean, it’s not that they won’t do a decent job on a day-in, day-out basis, but they’re not really going to be invested in it. I don’t think they’re going to go the extra mile. They’re just not-
It’s a job to them. Right. Yeah. Yeah. It’s a job.
[crosstalk 00:40:07]. So they’re probably inevitable that you’re going to have some of them here, now, but you do want to try to avoid them if you can, in terms of candidates. You want to try to identify folks in the agency at any age who might feel like this, who might be in one of these places. And then, as you pointed out, invest in them appropriately, so that you’re not pouring good money after bad.
And it may be that some of the things that we’ve talked about, like development and some of those things, could turn somebody around and say, “Hey. Maybe this work thing isn’t that bad at all. I’m actually achieving a lot of my objectives here, and my employer cares about me.” And maybe they shift over time, but you’ve got to kind of recognize it for what it is, I think.
Well, and I think it would be more likely to think they would shift if we did find that most of them were younger, but the fact that they are across all of the age categories suggests that it’s an attitude amongst some employees. And for some of you, again, what Susan said when we talked about the other two groups, probably somebody pops into mind, and unfortunately for most of you, I suspect that as we’re talking about the millennial mindset, you have one of those, as well, that pops into mind.
And it may be that they have a skill that is valuable enough to your agency that you can tolerate them sort of punching in and punching out. For them it’s like a factory job. They come in. They get it done. They get it out. Even when they’re at work, they’re not completely engaged, and you are definitely a means to an end. They don’t plan on staying as long. They don’t plan on investing as much. They acknowledge, in fact, that they don’t always give you their best work.
But it may be that there’s a reason why they’re there. You just need to recognize who they are, and what they bring to the party, what you’re willing to pay for that. Again, treat them fairly, treat them well, because again, you want to create a culture where that’s happening for every employee, but it doesn’t mean you have to treat them equally with how you’re treating your superstars.
Yep. Absolutely. I would agree completely with that. So that’s sort of a general thought, and then the only other thing… I actually love this finding. We asked these folks who are in this millennial age group, either younger millennials, which was 18 to 26, or older millennials, 27 to 34. We asked them how they felt about being referred to as a millennial, and guess what they said.
Yeah. They don’t like it.
They don’t like it. I mean, there’s only 20% of those folks who actually think that is positive, and there’s a big chunk of them who think it is negative, and another chunk that says it’s whatever, fairly neutral. So it’s not helpful. Worst case, it’s hurting you with them, and it’s funny, because as we look at this, we assigned generalizations to these folks. Well, apparently as soon as we start referring to them as millennials, they are also assigning generalizations to us, about what we think of them.
So it is clearly a term best avoided if you can. Talk about your younger employees. Talk about up-and-coming, whatever you want to do, but geez, try to avoid using that word.
Yeah. Don’t use the M-word. When you think about it, I mean, think about all the memes and the YouTube videos, and all the funny songs about millennials, I get it. I mean, I wouldn’t want to be painted by that brush, either.
Nope. Nope. It’s just not positive, and when we asked whether they thought the millennial generalizations typically applied to them, only 9% of them say, “Yeah, they usually describe me well.” The vast majority said they do not.
So keep your thoughts to yourself. If you have those opinions, that’s fine, but using that terminology, I think is not helping you see these folks clearly, and it’s not helping you help them see you clearly, either.
Yeah. Yeah. It doesn’t serve you well. So this study, as you can imagine, with 950 respondents, and asking all of them 15 minutes worth of questions, there was a lot of data that we’re not getting into in this podcast, and so we have a couple things for you. We have an executive report that you can download on the AMI site, and we will put that link in the show notes, as well.
And we also did a webinar, where we walked through the data and I will include that link in the show notes, as well. So that’s probably about another, maybe 90-minute webinar where we literally show you the graphs and stuff of the data, and kind of walk you through it, and sort of comment along the way. Some of what you would hear in that webinar you have heard today, but a lot of it is stuff that you haven’t heard. So I will make sure that both of those are in the show notes, and then if you have questions, please feel free to follow up.
So, Susan, if folks want to track you down and learn more about the segmentation studies you do, or Audience Audit, or they just want to send you a love email, how do they do that?
The website is audienceaudit.com, A-U-D-I-T-D-O-T-C-O-M. You can reach me at [email protected], or @susanbaier, B-A-I-E-R, on Twitter.
Okay. And folks, you know how to get ahold of me. It’s [email protected] Check out the website, agencymanagementinstitute.com, if you’re looking for other things around the millennial work we do.
And if you want to download the research reports that we’ve done for the last couple of years, they’re there, as well, and free for the taking, so you’re welcome to do that.
This wraps up another episode. Thanks for hanging with us. Thanks for caring enough about your employees that you invested an hour to learn more about them. I think for most agencies, they are without a doubt your most valuable asset, your most expensive asset, so it’s worth your time to learn more about them, and to serve them well, so that they serve you and your clients well.
So with that, this wraps up another episode. I will be back next week with another guest, and more ways for you to build a better agency. Talk to you soon.
That’s all for this episode of Build a Better Agency. Be sure to visit agencymanagementinstitute.com to learn more about our workshops and other ways we serve small to mid-sized agencies. While you’re there, sign up for our e-newsletter, grab our free ebook, and check out the blog.
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