What do millennial marketers really want?

How to motivate marketers of different ages

May 4, 2016

Tech Research

Senior marketers spend a lot of time thinking about what millennial consumers want. However if they want to build a successful business or brand, it’s just as important to ask themselves what motivates the millennials within their marketing team. These are the people with the in-demand skills that businesses need to compete in a fast-changing marketing landscape; they are the people that they will be relying on to keep their brand moving forward and take up leadership roles in the future; and the evidence suggests that businesses might need to evolve their approach if they are to recruit and retain the best of them.

In recent LinkedIn research, we explored what attracts millennial marketers to an organisation, what keeps them motivated once they are there – and whether these things are different from the priorities driving older and more senior marketers. The results suggest that CMOs and other leaders might need to adjust their approach for marketers of different generations, if they are to build teams with the diverse range of skills they need to succeed.

The essentials stay the same

Perhaps unsurprisingly, marketers of any age share the same top two priorities: how much they can earn and the quality of work-life balance they can expect whilst earning it. Excellent compensation and benefits are selected by 63% of senior marketers and 64% of millennials, topping the list of the most important attributes in a job opportunity. A good work-life balance is the second most important factor, no matter what age you are, selected by over half of both senior marketers (52%) and millennials (54%).

It’s also significant that both groups are determined to find opportunities to advance their earnings and improve their work-life balance without leaving the marketing industry. All marketers that we spoke to ranked internal transfer opportunities as the job feature they were least interested in. No matter what their age, they share the same genuine passion for marketing.

The real generational divide: personal development vs peer recognition

It’s when we start to look beyond the fundamentals that the key differences between millennial marketers and their more senior colleagues start to emerge. For millennials, a clear route up the career ladder and the opportunity to build their own personal skills are hugely important. Almost half (44%) pick out a strong career path as a key factor in a job opportunity, compared to only 29% of senior marketers. Similarly, 39% consider strong employee development important, whereas only 28% of senior marketers do.

Rather than building skills and progressing to the next level, senior marketers are more focused on finding a company with a clear vision to which they can make a recognisable contribution. Over a third (38%) prioritise working for a company with a long-term strategic vision, and 35% specify the ability to make an impact as important. Only around a quarter of millennial marketers pick out these factors as amongst the characteristics they look for in an opportunity.

It’s significant that both groups actively value being challenged at work – but their appetite to be tested seems to stem from different types of motivation. Outside of compensation and work-life balance, challenging work is the most important characteristic in a job opportunity for senior marketers, selected by 41%. It’s an important factor for 37% of millennial marketers too – but significantly slips behind strong career path and personal development in the list of priorities. Whereas millennials see challenge as a means to the end of personal advancement, their more senior colleagues tend to view being challenged (and being recognised for meeting that challenge) as reward in itself. This is perhaps reflected in the fact that 31% want to work for a company that values employee contributions, whereas only 26% of millennials picked this out as a factor.

How to build a balanced talent brand in marketing

An effective marketing team needs a diverse range of skills and perspectives – and that increasingly involves creating the right balance between millennials and more senior marketers. In order to do so, marketing leaders must cultivate a talent brand that can appeal to both groups. On the one hand, this will involve structured opportunities to progress from entry-level roles and build skills that will increase employability. On the other, it requires a well-expressed vision for the business, and the reassurance that marketers can add value when it comes to achieving that vision. After all, the more you succeed in engaging and retaining the skilled millennials within your team, the more senior the roles they will take on. Our research shows distinct characteristics of millennial marketers – but it also suggests how their motivations may change over time. The opportunity to make a valued contribution to a brand they care about could be as much a part of their career development as the opportunity to learn new skills.