SXSW Report: Generation Mash-Up —Y-Bother?
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SXSW Report: Generation Mash-Up —Y-Bother?

Holmes Report

By Michael Echter To what degree do Millennials matter in today’s global workplace?  Quite a lot, according to the panelists of a Featured Panel at SXSW that included Pete Cashmore of Mashable and Olivier Fleurot of MSLGROUP, the Publicis Groupe strategic communications and engagement firm. The panel – Generation Mash-Up: Y Bother? -- was moderated by Joanna Coles, the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan (U.S.) Monday in front of nearly 1,500 attendees at the Austin conference. Fleurot and Cashmore run very different kinds of companies. Cashmore founded Mashable when he was 19 from his bedroom in Scotland. He is 28 and his media company is largely staffed with Millennials. Fleurot is a Baby Boomer. As CEO of MSLGROUP, he leads an inter-generational workforce of 3,500.  “Our organization is split -- 40 percent are Millennials, 40% are from Generation X, the other 20% are Baby Boomers like myself.” But, both Cashmore and Fleurot agree about the importance of engaging employees in work that excites them.  Cashmore said, “Millennials don’t choose a career for life and don’t have the expectation of being in the same career forever. To keep them engaged, your company managers need to give them autonomy and assignments they feel are compelling. If you ask them is it fun or is it work, you want to strive for them to answer ‘both.’” Fleurot drew on his personal experience as a man who has had five careers from engineer to journalist to CEO of the Financial Times, to advertising executive to MSLGROUP’s CEO. “Find a place where you can be passionate,” he urged.  “If you get bored, you won’t be very good.” “Social media makes everything more transparent,” Cashmore commented.  “So you need to be good to everyone all the time. The good news is this will reduce the likelihood of a rift between management and employees in the future.” Fleurot suggested that Millennials and workers from other generations practice “mutual respect” in their interactions. The panel addressed the process of giving feedback to a generation that desires constant feedback.  “It used to be you would meet once a year to discuss career goals. Now you meet much more frequently,” Cashmore said. Fleurot declared that “the annual review is dead.”  But with all the skill that Millennials bring to the workplace, Fleurot also noted that "judgment is not something you learn easily. It's an educational process." In conjunction with the panel, MSLGROUP released new research on Millennials called The Millennial Compass, conducted in partnership with the UK’s Ashridge Business School, one of the top schools internationally for executive education.  Despite having grown up in an increasingly polycentric business world, and expecting to be in senior management positions within a few years, one of the top findings is that Millennials in the West show little interest in moving to the so-called emerging, fast-growing nations. This is something that concerns Fleurot and might be a wake-up call to other global executives looking to develop global executives. Fleurot urged Millennials to travel, work abroad and experience the world.  Michael Echter is director of marketing & corporate communications at MSLGROUP Americas.
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