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Millennials plan to shake-up the C-Suite

We’ve known for some time that Millennials have high expectations of the world of business and we should expect some major changes when they move into executive positions, a new study from American Express predicts.

Redefining the C-Suite: Business the Millennial Way surveyed more than 2,300 leaders and Millennial managers – the future leaders of business – in the US, UK, France and Germany to better understand how getting business done will change as Millennials rise to senior management roles. These initial published findings focus on the responses of 343 Millennial survey respondents in the US, providing useful insight into how their values may help redefine the top tier globally.
 
Seven in 10 Millennials (70 per cent versus 63 per cent of US Gen Xers), defined as those born between 1980 and 1996, said that a C-Suite role is attractive to them but more than one-third (35 per cent) reckon in less than 10 years the CEO role will no longer be relevant in its current format.
 
Two-thirds (68 per cent) said they wanted to make a positive difference while four-fifths (81 per cent) stressed that a successful business will have genuine purpose that resonates with people. Meanwhile, three-quarters of Millennials said that a successful business should be flexible and fluid in the face of volatile working environments and not enforce a rigid structure on employees.
 
Notably, the research also revealed that three-fifths of Millennials (62 per cent) recognise the importance of maximising shareholder value and profits, which is often perceived as being at odds with running a purposeful business. The vast majority (94 per cent), however, put investment in employee development ahead of investment in hitting sales targets (86 per cent).
 
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“Millennials have high expectations for the businesses they work for – and will eventually lead,” said Susan Sobbott, president of American Express Global Commercial Payments. “The successful business of the future will need to have an authentic purpose and foster employee wellbeing with passionate, committed leadership at the helm.”
 
Sobbott also points out that Millennials are willing to make trade-offs to achieve their own definition of success. More than one third (35 per cent) said they would lower their expectations around having responsibility at work as well as lower their career advancement expectations to achieve their vision of success, while three in 10 said they were happy to lower salary expectations (30 per cent versus 19 per cent of Gen Xers).
 
The survey underlines how different and perhaps not-so-different the generations are. Employee retention, improving performance, keeping abreast of technological change and providing more flexible working arrangements were all cited by Millennials as key challenges to businesses in the future, all of which are high on the agenda of today’s top tier, or certainly ought to be.
 
It is no bad thing for today’s C-Suite to be aware of how their replacements may want to do things differently in future. And rather than take umbrage or be sceptical and cynical about the findings of such surveys, business leaders should welcome any insight that helps organisations make smooth handovers in the years to come.
 
There is also a great deal to unite the Millennials and forward-thinking leaders of today. Moreover, willingness for inter-generational leadership teams to learn from one other will help to better understand the views, wants and requirements of the cross-section of customers that will exist. And that is an opportunity not to be missed for any leadership team seeking to gain and retain competitive edge.
 
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